From Irregular Periods To Pregnancy
To get pregnant quickly, a woman needs to have a predictable cycle to know when ovulation occurs. Women with irregular periods can still get pregnant, but the timing of ovulation may be harder to predict, making chances of pregnancy less likely each month. Some women with irregular periods may need more advanced interventions, such as intrauterine insemination (IUI) or in vitro fertilization (IVF), to have a baby.
The 28-day cycle
A normal menstrual cycle ranges from 24-38 days, with most being around 28 days. For some women, cycles can be much shorter, longer, or absent altogether. Bleeding between periods and periods lasting longer than 7 days can also be signs of an irregular period. Certain medical conditions, such as polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), endometriosis, thyroid disorders, and pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), can cause irregular periods. Lifestyle factors such as stress, gaining or losing significant weight, and certain illnesses can also affect the period.
Getting pregnant naturally
Women with irregular periods can usually get pregnant naturally with the right attention to detail. Regardless of how long the cycle is, knowing when ovulation occurs is key. Certain apps can help track the cycle and offer insight into specific patterns. Basal body temperature (BBT) tracking is another way to know when ovulation has occurred. This approach requires a woman to take a daily temperature reading before getting out of bed. Fertility is highest about 2-3 days before the temperature rises. Ovulation predictor kits (OPKs) are a more convenient way to track ovulation by peeing on a test strip. The test looks for a rise in luteinizing hormone (LH), which signals the release of an egg.
The waiting game
Women under 35 are encouraged to try to conceive (TTC) for at least 1 year before getting help. Women over 35 should schedule a consultation after just 6 months, while individuals over 40 and women with a previous infertility diagnosis will likely want to seek out fertility help right away. A consultation with a reproductive endocrinologist (RE) is typically the first step taken. This doctor will assess the patient, discuss the irregular cycle, and recommend treatment.
IUI vs IVF
There are 2 main fertility treatments women with irregular periods can consider. With IUI, the partner or donor’s sperm is collected, washed, and concentrated, then placed directly into the uterus near the time of ovulation. In vitro fertilization (IVF) gives a woman medication to stimulate the ovaries to produce multiple eggs. Once extracted, the eggs are combined with sperm to make an embryo, which is transferred directly into the uterus. Both have pros and cons, but IVF is generally more effective.
Timing is everything
An irregular period makes pregnancy more challenging but not impossible. Knowing when ovulation occurs is the best way to time intercourse so a pregnancy can be achieved. If trying naturally doesn’t result in a positive pregnancy test after a few months, consider the help of a reproductive endocrinologist who may recommend IUI or IVF to have a baby.