You've heard it over and over: the ideal cycle is 28 days long. Every period-tracking iPhone app is designed with this number in mind, and doctors consider it a healthy standard. But many women regularly experience 30 or even 40-day cycles. What does a long cycle mean for your fertility, and how do you track your ovulation? It's no surprise that women across the trying to conceive (TTC) boards are asking, "Can I make my cycles shorter while trying to conceive?"
According to Dr. Amy Peters, FACOG, of Saddleback Memorial Medical Center in Laguna Hills, California, long cycles aren't necessarily abnormal. If you regularly run longer than 40 days, however, she suggests visiting your gynecologist. Your work up may come back normal, and in that case, Peters emphasizes to Romper a healthy lifestyle:
"Eating healthy, exercising, and getting plenty of sleep are important to reduce stress, improve baseline health, and prepare for a healthy pregnancy. Conception is possible with a long cycle, especially if [a patient] is ovulating on her own. "
Kristen Burris, L.Ac., M.S.T.O.M., of Eagle Acupuncture, agrees, citing to Romper numerous reasons why women's menstrual cycles run long. Among them: stress, chronic illness, thyroid imbalance, medication side effects, and being under or overweight. There is also broad natural variance in cycle length, so you might simply be ovulating to the beat of your own drum. For some, a long cycle is frustrating because it obscures ovulation. "Seeing a gynecologist to determine one's best days for conception is very helpful," Peters says.
Acupuncture can help regulate your cycle, too, but beware the herbal recommendations on TTC boards, where women advise taking Agnus-Castus — or Vitex — to shorten your cycle. Burris explains that a skilled acupuncturist wouldn't recommend a single supplement to treat a complex problem. Instead of visiting the Vitamin Shoppe, she recommends finding an acupuncturist specializing in women's health, who is also well trained in Chinese herbal medicine.
Additionally, Burris never advises patients to go longer than a year without considering other options. A good acupuncturist will "help guide you," she says. "And they'll let you know when it's time to consider a fertility doctor."
That's important, because a long cycle, while not a problem in itself, might indicate an underlying issue — like polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) for one. Fertility specialist Jane Frederick, M.D., of Saddleback Memorial Medical Center in Laguna Hills, California, explains to Romper that a medication like Clomid encourages eggs to mature more quickly, which can incidentally shorten your cycle.
Whatever your cycle length, it's time to visit your gynecologist if you've been trying to conceive for a year or longer if you're under 35, or after six months, if you're over 35 years old. They'll know which steps to take to help you create the family you've always wanted, without you having to continue stressing about your cycle length.