For women trying to conceive, anovulation or not ovulating is extremely frustrating! In a normal monthly menstrual cycle, a woman releases an egg from the ovary in preparation for potential fertilization. Yet, a lot of women share with us, they don’t test positive on OPK’s (ovulation predictor kits) or see a temperature shift on their fertility chart. Why do women skip ovulation? This article explores reasons why you may not be ovulating and what you can do about them.
Several Reasons For Anovulation
If you’re dealing with high stress, it can affect your ovulation pattern. While the effects of stress on the hormonal systems are profound, it, in particular, affects the LH (luteinizing hormone) surge from the pituitary gland that stimulates ovulation.
What to do: Try therapies like massage, aromatherapy, nervine herbs and guided meditation. Our guide Stress and Your Fertility will teach you more.
Lack of Sleep
A lack of sleep can cause FSH (follicle stimulating hormone) levels to drop, affecting the ability of the ovaries to release an egg. (FSH levels tend to be the highest right before ovulation.) If you struggle with sleep, do your best to improve nighttime habits.
A few tips: Keep a regular bedtime and avoid electronics use in the evening. Try natural sleep remedies like Passionflower (Passiflora incarnata), California poppy (Eschscholzia californica), Chamomile (Matricaria chamomilla) and Skullcap (Scutellaria laterifolia L.). If you work a swing shift, keep daytime sleep a priority.
Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)
PCOS is estimated to cause more than 75% of cases of anovulatory infertility. Higher androgen levels and insulin resistance (common in PCOS) disrupt the menstrual cycle and the ability to ovulate.
The good news: While it takes time to see results (6-12 months), PCOS ovulation problems are very responsive to consistent dietary and lifestyle changes, such as those explained in our guide How To Reduce the Damaging Effects of PCOS on Fertility Through Diet and Herbs.
It’s estimated that about 20% of women going through perimenopause have anovulatory cycles, caused by natural hormone shifts. Keep in mind that many women going through perimenopause have ovulatory cycles too.
What to do: Monitoring ovulation is especially important for trying to conceive in the perimenopausal years. Learn more: Achieving Pregnancy During Perimenopause.
Very Low Body Weight/ History of Eating Disorders
Malnutrition and a lack of body fat directly impact reproductive hormones, the menstrual cycle and ovulation, and can lead to infertility.
The good news: Women who are affected can recover! If you’re going through this, follow a Fertility Diet. Seek outside nutritional and psychological counseling when needed. It’s ok to ask for help!
Recently Gaining or Losing Significant Weight
Any dramatic change in body weight (even if it’s positive) can be a shock to the system. If too much or extreme levels of exercise are the reason for extreme weight loss, normal ovulation and menstruation can stop.
What to do: Slow, consistent weight loss or gain is the goal and can help prevent menstrual changes and anovulation. Switching to low impact exercise can help you get the benefits of exercise without the fertility drawbacks. Learn more: Is Exercise Good or Bad For Fertility?
Stopping Hormonal Birth Control, Recent Pregnancy, or Miscarriage
Each of these events can stop or disrupt regular ovulation. It can take time – 6 months to a year – for some women to rebalance.
What to do: Do your best to stay patient if you’re going through this. A Fertility Consultation can be a good choice if you’re frustrated and unsure where to begin.
Nursing increases prolactin levels, naturally inhibiting ovulation. Women who are breastfeeding (especially on demand) often experience an absent cycle along with lack of ovulation.
What to do: As a woman breastfeeds less or weans, the cycle usually returns along with regular ovulation. Note: Some women still ovulate and menstruate while breastfeeding.
Premature Ovarian Failure (POF)
Hormonal changes caused by POF lead to irregular or absent cycles along with early menopause changes.
A few tips: If you’re unsure, a medical fertility work-up/testing can provide more information. If you know you have POF, we offer resources for support (see below).
Pituitary or Thyroid Gland Disorder
Fertility problems related to thyroid or pituitary dysfunction can cause anovulatory and irregular menstrual cycles.
What to do: Work with a healthcare provider who can test, diagnose and even treat health issues of the thyroid and pituitary.
Find the Cause of Anovulation and Address It
If you skip a month or two of ovulation, it may be nothing to be concerned about. However, if ovulation is consistently absent or irregular, review all of the possible anovulation causes to see where you may be experiencing a challenge. Many types of anovulation can be overcome or improved with dietary changes and natural therapies. Yet, other types may require a medical approach or a combination of medical and natural therapies. Each woman is different. A good plan must cater to a woman’s specific needs and challenges.
Even if ovulation is not regular, there may still be opportunities to conceive. Being diligent about ovulation detection offers the best chance for planning timed intercourse. Find an effective Fertility Charting technique that works for you, and stick with it. Continue taking steps to address your specific anovulation causes. We’re here if you need support or have more questions.
- Kornelliussen, I. (2012, Dec.). How Stress Affects Conception. Retrieved from: http://sciencenordic.com/how-stress-affects-conception
- How Lack of Sleep is Hurting Your Fertility. (2018). Retrieved from: https://www.rrc.com/how-lack-of-sleep-is-hurting-your-fertility/
- Hunter, M. and Sterrett, J. (2000, Sept.). Polycystic Ovary Syndrome: It’s Not Just Infertility. American Family Physician. 1;62(5):1079-1088. Retrieved from: https://www.aafp.org/afp/2000/0901/p1079.html
- Stress & Infertility: Naturopathic Fertility Care (2018). Retrieved from:
- Perkins, S. (2017, Aug.). Symptoms When You Do Not Ovulate From Perimenopause. Retrieved from: https://www.livestrong.com/article/67002-symptoms-not-ovulate-perimenopause/