For many women, it's not until you start trying to conceive that you become hyper aware of your body, your cycle, and how that might affect your chances of conception. Like, has your period always been irregular, or can trying to conceive cause irregular periods? Once you're constantly watching your cycle and trying to time sex, it may seem like an irregular period has come out of nowhere. But experts say there are actually other factors to consider.
"Trying to conceive does not typically cause irregular periods," OB-GYN Adrienne Zertuche tells Romper. But she says in the rare circumstance of a "chemical pregnancy" or an early pregnancy failure, it might seem like your cycle is later, heavier, or longer than usual.
Chemical pregnancies, according to Healthline, may account for 50 to 75 percent of all miscarriages. A chemical pregnancy occurs when a pregnancy is lost shortly after implantation, resulting in bleeding that occurs around the time of your expected period. In fact, you might not have even realized you conceived when you experience a chemical pregnancy. Because the bleeding of a chemical pregnancy varies, you could mistake it for a late or irregular period.
OB-GYN Idries Abdur-Rahman tells Romper that sometimes hormonal medications taken to stimulate ovulation — such as Clomid or Follistem — could make your period a bit irregular, too.
Other things that can lead to irregular periods, according to Abdur-Rahman ,include hormonal causes — such as hypothyroidism and polycystic ovarian syndrome — or vaginal and cervical infections, or structural issues with your uterus, including fibroids or polyps. “The most common causes of irregular periods are broken down into those that cause oligomenorrhea — reduced bleeding, i.e., shorter, more spaced-out periods — and those that cause polymenorrhea — increased bleeding i.e. longer, heavier, more frequent periods,” he says. Oligomenorrhea is usually due to hormonal issues and polymenorrhea is usually due to the structural issues, polyps, fibroids, or infection, he adds.
Before you start freaking out, make sure your definition of "regular" is on par with your doctor's. You might think you're not regular if your cycle is off by a few days, but most women's cycles are not perfect every month. When your doctor asks if you have regular periods, she's likely just making sure it's within the same range each month, and not every two weeks or every two months.
Abdur-Rahman says doctors will gauge a "normal" period as lasting three to eight days, and that it should come every 21 to 35 days. But this is the “textbook definition of normal,” and the average is typically 28 days between periods, with periods lasting four to five days.
“By definition, a period is irregular if it comes more than every 21 days or if there is more than 35 days between periods on a regular basis. Every once in a while, a period may come a few days early or a few days late or it may be longer or shorter than usual. Periods are only considered irregular and are of concern if the irregularity occurs more than 3 months consecutively,” Abdur-Rahman says.
An irregular or infrequent period is going to reduce the number of opportunities that there are for you to get pregnant, noted Cosmopolitan, which can be really frustrating. You may need to take some extra time to understand your cycle so you can be better aware of the optimal time for you to try to get pregnant. You may also be able to take steps in order to help regulate your cycle.
If you're concerned about trying to conceive while your period is seemingly irregular, there are a few tools that can help you out. According to the American Pregnancy Association, charting your cycle, keeping an eye on your cervical mucus and basal body temperature, and using ovulation predictor kits can all give you a better idea of when you are about to ovulate. While tracking your cycle, you may even realize that your period is within the average range of normal.
Additionally, Abdur-Rahman says he always recommends to his patients a simple smartphone period/ovulation tracker. “Period/ovulation trackers will not only keep track of when you are having your period, but they also approximate when you should be having your period and help you to identify any irregularities — i.e. too often, too few, too long, or too short. A period tracker will also identify your most fertile days,” he says. “Additionally, the information that a good period tracker gives your doctor is probably the single most important non-lab information that will help her or him identify what type of cycle abnormality you have.”
"If you are trying to get pregnant and you are not having regular periods, you should see your gynecologist to discuss evaluation and treatment," Zertuche says. It's best to rule out any possible complications, particularly as you get close to conception.
Trying to conceive is not always an easy process, and many times irregularities may be nothing. In the case that they are a sign of a health-related issue, it's always better to be proactive. Keep your doctor in the loop with anything that comes up while you try to conceive — they can recommend you the best approaches moving forward.
Dr. Adrienne Zertuche, MD, MPH, OB-GYN and Georgia Maternal and Infant Health Research Group President.
Dr. Idries Abdur-Rahman, OB-GYN, author of Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Pregnancy (But Were Too Afraid or Embarrassed to Ask, and one-half of the Twin Doctors from TwinDoctorsTV.
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