Ovulation is a natural part of feminine health. If a girl or woman is experiencing a regular period, and if she isn’t on hormonal contraception of any kind, she is most likely ovulating regularly, too. But sometimes, a woman may experience anovulation, that is, the absence of ovulation.
What causes anovulation?
Anovulation can be caused by a few different factors. You can experience anovulation related to:
- perimenopause, puberty, or postpartum periods, or other transitional seasons of fertility
- polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) and other hormonal disorders, including disorders of the thyroid gland
- being underweight or overweight/obese
- excessive exercise
- hormonal contraceptives
When a woman experiences an anovulatory cycle, she might still have a bleed that appears like a period, but because ovulation never actually happened, it is not true menstruation.
Women on birth control don’t ovulate or have periods
Menstruation always follows ovulation, occurring about two weeks after an egg is released from the ovary. A bleed that occurs without ovulation preceding it is called a withdrawal bleed. A withdrawal bleed generally comes from low or persistent levels of estrogen and either low or non-existent levels of progesterone.
It is important to note that because the primary function of birth control is to stop a woman from ovulating, the bleeds a woman on birth control experiences are not menstrual periods, but withdrawal bleeds.
Do you need to ovulate or have a period?
Regular ovulation and menstruation play an important part in overall women’s health. “Reasons Women Need Periods” is a Natural Womanhood article series taking a deep dive into some of the reasons women need their natural menstrual cycles for optimal health, which you can check out here. Regular, healthy ovulation is also essential for conception to occur.
How can I tell if I’m ovulating?
If you are charting your fertility biomarkers with a fertility awareness method (FAM), you can determine if you have ovulated, and therefore whether your monthly bleed is a menstrual period. This is one of the most important benefits of FAMs: they give a woman insight into what is going on with her body hormonally, and when she should be concerned and seek medical care. This feature of FAMs can be especially important for diagnosing the root cause of infertility in couples who are having trouble conceiving; if a woman is not ovulating, she cannot get pregnant.
In conclusion, anovulatory cycles can be biologically normal due to the season of a woman’s life, indicative of other hormonal disturbances in the body, or induced artificially by hormonal contraceptives. When it comes to identifying the cause of anovulatory cycles, the most important piece is having records of your menstrual cycle charts to assist trained medical professionals in distinguishing why they might be occurring.
For more information about anovulation and anovulatory cycles, see the articles below.