Hormones in Your Menstrual Cycle
For much of my menstruating life I wasn’t aware of the hormonal symphony going on in my body. All I understood was that my periods brought horrible pain.
When I was 17, I got on birth control pills, with little thought to how they actually worked. I had no idea that they were literally messing with my brain.
This lack of knowledge became a problem later in life when I was trying to conceive and was unaware of how that actually happened. In my mind it was a simple as: have sex, get pregnant. What else did I need to know? Ha.
(Here’s a quick breakdown of how things should go.)
What Happens When You Don’t Ovulate?
First and foremost, if you don’t ovulate then there’s no chance for pregnancy.
But even if you are not trying to conceive, it still benefits your body to ovulate, especially if you have endometriosis.
(*Please note the following info is only relevant if you are not taking birth control pills. See a previous post I did on how birth control works here.)
When ovulation doesn’t occur, progesterone is not produced. Instead, your ovaries continue to produce estradiol, the stimulating form of estrogen that feeds growths such as endometriosis.
As estradiol continues to pump out from your ovaries, this causes an imbalance between estrogen and progesterone, resulting in estrogen dominance. This is usually the case with endometriosis.
If you do not ovulate, then you may still experience bleeding that is often mistaken for menstruation. This anovulatory bleeding will be irregular, varying in flow, duration and schedule.
Without ovulation and resulting lack of progesterone to balance the effects of estrogen, your uterine lining continues to thicken. If this is the case, you may experience a delayed or unusually heavy period. This anovulatory bleeding is known as estrogen breakthrough bleeding.
What Prevents Ovulation?
#1. Low Estrogen
In the case of anovulation and low estrogen, your endometrium will be thin. If you have low estrogen in your follicular phase, your body will not receive the proper messages to ovulate. If this is the case, you may experience spotting between periods, light, frequent or short menstruation.
The conventional treatment options for endometriosis are estrogen suppressing drugs and birth control pills. Both of these options mess with your pituitary gland, stopping the signal to your ovaries to release estrogen. Once you turn off this signal, it takes time for your body to re-group and find homeostasis again, if that’s even possible.
Another reason for low estrogen is adrenal fatigue. Your adrenals produce pregnenolone, a precursor to both estrogen and progesterone. When your adrenals are tired, or you’re dealing with a lot of stress (internally or extrenally) then this precursor shifts instead to stress hormones.
#2. Ovarian Cysts
Ovarian cysts are fluid-filled sacs that can form on your ovary. These can become obstacles for normal ovulation.
Follicular cysts are a pretty normal occurrence. Prior to ovulation, your ovaries produce follicles, which are like little cysts that contain an egg. This is usually small and bursts when your body releases the egg during ovulation. If they don’t burst then they continue to grow.
With Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) cysts happen when eggs mature within sacs on your ovaries, but are not released. These cysts continue to grow with subsequent menstrual cycles causing irregular periods and infertility.
#3. Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs)
New research suggests that NSAIDs inhibit ovulation and reduce progesterone levels. NSAIDs prevent the ovarian follicle from rupturing so it cannot release an ovum to be fertilized.
Examples of NSAID’s include aspirin, ibuprofen, naproxen, etc. If you are taking these consistently then your chances for ovulation dramatically decreases.
#4. Low Thyroid Levels
Your thyroid hormone helps the follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) released from your brain do its job. We need adequate T3 levels for ovulation to occur.
If you have an underactive thyroid then your basal body temperature is likely lower than it should be. This increases the risk of early miscarriage.
#5. Your Age
Perimenopause is a time when hormonal fluctuations happen. This can start in your thirties. As your sex hormones start to slow ovulation can cease or skip.
How Do You Know if You Ovulate?
The best way of detecting ovulation is to chart your menstrual cycle via daily morning basal body temperatures and natural fertility signs, including cervical fluid.
I’ve been charting my cycle via the Fertility Awareness Method (FAM) for about five years. This practice helps me to see if my body is ovulating and it also helps me to predict when my period is coming (always a good thing to know!)
I wish that this method was taught to all women from an early age. There is great power in connecting to and understanding the ebb and flow of your menstrual cycle and hormonal symphony involved.
On the Positive Side?
Charting your menstrual cycle puts the power back in your hands to understand your body and its natural rhythms. Your charts will also help alternative practitioners or savvy gynecologists detect where your cycle needs support.
Do you want to learn how to chart your cycle? You’re in luck! I’ve put together a free video series to help walk you through the process. Sign up here.
Are you charting your cycle? Do you know if you’re not ovulating? Are you struggling to conceive?
I’d love to hear from you.
hi.m trying to concive from last three years..m hypothyroid..n from last one year i have mild spotting in luteal phase..i tried everything but no luck..but as per my cervical mucus which is not ample as it used to be..i get a raw egg white consistency..no other sign..not realy sure whether i ovulute or not..please guide..feel so low.m 37 years old
Do you chart your cycle?
I put together a free course that teaches you how to do this with the fertility awareness method: http://peacewithendo.teachable.com/courses/tune-into-your-cycle
Also, you can try the ovulation tests to get a better idea if you’re ovulating. Sending you LOVE.
I know I ovulate each month I track it and can tell as I get all of the signs at the predicted times, sometimes I feel like I have estrogen dominance if I’ve laxed on my diet. But, my question is, I have very light, short (and regular 28-30 day) periods of 2 days, maybe 3 day. The first day is probably regular/heavyish flow then it almost disappears to next to nothing… Is this normal? Xo
Hi Rachael – I think a normal period is usually at least three days. There could be a hormonal imbalance going on. Have you had your thyroid levels checked? Any cysts?
Not exactly sure where you obtained the information that patients with endometriosis who take estrogen suppressing medications and birth control have issues with “homeostasis if that’s ever possible ” as both a RN and a person with endometriosis. Once you stop both types of drugs your body with return to fully productive status within one or two monthly cycles. I’ve stopped both medications on two occasions to get pregnant twice with zero issues
Hi, M charting my cycles. Don’t know if m ovulating, Though be having lower pain & symptoms not to mention I was told I have pcos. M absolutely struggling to conceive.
Hi, love. Have you tried double checking with the ovulation strips? Those can help measure your hormone levels. PCOS could be preventing ovulation. Please let me know if you need help managing that naturally. Much Love. 💛
I hardly see ovaluation it varies every 3 month or so.
I menstuate up to a week please help
It’s normal to bleed up to seven days during your period. What do you need help with?
Hi,I have been having slight bleeding inbetween my menstrual cycle,and I observed I don’t ovulate anymore.please what is the cause of that.
Hi Aisha. Have you checked for cysts? Could be a hormonal imbalance.
I had a miscarriage last year with twins, since then I feel very depressed but have been trying for another baby. I have then found out 3 months ago that I have pcos and now my periods are every 2 months but this time I’ve missed 2 dates. I don’t know why it’s happening and what to do as I’m really dying for a baby😭
Sorry to hear that Salma. Sending you lots of love.
There’s a close tie-in with PCOS and blood sugar levels. Your blood sugar plays a key role with your hormonal health. If you can get your levels in balance, then you’ll be better off.
Is it possible not to ovulate and still have a regular cycle? I get my period every 26-28 days. It is normal too… last 4-5 days, heavy to light. I am setting up a doctors appointment at the end of the year to check why I am having problems conceiving. We been trying for years with no luck. This month I am starting to chart. I was just researching different things to have a better understanding of my body.
Hi Naomi. You can still have what appears to be a period without ovulation. There are many factors when it comes to conceiving. Hope you get things figured out. Much Love.
I have endometriosis and finished a year on lupron about 9 months ago. I have had 2 regular painful periods at 28 days apart then got a third period 15 days later that didn’t hurt at all and was very heavy. Would anovulatory bleeding be the cause? The only other time I had no pain while bleeding was caused by an-ovulation. I was bleeding bad and went to the er and was diagnosed. i know my body needs to adjust to making hormones again. I would of thought that 9 months would be enough time. Thanks
Yes. Sounds like it could be anovulation. I’ve heard of ladies having issues from Lupron for years afterwards. It impacts receptors all over your body. Sending Love.
Help, I saw my last period on the 19th of Nov and am just seeing another one on the 23rd of dec, hope it’s normal… My period do varies ranging from 1_5 days difference in date either before or after
The best way to figure out what’s going on is to chart your cycle. Check out the free course I have in the post. It’ll help you tune into what happens with your cycle each month and if you’re ovulating.
Hi Aubree. Me and and my husband has been trying to conceive for over 2 years now. My menstrual cycle hardly ever comes. It has been 6 months now since I have had one. My doctor put me on some new meds but that hasn’t started helping. I am worried that I may not me ovulating. Not sure what to do.
Hi Kylie. Do you use the Fertility Awareness Method? This will help you determine if you’re ovulating, but if you’re not having a menstrual cycle it sounds like you’re not. Hard to know what’s going on without knowing your history. I hope you get things figured out, love.
I have had very painful 10-11 day(average) periods with a 31 day cycle. I just started charting four month ago and ovulation testing. I used to get a cyst in every other ovarie as seen on the ultrasound my doctor ordered. I did have a pregnancy at 17 years old that was ended and ever since I have not been able to conceive. I think I may have endometriosis since my periods are so long and painful and I pass a lot of clots. I’m trying to conceive now at 30 years old but with no luck. When I test with Clearblue easy digital I get a bunch of flashing smiley face signs but no peak. Then last month I peaked twice- one peak was on cd 11-12 the other on cd 16-18!! This cycle I have had 6 flashy smiley faces in a row and added a better basal body temp to my routine along with an oral and vaginal ovacue/ OvaGraph reader. I’ve only seen egg white cm on cd 12 which gave me a “pink” day meaning ovulation confirmed. However all of the tests I took for lh surges were negative and the digital never gave me a stagnant smiley face and today is Day 16 and day 6in a row of flashing smiley face. I know that means I’m getting a high estrogen reading but I’ve noticed that my temp doesn’t stay up after ovulation tests confirm an lh surge. It drops and is lower. Also I have lower levels of thyroid but am in the low normal range. I’m seeing a specialist at the end of the month but I’m terified that I have not been ovulating and idk. I’m just filled with grief if I can’t have a child I just will be heart broken.
Sending lots of love your way Sam.
hey dear. I have had a d&c, hysteroscopy and several hormone therapy treatments. NOthing seems to work. this is second year of this on and off cycles. Doc says lining is thick. Suggest hysterectomy. NO other problems like polyops (sp) cancer, cysts, nothing like that, but no one seems to care that I am passing fists size clots all day long for now the 13th day. Not to mention the pain…please tell me what to do.
Hi Christie. Sorry to hear that. I can imagine feeling unnerved with passing fist size clots for two weeks. Do you know if you’re ovulating? I’ve had a herbalist recommend yarrow to me for endo and it’s supposed to help slow heavy bleeding too. Maybe something to look into? http://peacewithendo.com/2013/10/yarrow-for-endometriosis.html
I had a miscarriage last June answer since I have had really light periods which are really unusual for me as mine are normally extremely heavy. I still have the excruciating pain that I have suffered with. I did ovulation tests in my last cycle and I didn’t ovulate.
Really concerned and stressed now.
Sorry to hear that Bella. I’m going to do a follow up post soon with tips on how to naturally stimulate ovulation. Wishing you all the best. Sending Love.
Hi! I’ve been tracking myself to see when I ovulate but it only showed a flashing happy face for 2 weeks till I got my period I never got a steady happy face . I have endometriosis I don’t know if I ovulate or I don’t
Do you use the fertility awareness method with the ovulation sticks?
Hi, I am 49 and am on my 3rd bleeding episode. The 1st was 34 days, the 2nd 39, and this time in on my 27th day off bleeding. I have been taking oral 10mg progesterone for 10 days each cycle, but this month I seem to be bleeding right through it. 4 more days on progesterone and it will be time to start bleeding again! I have had heavy enough periods all my life without this. All I wanna know is when will it end? Considering having it all out. 🙁
Sorry, love. That sounds miserable. I’ve connected with other ladies around the same age with a similar issue. Could it be menopause? I had a herbalist recommend yarrow to me and it can help with heavy bleeding. Have you looked into that? I hope you find relief soon. Much Love.
I have irregular period
I only see my period like once or twice every year.
having read your article am not sure I ovulate.
what can i do? I need help
Hi. I have had 3 weeks of feeling hot/warm, no energy, extremely tired but then period came and I felt normal. I don’t know if this is hormonal imbalance or something more to worry about?
It’s hard to know without knowing more about you and your cycle, but it’s good to hear that you feel better now! If you want to connect further I do power-hour coaching calls. You can schedule time with me here: https://meetme.so/PowerHourCoachingSession
Hello I have PCOS and I am wondering if the OPK shows positive fertile
days and then a positive peak does that mean I have released an egg?
Hi Shell – Looks like the signs are there to say yes. If you ovulated your temp should remain elevated. Did you notice cervical fluid in your positive fertile days?
Yes milky and clear kinda stringy
Nice! You have multiple signs of ovulation then. 💛