Can irregular periods affect fertility?
Updated: Mar 28
Not being able to track your menstrual cycle and know the exact days of your fertile window (especially when you are trying to get pregnant) can be frustrating! Although this may be an obstacle, it isn’t a sign that conception wouldn't happen - there's a chance though, that this can make your conception journey a bit more challenging, especially emotionally.
As many women worry about the unpredictability and irregularities of their periods, we thought it’d be a good idea to bring some ease of mind. And we being by saying: Having irregular periods doesn’t mean you can’t get pregnant.
Here is what you need to know about irregular periods and how they affect your conception, as you are planning to conceive:
What are irregular periods?
Through these years of supporting our Grace users, we noticed a huge misconception: Many women believed that their cycles were irregular simply because their periods came on different days of the month every time. And that’s not what irregular periods are.
Periods are considered to be irregular when the length of your menstrual cycle keeps changing (some months your cycle lasts 30 days, some 21 and so on). Please pay extra attention here: the length of your cycle change, not the month dates that the period comes. If you have a regular 30-day cycle, your period will always come on the same date of the month, however, if you have a 21 or 45-day cycle (every time), your period will still be regular just longer or shorter than the average, and therefore the dates will change every month.
Many women believed that their cycles were irregular simply because their periods came on different days of the month every time. And that’s not what irregular periods are.
The average cycle lasts 27-35 days and it is also normal to have a bit shorter or longer than this, between 21-45 days. Earlier on in puberty, many women develop a regular cycle with similar lengths in between their menstrual cycles. It is also very common to have some variation by a few days each time.
Nevertheless, once you begin to have a variation of more than 45 days or less than 21 days, it is said that one is experiencing irregularities with their cycle. There are other problems associated with menstruation, like missed periods, periods lasting more than 7 days, and extremely heavy bleeding but our main focus here is irregular periods and how they can affect women as they try to conceive.
...Once you begin to have a variation of more than 45 days or less than 21 days, it is said that one is experiencing irregularities with their cycle.
Often women wonder what causes their periods to be irregular. The followings are some known factors:
What are the causes of irregular periods?
Hormonal Imbalances - Changes in production levels of hormones such as estrogen and progesterone in the body can cause irregular periods
Stress and lifestyle factors - Having a low nutrient diet, not performing some physical activities, and having stressed lifestyles can cause irregular periods.
Some medical conditions like endometriosis, uterine fibroids, and Pelvic inflammatory diseases can cause irregular periods.
Birth Control - The use of some types of hormonal contraception such as birth control pills and intrauterine devices (IUD) can cause menstrual cycle irregularities. In this case, it is normal that contraceptives will affect the production of hormones since some of them are preventing your ovulation from happening. This is nothing you should worry about, and your period should return to how it was before you started using contraceptives as soon as you stop.
Environmental factors - Changes in the environment and exposure to certain environmental toxins can cause irregular periods.
Can irregular periods affect my fertility?
Knowing what causes irregular periods only makes women wonder how this can affect their chances of conceiving. Leaving many experiencing irregular periods with these unanswered questions:
How can this affect my fertility?
Can I still get pregnant while I have irregular periods?
How do I treat my irregular periods?
How do I know when to have sex in order to conceive, when I have irregular periods?
You may not need any treatment for irregular periods because it is not a condition. Irregular periods don’t cause infertility in women. It can pose some challenges since you may not know the exact dates of your ovulation and fertile days as the dates keep varying all the time. Meanwhile, you can still get pregnant while having an irregular cycle, and unless it bothers you that your periods are not regular, there is no need for treatment.
When you experience missed periods however, it can affect your fertility. That means you might not be ovulating and without ovulation, there can be no pregnancy and you would need treatment for this.
One way to increase the chance of pregnancy for women who have an irregular cycle is by having sex more regularly when you can, since is harder to predict when ovulation happens.
Having sex at least 3 times per week can increase the chances of conception. It is recommended that women with irregular cycles pay attention to their body to monitor and notice signs and symptoms of ovulation (wet water-like discharge, increase libido or sexual urges, tender breast, and increase basal body temperature) to have a better chance of knowing when they are most fertile, to get pregnant in their periods. Another tip to increase your chances would be using ovulation test kits every time you begin to experience signs and symptoms of ovulation, getting a positive test makes you know the right time to have sex.
In conclusion, one of the most important factors is tracking your menstrual cycle. Tracking your periods would give you an idea of your period length although they may keep changing. Also, tracking your symptoms equally helps you to know when you are most fertile and have a high chance to conceive. Track your cycle with the Grace Health app to get personalized tips on your symptoms and what they mean for your body and fertility. Download the app and begin your journey to conception.
Stay informed, stay in control.
Jackline, one of our Kenyan users, has used the Grace app to learn more about her irregular cycle. Before using Grace, she had no idea when her safe period was - until she started tracking.
Now, after sometime tracking every period, Jackline knows her fertile window and safe days, which helps her be prepared for when her husband visits!