Irregular Periods: How to Get Pregnant Quickly and On Schedule
Are you worried that irregular periods could hurt your chances of getting pregnant? Since so many women have irregular periods — 14% of women between the ages of 19 and 54, to be exact — this is a common concern. However, many women with irregular cycles go on to have healthy pregnancies despite an irregular period.
In this post, you’ll learn how to get pregnant fast, despite the challenges presented by irregular periods. Read on to address your concerns about how irregular periods could impact your future pregnancy.
What is an irregular period?
Women are often told that the average menstrual cycle lasts 28 days. In reality, this number is based on mean and median averages. What counts as a normal period varies widely from woman to woman. A normal period may occur every 21 days to 35 days and typically lasts two to eight days.
An irregular period is defined as one or more of the following:
- A menstrual cycle lasting fewer than 21 days or more than 35 days
- A period that lasts fewer than two days or longer than eight days
- Cycles that vary in length by more than seven to nine days (for example, 24 days one cycle and 42 days the next)
- Having fewer than nine menstrual periods in a year — also known as oligomenorrhea
- Going 90+ days without a menstrual period with no medical explanation (i.e. pregnancy, hormonal contraception, or menopause) — also known as amenorrhea
Irregular periods can also be characterized by abnormally heavy menstrual bleeding, also known as menorrhagia. Symptoms of menorrhagia include:
- Soaking through one or more pads or tampons every hour for several consecutive hours
- Filling a menstrual cup every 2-3 hours
- Needing to “double-up” on menstrual pads or waking up in the middle of the night to change your pad
- Passing blood clots larger than the size of a quarter
- Symptoms of anemia, such as tiredness, dizziness, or shortness of breath
Cycle length by itself doesn’t determine irregular periods and you may have one or more signs that your periods are irregular. These symptoms can also change month to month for many women.
What causes irregular periods?
Medical conditions and health issues are the leading causes of irregular menstrual cycles. Some require treatment, but others may resolve on their own. Below are common conditions linked to irregular periods.
Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS)
Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a condition caused by hormonal imbalance. The imbalance enlarges ovaries that may have cysts with immature eggs.
PCOS causes high levels of androgen, often called the male sex hormone. This imbalance interferes with ovulation and menstruation cycles.
You may be able to conceive with PCOS. Medication is sometimes prescribed to help induce ovulation, and you’ll likely need to see a fertility specialist for monitoring.
Uterine fibroids are noncancerous growths that can appear during childbearing years. They are fairly common. Some women have no symptoms, while others may experience:
- heavy menstrual bleeding
- longer menstrual bleeding
- pelvic pain
- lower back pain
The exact cause of fibroids is unknown, but genetics and hormones may be related to them. Most types of uterine fibroids don’t affect fertility and pregnancy — except for submucosal fibroids.
Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID)
Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) is an infection that occurs when bacteria in the vagina spreads to the female reproductive organs through the cervix. It is usually caused by sexually transmitted infections.
Symptoms can range from non-existent or mild to severe. These are the common symptoms of PID:
- abnormal bleeding or discharge
- painful intercourse
- pelvic pain
Untreated PID may cause infertility. If you have unprotected sex or multiple sexual partners, get tested for STIs regularly to ensure you receive prompt treatment. PID is usually treated with antibiotics.
Weight-related health problems
One medical study found that being overweight causes 25% of infertility cases — and that being underweight impacts 12% of cases.
Weight can cause irregular periods in many ways. Some of the weight problems that can cause irregular cycles include:
- Eating disorders
- Excessive exercise
- Excessive weight loss
You can use an ideal weight calculator to find out your healthy weight range. This can help you set weight loss or weight gain goals for pregnancy.
How Irregular Periods Impact You When You’re TTC
When your periods are irregular, trying to conceive (TTC) can be challenging. Women with regular periods are four times more likely to conceive than women with irregular periods. If you are TTC for more than one year (or six months if you are over the age of 35) with an irregular period, you may need to use fertility treatments in order to get pregnant.
Here are some of the ways that irregular periods can affect your fertility:
Most women ovulate about halfway into their menstrual cycle. Using the classic 28-day cycle model, this means a woman ovulates around day 14. However, irregular periods can signify that you are ovulating irregularly or having anovulatory cycles (cycles where you do not ovulate at all), leading to varying lengths in menstrual cycles. Irregular ovulation is the most common cause of infertility and affects 1 in 4 couples who are treated for infertility.
Ovulation plays an important role in fertility. During ovulation, changes in hormone levels trigger an ovary to release an egg, which travels down the fallopian tube into the uterus. If the egg is fertilized, pregnancy occurs. After an egg is released, it only lives for 24 hours. However, sperm can live for several days in the uterus, meaning that you are fertile for the five days leading up to ovulation as well as the day of ovulation itself (your “fertile window”).
For the best odds of getting pregnant, you need to time sex with your fertile window. If your ovulation is unpredictable or absent, it might be more difficult to determine the best time to have sex in order to get pregnant.
What to do about it
In order to promote regular ovulation, it’s important to maintain a healthy lifestyle through good nutrition, exercise, and weight management. You can also determine the exact time of your ovulation to help you better time sex. You can do this in a couple of ways:
First, you can pay attention to the changes in your cervical mucus throughout your menstrual cycle. During most of your menstrual cycle, the cervical mucus is thick, creamy, and white or off-white. During ovulation, however, the cervical mucus becomes stretchy and clear, like the consistency of an eggwhite.
Secondly, you can measure the exact concentrations of hormones in your body. During ovulation, your body experiences a surge in luteinizing hormone (LH) and follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH). Digital fertility trackers like Mira can determine the exact numerical value of LH and FSH in your urine to predict when you will ovulate with scientific precision. If you can spot the LH and FSH surges in your hormone patterns, you can determine when you are ovulating, even if your ovulation is irregular.
The length of your cycle can also affect your fertility. If your cycles are 26 days long or shorter, you may be less likely to get pregnant. This is because your fertile window may be shorter than usual. Additionally, short cycles can sometimes signal a lack of ovulation (anovulatory cycles).
Occasionally, short cycles may also occur when you ovulate early, on or before day 10 of your menstrual cycle. The period leading up to ovulation is called the follicular phase, so it can also be said that you have a short follicular phase. This is a sign that your body has released an immature egg, which is often unable to be fertilized.
Similarly, if you have long menstrual cycles, you might ovulate later in your menstrual cycle. You may have heard that ovulation always occurs on day 14, but if your cycles are 35 days long, it’s more likely that you will ovulate around day 21 or later. However, late ovulation will not affect your odds of conception in the same way as early ovulation.
Sometimes, you may have a short luteal phase, which can cause a shorter or longer cycle than usual. The luteal phase is the period lasting from the day after ovulation to the first day of your next menstrual period. When this phase lasts 10 days or fewer (in other words, if you get your period 10 days or less after ovulation), you may have low progesterone and have difficulty conceiving.
What to do about it
The treatment for short or long menstrual cycles depends on their cause. When irregular ovulation due to unhealthy weight or lifestyle is the cause of irregular cycles, improving your diet, exercise habits, and weight should help.
Additionally, short or long cycles are often caused by reproductive health conditions like PCOS, over- or underactive thyroid, or primary ovarian insufficiency (POI). Treating the underlying medical condition behind short or long menstrual cycles will usually correct the length of your cycle.
If you have short or long menstrual cycles, you should see your doctor to have your thyroid and reproductive hormone levels checked. To treat some conditions, like hyper- or hypothyroidism, your doctor may need to prescribe medication. If you have a condition like PCOS that affects ovulation, they may also prescribe fertility medications like Clomid to help you ovulate more regularly.
When a short luteal phase is the problem causing irregular menstrual cycles, your doctor may be concerned about low progesterone. They will likely give you a blood test to check your progesterone levels. If the test shows low progesterone, they may prescribe progesterone creams, suppositories, or oral medications to restore your progesterone levels to normal.
How to Get Pregnant Fast with Irregular Periods
Make healthy lifestyle changes
Improving your overall health before pregnancy is important for everyone, but it’s even more crucial for women with irregular periods. These are some simple yet effective lifestyle changes you can make:
- quit smoking cigarettes
- quit consuming alcohol
- eat a healthy, balanced diet
- get light to moderate exercise
- avoid excessive dieting or exercising
- take a daily multivitamin
- take folic acid and Coq10 supplements
These changes are affordable, good for your overall well-being, and may help you conceive.
Track your ovulation closely
There are numerous ways to estimate ovulation, but irregular periods make it difficult to get accurate estimates. Irregular cycles often cause issues with using:
- The basal body temperature method.
- The cervical mucus method.
- The calendar method.
Drugstore ovulation predictor kits (OPK) can be faulty for women with irregular periods. Using Mira’s fertility prediction kit is a more effective way to determine your fertile window. Your daily levels of luteinizing hormone are measured to provide 99% accurate results.
Increase frequency of intercourse
When you use an advanced ovulation kit like Mira, it’s easier to have intercourse during your fertile window. It’s common for women to focus on conceiving during their two peak fertility days, but having sex more often can improve your chances of getting pregnant.
To get pregnant fast with irregular periods, have intercourse frequently during your five-to-six-day fertile window. Increasing the frequency of sex can boost your chances of conception.
Reduce stress and anxiety
Studies show that stress and short-term anxiety can cause irregular and missed periods. This happens because stress triggers hormonal imbalances. Reduce stress or anxiety by:
- Learning self-soothing techniques, such as deep breathing.
- Exercising to increase endorphins.
- Getting consistent amounts of sleep.
- Seeking counseling.
Mental wellness is part of your overall health. Try your best to reduce stress and anxiety when trying to get pregnant.
When to See Your Doctor for Irregular Periods
Irregular periods are usually not serious, but it never hurts to consult your doctor for advice if you are concerned. Some warning signs you should pay attention to include:
- Lack of a period for 90+ days
- Cycles lasting fewer than 21 days or longer than 35 days
- Heavy bleeding lasting longer than a week
- Pelvic pain during or between menstrual periods
- Abnormal uterine bleeding
When you make an appointment to discuss your irregular cycles, your doctor may start with some basic steps to help determine the main issue. He or she may:
- Ask questions about your menstrual cycle.
- Perform physical exams.
- Order lab tests to measure hormone levels.
- Perform ultrasound screenings.
What happens next depends on the outcome of tests and exams. Your doctor may suggest additional lifestyle changes or prescribe fertility drugs.
It’s perfectly normal to feel frustrated when trying to conceive. Use the information you’ve read to help you get pregnant fast with irregular periods.
✔️ Medically Reviewed by Banafsheh Kashani, MD, FACOG
Banafsheh Kashani, M.D., FACOG is a board-certified OB/GYN and specialist in reproductive endocrinology and infertility at Eden Fertility Centers, and has been treating couples and individuals with infertility since 2014. Prior to joining Eden Centers for Advanced Fertility, she was practicing as a top fertility specialist at Kaiser Permanente in Orange County and Reproductive Fertility Center. Dr. Kashani has received numerous awards throughout her years of study and medical training.
Dr. Kashani has conducted extensive research in female reproduction, with a specific focus on the endometrium and implantation. Additionally, Dr. Kashani has authored papers in the areas of fertility preservation, and fertility in women with PCOS and Turners syndrome. She also was part of a large SART-CORS study evaluating the trend in frozen embryo transfers and success rates.
Dr. Kashani is a fellow of the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. In addition, she is a diplomat of the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology and an active member of the American Society of Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) and Pacific Coast Reproductive Society (PCRS). She is also a member of the Society of Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility (SREI).