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Early Ovulation: What Does It Mean For Your Fertility

Early Ovulation: What Does It Mean For Your Fertility

Early Ovulation: What Does It Mean For Your FertilityLadies, I want you to know something, it can be completely normal for your menstrual cycle to vary in length slightly from month to month! Ovulation may come a day before or a day later even in normal some cycles. We actually expect to see natural variations between menstrual cycles. Early ovulation can be concerning, however, when/if it consistently happens. Early ovulation causing a shortened follicular phase is a concern we sometimes hear about. But what does it really mean for your fertility health? In this guide we’ll cover the causes and effects of early ovulation and a shortened follicular phase; and how to encourage balanced menstrual health naturally including fertility herbs, lifestyle changes, stress management and how to support optimal egg health.

What is the follicular phase?

The average menstrual cycle lasts 24 to 36 days. Day 1 of your cycle is the first day of your period and the beginning of the follicular phase

During this phase, fluctuations in hormones (low estrogen) cause an increase in FSH levels (follicle stimulating hormone), which triggers follicles to grow in the ovary. Around 10-20 follicles start to develop, but only one (usually) will become an egg.

For optimum fertility, the follicular phase needs 12-15 days in order for the selected follicle to grow and develop into a healthy egg to be ovulated and then fertilized.

What happens if you ovulate too early in the follicular phase?

If your follicular phase lasts 12-14 days, there is generally no reason to be concerned. However, if you chart your basal body temperature or use OPK’s, and know you’re ovulating on day 11 or earlier, the follicle may not have developed enough to be fertilized. At this point in the cycle, you may not have enough friendly cervical mucus to move sperm to the fallopian tube to reach the egg. Additionally, your endometrial lining may not be sufficient to support the life of a fertilized egg.

What causes early ovulation and a shortened follicular phase?

Researchers are still learning about what causes early ovulation and a shortened follicular phase. In some cases, it appears to occur randomly. In others, it may be related to:

  • fluctuations in hormones caused by stress, or disruption in the hypothalamus and pituitary gland. High stress and problems in the hypothalamus and pituitary gland trigger a surge in luteinizing hormone (LH), causing the ovaries to release the egg before it’s mature.
  • having had past miscarriages. According to researchers at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, of 201 women, those who had previous pregnancy loses had on average a 2.2 day longer follicular phase compared to those who hadn’t experienced pregnancy loss.
  • long-term birth control use, or those who stopped birth control use within the 90 days of testing.
  • the aging process. As egg supply is naturally reduced with age, follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) rises higher causing the body to select a dominant follicle for ovulation earlier. However, as long as the follicular phase lasts at least 12 days and the rest of the phases of the menstrual cycle are balanced, this is not a problem.
  • smoking, heavy alcohol use and excess caffeine consumption have been linked to causing a short follicular phase and overall menstrual cycle.

What about a long follicular phase? Is fertility affected by a long cycle?
If your follicular phase lasts longer than 20 days, you may have a problem with ovulation or a hormonal balance. If you ovulate later than day 20, some experts suggest egg quality can deteriorate, increasing the risk for chromosomal problems involved in miscarriage.

Encouraging Balanced Menstrual Health Naturally

In the medical world, doctors use birth control and hormone medications as temporary measures to normalize the cycle and encourage follicle health. In the natural world, we use diet, herbs, stress management and lifestyle therapies to support a healthy menstrual cycle and egg quality.

Top Tips for Maintaining Menstrual Cycle Balance

1. If you smoke, make a plan to quit! Smoking is linked to premature ovarian failure, problems with ovulation, increased risk of miscarriage, ectopic pregnancy, decreased follicle count, and DNA damage in the follicles. Smoking is bad news for your fertility and may be tied to a shortened follicular phase.

2. Reduce alcohol and caffeine. While working to build your fertility, definitely cut back on these stressor foods. Both alcohol and caffeine disrupt hormonal function, may lead to early ovulation and increase pregnancy risks. Consider switching to Red Raspberry Leaf (Rubus idaeus, spp) tea or a Conceptions Tea blend.

3. Learn more about fertility herbs:

4. Focus on supporting egg health. If you’re concerned about early ovulation or egg quality, consider a 90 day program to support egg health. Egg health can be supported by following a Fertility Diet, using antioxidants and through Self-Fertility Massage.

5. Reduce and manage stress.
If you’re under a lot of stress, it can affect your menstrual cycle and ovulation patterns. Try stress management therapies like meditation, deep breathing, EFT or aromatherapy. You’ll feel better using stress-management therapies and you will also be enhancing fertility.

Having a normal menstrual cycle with ease…

An occasional short follicular phase is probably nothing to be concerned about. Most women have follicular phases that are long enough to support follicle development and a healthy environment for an embryo to implant. If your follicular phase is very short (less than 11 days), or you suspect it may be hindering conception, consult with a reproductive endocrinologist to help determine the cause.

A complete look into your fertility status can be enlightening and help to guide you in the right direction, especially if you have been trying to conceive for a long time. Further, natural therapies work to encourage a balanced menstrual cycle, regular ovulation and support egg health. Women who commit to natural therapies for a period of 6 months or more achieve the best results.

Too learn more about related subjects covered in this article, please visit the following links:

Guide to Fertility Charting

Stress and Your Fertility

References

Sarah Abernathy - Certified Herbalist

Sarah has worked in the field of natural foods and herbalism for over 20 years. She’s the Co-Author of “Healthy Healing” with over 1 million copies sold, a Certified Herbalist, and a health and wellness consultant. Sarah Graduated from the Professional Herbal Studies program at East West School of Herbology, and holds a Bachelor’s Degree in English from St. Mary’s College. Working with women on their journey to wellness is her passion and she loves to share what she has been blessed to learn from naturopaths and other herbalists over the years.

Dr. Kimberly Langdon Cull M.D., OB/GYN
Dr. Kimberly Langdon Cull M.D., OB/GYN

Dr. Kimberly Langdon Cull is a University-trained Obstetrician/Gynecologist with 19-years of clinical experience. She delivered over 2000 babies and specializes in gynecologic diseases such as menstrual disorders, infertility diagnosis and treatment especially pertaining to tubal blockage and polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS). Dr. Langdon is the inventor of 6 patent pending medical devices, and attended Ohio State University from 1987-1995 receiving her Medical Doctorate Degree (M.D.) with Honors in Obstetrics and Gynecology.

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[-] 6 Comments
  1. I have a functional cyst on my right ovary (I’ve had it since August cycle). Actually this past cycle, today being Day 1 of period, has been 3 weeks! I know I did ovulate Day 7-9 on this cycle. My periods are fairly regular and if there were any irregularities, the cycles were longer (like more than 4-6 weeks). I never had issues with cysts! I am supposed to start my IVF cycle next month. I never took birth controls in my life and I am 38 years old but will be taking them starting tomorrow and will do an ultrasound and check blood levels and on Oct 17 will do baseline IVF ultrasound. Most likely if the cyst is still there, IVF will be postponed! Why has this cycle been so short?

    • Dear Alina,

      I am not sure I can know the answer. It may take some thinking back over the past cycle to pinpoint what could have happened. It truly could be any number of things. Did your diet, lifestyle, stress levels or even exercise routine change? Did you begin or stop supplements, or travel recently?

  2. Just to clarify, the follicular phase does not include menses. Menses can last 3-7 days in a regular cycle. So the follicular phase can be shorter than 11 days with good egg quality as long as ovulation is occurring on CD 12 or later (eg. 4 days of menses + an 8 day follicular phase would = ovulation on CD 12). Thus, this does not make sense: “If your follicular phase lasts 12-14 days, there is generally no reason to be concerned. However, if you chart your basal body temperature or use OPK’s, and know you’re ovulating on day 11 or earlier, the follicle may not have developed enough to be fertilized.”

    • Dear Cece,

      The follicular phase does in fact include menstruation. It is the entire first half of the menstrual cycle, from the first day of a period until ovulation. It can vary in length indeed.

  3. Thanks Sarah for this article! For the last 4 months or so my cycles have shortened significantly to 22-24days and my ovulation seems to be on Days 7-9. I have stopped birth control since March this year to try for a baby. I will be taking the fertility cleanse soon to help balance my hormones and prepare for conception but I was wondering whether I should also buy the OvaWise kit for egg support? I am 31 years old and would like to increase my follicular phase to a healthy 12-14 days.

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