When couples visit the Arizona Center for Reproductive Endocrinology & Infertility, they come in with questions and concerns about why they aren’t getting pregnant. While there can be dozens of reasons why a pregnancy isn’t occurring, we always start with asking the woman about her menstrual cycle. Because it plays such a crucial role in achieving pregnancy, here’s everything you need to know about your cycle and having a baby.
What Your Cycle Says About Your Health
The menstrual cycle is one of the most reliable predictors of a woman’s health, stress level, and overall wellbeing. Cycles that are very regular and predictable usually suggest regular ovulation. However, women who have unreliable, irregular, or non-existent cycles will have issues with conceiving because the success of the ovulation is disturbed in some way.
Issues with a woman’s cycle—whether it’s irregular, very heavy, or painful—can be signs of serious endocrine or medical conditions, like endometriosis. So paying attention to the menstrual cycle and any changes that occur to it is very important not only in terms of a woman’s fertility, but for her health as well.
Tracking Your Cycle
Since the menstrual cycle is such a significant indicator of your health and ability to get pregnant, it’s crucial to monitor and note any changes to it. The simplest way to track your cycle is to mark the day your period starts and ends on a calendar. With a few months’ worth of information, you’ll have an idea of what your cycle is like and what’s normal for you.
The length of the cycle can vary even in women with normal ovulation; it isn’t always exactly every 28 days. The time from ovulation to the next menstrual period is usually the most constant time, and variation in the cycle has to do with how long it takes for ovulation to occur.
From the beginning of the cycle to ovulation is typically about 10 days. A woman’s period starts 14 days after ovulation, resulting in a 24-day cycle. But if her period begins every 35 days, for example, that means she’s ovulating much later in the cycle, probably at day 18 or 20.
The time of ovulation is what is important to know when you’re trying for pregnancy; however, the biggest misconception most couples have is that there’s a very narrow window for conceiving during ovulation. The truth is, your chances of getting pregnant are very high for about 5-7 days before you ovulate and 5-7 days after ovulation. This is because subtle changes in the cycle can cause you to ovulate on a slightly different day. So if a healthy couple is frequently having intercourse and still not getting pregnant, timing is typically not the problem; there’s probably something else to blame.
What We Need to Know About Your Cycle
When we evaluate the patient and her partner for infertility, we take a very careful history regarding the woman’s menstrual cycle, and then we do a physical examination to determine if there are any other medical problems that may be preventing pregnancy. We make it a point to talk about the woman’s cycle and ask questions like:
- When did your last cycle start?
- Have you been on birth control? If so, what type?
- What was the purpose of your birth control (to prevent pregnancy, to regulate your cycle, etc.)?
- Are your periods ever heavy? Painful?
- Have there been any recent changes to your menstrual cycle?
With answers to these questions, we’re able to have a better understanding of the woman’s health and the regularity of her ovulation. For example, heavy bleeding or painful periods can be an indicator of a medical problem like fibroids, polyps, or endometriosis. And changes to the cycle can be caused by increased stress, weight fluctuation, or something more serious, like diabetes or a renal disease.
It’s very important for us to determine the underlying cause of the disruption of the menstrual cycle because they can be very innocuous and common, or it can be something very serious. About half of infertility issues that are related to a woman are due to irregular ovulation or a lack of ovulation. Thankfully, most medical conditions and hormonal problems are very easy to correct and when they are corrected, the woman is able to ovulate regularly and quickly achieve pregnancy.
At the Arizona Center for Reproductive Endocrinology & Infertility, we can work through the problems within a woman’s cycle to help her conceive and have a healthy baby. If you have any questions about your struggles with fertility or would like to make an appointment, contact us today by calling 520-326-0001 or visiting us online.