When you have an irregular period, it may seem like getting pregnant will be impossible. But do not despair. The way in which you will get pregnant will not vary one bit from someone who has regular periods. You still must have sex during your fertile window. You will even track ovulation in the same way. The only difference is that it can be challenging to predict ovulation when it does not occur at the same time each month. This is why many women with irregular periods take longer to conceive.
Are You Ovulating?
The one thing that would most definitely stand in the way of you and conception would be a lack of ovulation. In order to conceive, you must ovulate. If you do not ovulate every cycle, this could drastically increase the amount of time it will take for you to conceive naturally. So, if you notice that your periods are irregular, the first and most important question you should answer is, “Am I ovulating?” Fortunately, you can do this with the same methods you will use to track ovulation, so you do not have to waste any time. If you find that you are not ovulating for two or more cycles, talk to your doctor about potential reasons. There may be a deeper issue to be corrected before you can conceive.
How To Track Ovulation?
There are a few methods of tracking ovulation, and if your periods are irregular, you should probably choose at least two methods to ensure you get the best result. When it comes to fertility, time is of the essence. So, let us get started:
1. Ovulation Prediction Kit (OPK)
The ovulation prediction kit, or OPK, will tell you when there is a surge of Luteinising Hormone (LH) in your urine. You will always have some LH flowing through your body, but when you are about to ovulate, you can expect to see a surge. In fact, your LH levels increase by three to five times when you are ovulating. The ovulation prediction kit is highly accurate and there is little room for error, so it is a popular tool for women who have irregular periods. However, it is the most expensive option for tracking ovulation, considering that the others are free.
2. Charting Basal Body Temperature
Soon after your LH levels spike, so does your basal body temperature (BBT), and it will stay risen for at least 3 days in a row. The temperature rise is actually caused by a release of heat-inducing progesterone, but the problem with this method is that the progesterone is actually released AFTER ovulation and not before. So, when you see the temperature rise, it is too late. Still, you may want to chart basal body temperature to ensure that you are, in fact, ovulating. Your charts may also help you identify a pattern in your cycle that can help you conceive. You can measure your basal body temperature by taking and charting your temperature as soon as you wake up every morning, before sitting up. The BBT rise is only about 0.4 to 0.8 degrees Fahrenheit, so use a digital thermometer that can measure to 2 decimal places.
3. Tracking Cervical Mucus
Cervical mucus may sound and look disgusting, but the way it acts during your cycle is extremely important. Think of it as the gatekeeper of your reproductive system. During the first few days after your menstrual period, you probably will not notice any cervical mucus. This is because it is busy protecting the cervix from sperm and other foreign invaders (yes, sperm are considered foreign invaders until you ovulate). During this time, the mucus is thicker and acts like a plug to keep the cervical canal closed. Slowly, it will begin increasing in quantity – so much so that when ovulation is imminent, there will be lots of slippery, clear and stretchy mucous. You may find it to be similar to the consistency of egg whites. Not only is there a drastic change in its appearance, but there is also a major change in its behavior. Instead of blocking sperm, when you notice the “egg white” consistency, your cervical mucous is ready to help sperm along their journey to fertilize a mature egg. You will start noticing these changes in the days leading up to ovulation; so as soon as you notice the change, start having sex for your best chances of conception.
4. Noticing Other Bodily Changes
As you may imagine, all the hormonal changes during your fertile window cause things to happen within your body that make it easier for you to get pregnant. Keep in mind that not every woman experiences any or all of these things, but if you do, it is another way to know when you are ovulating. Many women experience cramping during ovulation, it can be very mild or feel almost like a period cramp. You may also notice breast tenderness, light spotting or an increased sex drive. If your periods are irregular, do not rely on these signs alone to indicate when you are ovulating. They can be too subtle or unreliable to give you the assurance you need. However, it is a great idea to be on the lookout for these changes while you are tracking ovulation with another method.
Author: Dr Zeenobiyah McGowan Ph.D., an expert on women’s health and helping couples conceive naturally. Dr McGowan is a mother of one beautiful girl. She is editor-in-chief for Ovulationcalendar.com, also founded Impact Humanity, a charity which helps under privileged children get the basic necessities like food and education in Kenya.