What is late ovulation?
First, let’s look at the definition of ovulation. It's when a mature egg is released from your ovary due to certain hormonal changes and begins making its way to your uterus through a uterine tube, where it may be fertilized by a sperm. Typically, ovulation happens about 14 days before the start of your next period, which is the middle of your overall 28-day cycle.
Most women actually ovulate between day 11 and day 21 of their cycle, not necessarily on day 14. It usually depends on the length of the follicular phase, which normally ranges from 10 to 16 days. As the length of the luteal phase is constant, the phase lasts for about 14 days. Ovulation is only considered late if it occurs after day 21.
While it’s not always an issue, late ovulation can sometimes cause problems. Ovulation disorders account for infertility in 25–30 percent of couples who can’t conceive. However, late ovulation doesn’t mean there won't be any ovulation. Sometimes it’s just a waiting game.
What causes late ovulation?
Every woman is different, so delayed ovulation causes vary from person to person. Here are some reasons for late ovulation.
Many medications can lead to ovulation not happening or occurring late. If you experience late ovulation and are taking any of the following drugs, talk to your doctor.
- Hormone-based hair and skin products
- Central nervous system medications (some antipsychotics and antiepileptic drugs)
- Centrally acting antihypertensive medications
- Thyroid medications
- Chemotherapy and other cancer treatments
There is a direct link between breastfeeding and delayed ovulation or anovulation. Even if you experience menstruation when breastfeeding, that doesn’t mean ovulation took place and vice versa. Lactation affects ovulation due to high levels of prolactin. This effect of breastfeeding is used for birth control and is called the lactation amenorrhea method. If you’re breastfeeding and ovulating late, you need to evaluate your situation and decide whether to continue breastfeeding or focus on conceiving.
If you have polycystic ovary syndrome, there’s a high chance you will have ovulation issues. PCOS is characterized by multiple cysts on a single or both ovaries; high levels of the male hormone, testosterone; and irregular menstrual cycles. Many women go undiagnosed, so visit your doctor or ob-gyn if you have symptoms like irregular or no period, excess hair growth on the face, chest, or abdomen, acne, and unexplained weight gain.
Your thyroid gland regulates various processes in your body, and problems with it can lead to reproductive health problems like irregular periods, anovulation, and infertility. Hyper function thyroid gland symptoms include irritability, weight loss, excess sweating, and an irregular or fast heartbeat. On the other hand, weight gain, depression, fatigue, and muscle aches can indicate a hypo function of the thyroid gland. Seek medical attention if you notice any of these.
It’s remarkable what stress can do to our bodies, including disrupting our menstrual cycles. Try to remove all outside stress factors during preconception so your body is relaxed, calm and ready to conceive. If this isn't possible, look for better ways to manage stress such as meditation, exercise or hobbies.
Age and weight
Older women have fewer eggs available, so ovulation can become less frequent, giving the appearance of late ovulation. On the other hand, teens may experience irregular menstrual cycles due to late or no ovulation, especially during the first three years after menarche, due to immaturity of hypothalamic-pituitary-ovarian axis.
Overweight as well as underweight women can also experience late ovulation or irregular cycles due to abnormal insulin and other hormone levels. Talk to an ob-gyn about your options for conception if you fall into these categories.
As stated, if ovulation hasn’t occurred on day 21, it’s considered late. There are multiple symptoms of ovulation:
- Light spotting
- Higher body temperature (basal body temperature – BBT)
- Changes in vaginal discharge (cervical mucus becomes clear and stretchy like a raw egg white)
- High libido
- Light pelvic aching
If you haven’t experienced these symptoms and haven't had your period, it’s a sign of late or no ovulation. You can try an ovulation kit that measures hormones in your urine or get an ultrasound to know for sure.
Getting pregnant with late ovulation
Late ovulation can delay pregnancy, but that doesn’t mean it won’t happen. It’s entirely possible to conceive when you ovulate later in the cycle; the trick is to be as in tune with your body as possible.
By knowing exactly what to look out for, you'll soon be able to tell when you are eventually ovulating. Look for the symptoms mentioned above, and pay close attention to your vaginal discharge, which will be light, clear, and stretchy when you’re ovulating, and the feel of your cervix, which will be soft and open. Note your symptoms in the Flo app, as you might notice a pattern in the dates.
Once the egg has been released, it has 12–24 hours to be fertilized. Take advantage of your high libido and maximize your chances of this happening!
Possible consequences of late ovulation
The main consequence of late ovulation is not getting pregnant. Ovulating late in the cycle lowers conception chances. Not knowing when ovulation will happen in your cycle means you could easily miss the short window that the egg is available for fertilization.
The stress of not conceiving can have various effects on your health and emotional well-being. Late ovulation can also disrupt your lifestyle and schedule.
While not always the case, late ovulation can lead to no ovulation, resulting in infertility.
When should you visit a doctor?
If you notice you’re consistently ovulating outside of what’s considered normal, you should visit your doctor. Similarly, if you suffer from health issues that are linked to fertility problems, or are on medications that could affect ovulation, book an appointment to discuss the best ways to conceive. Use the Flo app to track your symptoms so your doctor can see exactly what's going on.
Late ovulation treatment
The good news is that there are treatments for late ovulation. The method of treatment totally depends on the cause of anovulation. Some people are prescribed medication that encourages the body to release eggs earlier or more frequently. Others find that lifestyle changes like losing weight or switching up routines can make a difference. If a solution can’t be found, then an alternative method of conception like IVF might be suggested. Visit a health care professional to find out the best late ovulation treatment option for you.