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What it is and why it happens

Posted: 20 January 2009
by ThinkBaby

Anovulation is the term for when your body is unable to reach the oestrogen threshold necessary to trigger ovulation so ovulation doesn’t occur, meaning that conception is impossible that cycle.

You can have what appears to be a period without ovulating, but the bleeding is often different, heavier or lighter than your usual period and isn’t technically a period at all. This bleeding might be what’s known as oestrogen withdrawal bleeding, or could occur when the lining of the uterus builds to an unsustainable level and then begins to disintegrate.

It’s more obvious that you’re not ovulating when your periods stop altogether for a time, resulting on one, very long, cycle, which could last for several months. If you have previously had regular periods and go for six months without a period, or if you were irregular and go for twelve months without a period, then you are said to be experiencing amenorrhea.

Why does anovulation occur?

Anovulation can occur for many reasons which largely fall into three groups:

  1. Natural life phases
  2. Temporary influences
  3. Medical conditions
1. Natural life phases

The onset of menstruation – when girls first start their periods they usually take some time to settle into a regular, ovulatory pattern and anovulatory cycles are quite common.

Pregnancy – Obviously you don’t ovulate when you’re pregnant as a second pregnancy would jeopardise the first.

Breastfeeding – It’s usual for women who are breastfeeding not to ovulate for a few months, which is a natural protection from pregnancy for a body that needs time to recover.

Menopause – As the menopause starts cycles often shorten before becoming gradually longer before stopping altogether, this usually happens to women as they reach their fifties.

Anovulation can last for months at a time

One of the ThinkBaby team went without a period for seven months when she travelled around South America on a gap year.

Another stopped her periods for over a year while she battled with anorexia.

2. Temporary influences

Temporary influences can prevent your body from building up to the threshold level of oestrogen. Common factors include: illness, such as fever, travel, stress, low body fat and coming off the pill. It’s common for professional athletes and women with eating disorders to experience anovulation as their low fat to weight ratio prevents them from reaching threshold oestrogen.

3. Medical conditions

Several medical conditions can disrupt or prevent ovulation, these include: Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (or PCOS), thyroid disorders, Premature Ovarian Failure, Anorexia nervosa or conditions following surgical procedures such as Sheehan and Asherman’s syndromes. If you think you may have one of these medical conditions then you should consult your doctor as soon as possible.

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Discuss this story

Hi all

Looking for some advice. Have been ttc since beginning of Jan but nothing so far. I came off of depo 1.5yrs ago but my AFs took a while to come back and are very irregular (range from 17day to 32day cycles). Because of this I'm not sure when I ovulate so for the past month, DH and I decided to have sex at least once a day which we stuck to. My last cycle was 32 days so I wasn't expecting to come on for another week and a half but this afternoon I started getting cramps and then spotting which definitely feels like AF. As we have had sex so much (sorry, not boasting - it's actually quite tiring!) I was sure that I would conceive this month as I was bound to catch my fertile time but now I have what appears to be AF.

So now I'm wondering whether you do ovulate with every cycle? To try and make some sense of it I have just ordered a thermometer from Access Diagnostics since so many of you recommended the site and will start charting, but any advice in the meantime would be appreciated.

Many thanks

Kelly x

Posted: 23/03/2006 at 19:20

Hi kelly

Don't know the answer, have been actually thinking the same question. I thought that AF was the unfertilised egg getting out of your system, but could be wrong.

Sex everyday sounds like a good idea, but bet your knackered. We've decided to do it every day in the middle week this month - and even the thought of that sounds tiring to me!

I'm charting too this month, so least we know there are other in the same position on this site. good luck

Posted: 24/03/2006 at 10:07

Hi Kelly and Louise,

I've put a link to an article above this thread on Anovulation for you to read up on. Unfortunately, women do not ovulate with every cycle due to a wide variety of factors, but it is likely in the case of Kelly that the Depo is still taking it's time to leave her system.

Posted: 24/03/2006 at 10:57

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