Medically reviewed on February 17, 2022 by Jordan Stachel, M.S., RDN, CPT. To give you technically accurate, evidence-based information, content published on the Everlywell blog is reviewed by credentialed professionals with expertise in medical and bioscience fields.
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A person’s menstrual cycle is an important facet of their fertility awareness, especially if planning for pregnancy. If you want to become pregnant, knowing when you’re ovulating during the menstrual cycle can help to optimize the chances of conception.
But if periods are irregular, it may be more difficult to determine when exactly you’re ovulating each month, or if you’re ovulating at all. In fact, you may wonder, can irregular periods cause infertility?
While irregular periods are a potential sign of infertility, they’re not always related .
In this article, we’ll define what an irregular menstrual cycle is, how they may impact your fertility, and what to do to address them and increase the chances of conceiving. (Consider taking the at-home Women's Fertility Test to learn more about your fertility-related hormones.)
Every person’s menstrual cycle is slightly different. It's a little challenging to establish what a regular period is, but on average, a regular menstrual cycle lasts between 21 and 35 days . However, even if a menstrual cycle varies by a few days month-to-month, it’s still considered regular.
In contrast, irregular periods include :
If you occasionally have an irregular menstrual cycle, it’s usually not a cause for concern. However, if your period’s irregularity persists for more than three months, you may want to schedule an appointment with a healthcare provider.
If periods are irregular, you might worry about your fertility. While irregular periods may indicate infertility, this isn’t always the case. Many people still get pregnant despite having irregular periods. However, it can be more difficult.
Here are some reasons why :
If you don’t pay much attention to your menstrual cycle, you may not even realize that your periods are irregular. You can monitor the regularity of your periods by tracking them.
To track periods:
You can also use period-tracking apps on a mobile phone for added convenience. If you notice menstrual irregularities occurring often, you can choose to see a specialist and/or take an at-home fertility test.
If a menstrual cycle is irregular, you may wonder why. Here are a few common causes of menstrual irregularity:
Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) – PCOS is a hormonal disorder that affects between 6–12% of reproductive-aged people . This condition is often painful because it causes the ovaries to become enlarged and develop cysts. Common symptoms of PCOS include :
Having PCOS while pregnant may increase the risk of miscarriage or premature delivery . Because of this, it’s a good idea to get checked for PCOS before pregnancy if you’re experiencing any of these symptoms.
Lifestyle factors – Sudden or extreme changes to your lifestyle can also offset the menstrual cycle. Some potential lifestyle factors to investigate include:
Other health conditions – In addition to PCOS, thyroid imbalances, diabetes, endometriosis, eating disorders, obesity, hyperprolactinemia, and certain sexually transmitted infections can result in irregular periods .
Some of these reasons for irregular periods may impact fertility, whereas others may not. Your healthcare provider can help you determine if the root cause of your irregular periods is impacting your fertility and reproductive health.
If you’re trying to get pregnant, regulating periods may be possible with the right treatment plan. Depending on the cause of irregular periods, you can potentially help get them back on track by :
If you’re worried that your irregular periods are a sign of infertility, you can check your hormone levels from home using a fertility test from Everlywell. Our Women’s Fertility Test measures five key hormones that can affect ovulation and menstrual cycle regulation, such as:
If you discover that these hormones are out of balance, you and a healthcare provider can develop a proactive treatment plan to restore fertility and period regularity.
What is secondary infertility?
When to see a fertility specialist
1. What are some possible causes of female infertility? National Institutes of Health. URL. Accessed February 17, 2022.
2. What are menstrual irregularities? National Institutes of Health. URL. Accessed February 17, 2022.
3. Polycystic Ovary Syndrome. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. URL. Accessed February 17, 2022.
4. Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS). American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. URL. Accessed February 17, 2022.
5. Katulski K, Czyzyk A, Podfigurna-Stopa A, Genazzani AR, Meczekalski B. Pregnancy complications in polycystic ovary syndrome patients. Gynecol Endocrinol. 2015 Feb;31(2):87-91. Epub 2014 Oct 30. PMID: 25356655.
6. What are the common treatments for menstrual irregularities? National Institutes of Health. URL. Accessed February 17, 2022.