Understanding irregular periods
Even though many people learn that a menstrual cycle is usually 28 days long, the truth can be entirely different. The 28 days may be an average, but the average woman’s cycle can vary from as little as 21 days to as many as 35 days. But for some women, every cycle can vary in length and may even fall outside of the 21-35-day range. Women who are outside the average range are considered to have an irregular period. As a result, predicting when ovulation or the next period will occur can be difficult.
How to track ovulation
For women with irregular periods, conception isn’t impossible but can require additional steps to occur. Specifically, a woman should focus on tracking ovulation but prioritize using a reliable method such as an ovulation test for increased accuracy. For women with an average menstrual cycle, experts recommend using an ovulation test or monitor roughly halfway into a menstrual cycle when ovulation is predicted to occur. But since a woman with an irregular period can’t accurately predict a halfway point, the best option is to test regularly starting at the end of the last period.
Tracking with ovulation tests
When a woman is about to ovulate, an important hormone known as the luteinizing hormone (LH) begins to spike, which indicates that an ovary is about to release an egg. LH levels usually spike 24-48 hours before ovulation begins, indicating a 5-6-day window when a woman is most likely to conceive. An ovulation test can track the LH levels in a woman’s urine and serve as a strong predictor that conception is most possible during the ovulation window. When used accurately, ovulation tests are considered 99% effective and are considered one of the best options for improving conception success rates in women with irregular periods.
Relying on physical indicators
While an ovulation test is strongly recommended for women with irregular periods, women can rely on physical changes to predict ovulation. Key indicators include a change in vaginal secretions and a slight increase in the basal body temperature. Vaginal secretions might shift from thin and watery to clear, stretchy, and wet. To take a basal body temperature, women should purchase a thermometer specifically designed for the task and take a temperature in the morning before getting out of bed. However, relying on the basal body temperature readings requires recording the readings and looking for a pattern. Women are most fertile roughly 2-3 days before the temperature rises.
Trying to conceive
While an irregular period can make pinpointing ovulation a little trickier, women can still get pregnant. Physical indicators can be effective for tracking ovulation, but for women with irregular periods, an ovulation kit can remove the guesswork and clarify when conception is most likely. For more information about fertility and trying to conceive, speak with a healthcare provider.