Is it possible to get pregnant if my cycles are irregular?
If you’re trying to conceive, one of the first things you need to know is what your menstrual cycles are like. This is important so that you can calculate when you’re going to ovulate, and also determine when your most fertile days will be. All you need to do is count in order to understand what your menstrual cycles are like.
You need to count the number of days between the first day of one period and the first day of the next period. This is generally about 28 days, with limits of 26 and 35 days, and every woman may notice variations of 2 days, more or less, from one cycle to the next. Keeping this in mind, we could say that a woman with regular menstrual cycles every 26-35 days would ovulate correctly in 97% of cases.
Building on the above, your fertile days are those around the time of ovulation, and the best days are right before ovulation takes place. Normally females ovulate 14 days before their period will start. Thus, in a regular 28-day cycle, ovulation would take place on day 14. In a shorter cycle, however, (for example a 25-day cycle), ovulation occurs on approximately day 11 of the cycle. In order to determine when ovulation takes place in our body we always need to subtract 14 days from the total number of days our cycles last. If you’d like to learn more about the different phases of the menstrual cycle, you can consult this article.
That being said, you most likely know that some women have irregular cycles. This makes it difficult to calculate their most fertile days and to get pregnant. That’s why in this article we specifically want to talk to you about these types of cases.
When are we talking about irregular cycles?
First of all, it is important to properly understand this concept. Irregular cycles are cycles that fluctuate in length from one month to the next. In some women one cycle will last 26 days, the next one will be 32 days, the next will be 27, etc.
In certain cases a woman may even go a month without having a period. This is normal and occurs after menarche (the first menstruation), but once a female’s hormones have stabilised her cycle should become more regular.
What can I do if my cycles are irregular?
If your cycles are irregular the first thing we would recommend is visiting your gynaecologist. This is to rule out scenarios such as some illnesses or a hormone imbalance which may be the cause of your irregular cycles and should be controlled (polycystic ovaries, ovarian cysts, etc.).
Secondly, our recommendation is to have unprotected intercourse two to three times a week. If you haven’t conceived after trying for twelve months, then we recommend that you consider seeing an assisted reproduction specialist.
For women over the age of 35 it’s advisable to not wait this long and to make an appointment with an assisted reproduction specialist once you’ve been trying for six months and haven’t been able to conceive. This recommendation is based on how a female’s age affects her fertility, a topic that we often discuss here.
How can I calculate my fertile window if my cycles are irregular?
If there doesn’t seem to be a specific reason why your cycles are irregular, calculating your fertile window each month will be even more complicated. The truth is that you won’t be able to know for sure when the best days to conceive are.
When this happens you should pay attention to other details which we’ll talk about next:
When your fertile window begins your cervical mucous will become more abundant, clear and stretchy (like egg whites). This is the appearance of your cervical mucous on the days right before ovulation, meaning it’s time to have unprotected intercourse.
You can purchase ovulation tests at any pharmacy and they’re usually pretty accurate. They measure the surge in the ovulation hormone (luteinising hormone), in your urine and you should take them several days in a row. Once the hormone surge occurs, the test will give a positive result, thus indicating that it’s time to have unprotected intercourse as ovulation will take place approximately 36 hours later.
Basal body temperature
Our third piece of advice is to measure your basal body temperature (your temperature right when you wake up), every day before getting out of bed. You should always take your temperature at the same time, using the same thermometer and in the same place (mouth, underarm…). Once you’ve noticed that the temperature has risen between 0.2 and 0.5 degrees centigrade above your normal basal body temperature, it will mean that ovulation has taken place. You can keep this date for your records, as your most fertile days were the ones before you ovulated.
As you can see, although calculating your fertile window is more difficult if your cycles are irregular it’s not impossible, and these simple guidelines can help you. Remember that persistence is your best ally when it comes to your fertility!
Having said that, if despite all of the above you have been trying to conceive for some time but have not been successful (for a year if you’re under the age of 35 or for six months if you’re 35 or older), request an appointment with us. We’d love to meet you and your partner, review your case and evaluate how we can help you.