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Why am I not Ovulating but Having Periods?

The human reproductive system is one of the most complicated in the human body. It’s regulated by your endocrine system, which are the glands and pathways that create and distribute hormones throughout your body – this means that as well as specific reproductive health issues, your reproductive system can be affected by anything that affects that endocrine system, from diseases, to medication side effects, to dietary changes to stress.

One of the changes you can see to your menstrual cycle, as a result of any one of these potential vectors, is a lack of ovulation. This has a serious impact on your fertility, as without menstruation, there is no egg that can be fertilised, and grow into a foetus. If you continue to have periods, it can be difficult to spot if you’re not ovulating, as, whatever their level of medical expertise, most people are at least aware that the period is the body ejecting the previous cycle’s preparation for pregnancy – including an ovulated egg.

Anovulatory Cycles

The name for a menstrual cycle that passes without an egg being released from the ovaries is an ‘anovulatory cycle’ – a cycle with no ovulation.

There are lots of things that can trigger an anovulatory cycle in your body, but the cause is always hormonal. In the first half of your cycle oestrogen is secreted in your brain, which, among other effects, causes your body to build up a thicker uterine lining.

After ovulation, a structure in the uterus called the corpus luteum produces progesterone, which gives structure to that lining – with sufficient progesterone, over time, it will develop into the placenta, that nourishes the foetus as it grows. If you ovulate, but the egg doesn’t implant, the corpus luteum shrinks away and the drop in progesterone causes the lining to be shed, which is what forms your period.

If you don’t ovulate, your body has still grown a thicker – though unstructured – uterine lining. If it doesn’t experience the progesterone levels to make it develop further and your oestrogen level drops, it too will decay, causing bleeding very like, but medically distinct from, a period.

Triggers

Anovulatory cycles are very common, and most women experience them at different points in their life. They’re more common for women in the year after their first period, as their hormone cycle stabilises. They can also be caused by coming off the pill, periods of extreme stress or even uncharacteristically vigorous exercise.

Tracking your ovulation with a reliable system like OvuSense can help you determine if a lack of ovulation is a one off event for you, or a sustained indicator of a deeper health problem like Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, that could require more help from a doctor or fertility expert.