The term “Ovulatory Dysfunction” covers many different conditions which cause abnormal ovulation. Women who are diagnosed with ovulation dysfunction experience irregular ovulation, or ovulation that occurs rarely, or no ovulation at all. Although this diagnosis can be extremely frustrating when you’re trying to conceive, more often than not there is an easy fix.
For any couple the odds of becoming pregnant are only 15 to 20 percent each month. For women over the age of 30 the odds drop, continuing to do so as you age. Those women who have irregular menstrual cycles have an even more diminished chance of becoming pregnant through natural intercourse. Very often the sole reason for this type of infertility is ovulation dysfunction.
Ovulation dysfunction is typically a symptom, or effect, of an underlying condition. When the condition is treated ovulation usually resumes. Many patients are able to go on to conceive naturally once the underlying condition has been identified and treated. The conditions which cause ovulation dysfunction are:
- Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS), a disorder of the endocrine system, and the most common cause of ovarian dysfunction.
- Hyperprolactinemia, a disorder resulting in increased production of the hormone prolactin from the pituitary gland.
- Hypothalamic Dysfunction, failure of the pituitary gland to produce the hormones that stimulate egg production in the ovaries.
- Thyroid Dysfunction, either hyper-, or hypothyroidism
- Low or Decreased Ovarian Reserve (DOR)
- Being underweight
- Training too hard, exercising too much
- Extremely high levels of stress
Identifying Ovulation Dysfunction
One of the main identifiers of ovarian dysfunction is irregularity in your menstrual cycle. If your periods are unpredictable, or if you rarely have them at all, you are very likely suffering from ovulation dysfunction.
Your menstrual cycle is a predictable indicator of ovulation. Any disruption in a normal (every 21 to 35 days, from the first day of one period to the first day of the next period) cycle disrupts ovulation. Some women feel a slight, yet distinctive “twinge” mid-cycle on one side of the pelvic region or the other when they ovulate. Other signs include:
- An increase in cervical mucous
- A drop, then subsequent rise, in basal body temperature mid cycle (day 10-16)
If you suspect you may not be ovulating it’s important to mention this to your physician. Your doctor will schedule some tests to measure hormones, check your thyroid function, and rule out other possible conditions related to ovarian dysfunction.
Depending on the results of your tests your doctor will work to treat the underlying cause. This may involve leveling out your hormones to increase fertility, the introduction of the medication metformin for PCOS, or fertility drugs such as Clomid, to increase and promote ovulation.
Many times your physician will also recommend some lifestyle changes you can make that will have lasting, and positive effects on your fertility as well as your pregnancy, and future wellness.
What You Can Do At Home to Minimize Ovulation Dysfunction
One of the biggest health problems today is stress. It impacts healthy body function in all sorts of ways including ovulation. Your body recognizes overtraining, too few calories, and your response to basic life stressors, as a threat. When that occurs your body halts production of the hormones which stimulate your ovaries, in an attempt to conserve energy. This primal and innate instinct disrupts your ovulation.
For those who are underweight, consult your doctor. You will benefit from a healthy diet of whole foods and healthy fats to increase your caloric intake. Those who are competitive athletes may need to sit out a few competitions and ease way back on the training for now. And for women who go hard when working out, it’s time for you to find less strenuous forms of exercise, at least temporarily.
Women who are overweight-to-obese will need to get to a healthy weight in order to see ovarian function normalize. Obesity is often associated with PCOS. For your reproductive health and your future wellness it’s time to lose the weight once and for all. Avoid fad diets and make necessary lifestyle changes. If you’re unsure how to proceed, speak with your doctor or your fertility team.
Get a Handle on Stress
Chronic stress is becoming more and more common these days. How you react to your stressors needs to change. Seek out ways to deal with your stress. Meditate just ten minutes per day, go for walks, practice yoga, journal, or talk to a professional. Your physician can refer you if you like.
Overcoming ovulation dysfunction is often just a matter of making a few tweaks. Medical intervention may be necessary depending on the underlying condition interfering with your ovulation. Lifestyle changes, with or without medication, are often enough to restore your fertility and lead to a successful outcome.