A woman’s menstrual cycle is the key parameter of her reproductive health; for this reason, it is one of the first things that have to be evaluated for those combating female infertility. A detailed study of the patient’s menstrual cycle may give some clues and treatment may be advised accordingly. Irregular menstrual cycle is a common reproductive issue which may have far reaching implications. It is characterized by a cycle too long or too short, as well as abnormal bleeding. Each of these situations has differing causes and effects; these have to be thoroughly studied to know how fertility is influenced by them.
Menstrual Cycle….Beyond the Period!!
Normally, a woman would think of menstrual cycle as her monthly period. But it goes far beyond, involving complex processes that prepare her body for pregnancy every month. If there is anything amiss in the process, the results may be as drastic as female infertility. The menstrual cycle begins with the first day of the period and ends at the onset of the next one. The time in between is segregated as the follicular phase and the luteal phase. The entire menstrual cycle has to be like clockwork for a woman to be reproductively normal.
Follicular phase involves release of follicle stimulating hormone from the brain. As the name suggests, this hormone plays the role of stimulating the ovaries to develop a single dominant follicle which houses an egg. As the egg matures, another hormone estrogen is synthesized by the follicle. Estrogen carries out the function of development of the uterine lining. The entire phase lasts for 14 days on an average and concludes with the beginning of ovulation.
Luteal Phase begins with ovulations and lasts till the onset of next menstrual period (if pregnancy does not take place). This is the time when another hormone, progesterone comes into play. During luteal phase, progesterone prepares the uterus for embryo implantation by thickening its lining. The hormone’s level falls if pregnancy does not occur and the woman has her menstrual period. On the average, this phase lasts for 14 days.
A regular menstrual period is all about timing of these phases as well as the delicate balance of reproductive hormones. Even a slight variation can cause irregularity of the cycle and have results as serious as female infertility.
Length of Menstrual Cycle- How significant is it?
The length of the menstrual cycle is the key determinant of fertility as it can be used to indicate the fertility window. At the same time, women may even use it for birth control, though it is not totally reliable. A normal menstrual cycle indicates proper ovulation and hormonal balance while any irregularity shows otherwise.
Normal Menstrual Cycle
A woman’s menstrual cycle can be deemed as normal if it lasts anywhere between 21 and 35 days. Regular cycle means that the woman is capable of natural conception and would not require medical assistance. The ovulation is most likely to be proper as well as the reproductive hormones are balanced. If there are female infertility issues, there could be other reasons which need to be explored and treated.
Long Menstrual Cycle
When the menstrual cycle stretches longer than 35 days, it is considered longer than normal. Medically, this indicates that ovulation is irregular or it is not occurring at all. The cycle comes to an end when the progesterone levels come down, leading to onset of menstrual bleeding. In cycles longer than normal, the follicle fails to mature and synthesize progesterone. Resultantly, the uterine lining continues to flourish due to estrogen’s effect. Eventually, the cycle goes longer till the lining becomes so thick that it sheds on its own. In such cases, bleeding is generally heavy, prolonged and unpredictable.
The other situation is that of prolonged absence of periods or anovulation. This indicates that ovaries are not functioning properly. The reasons could be varied, from PCOS to hormonal imbalance. Longer menstrual cycles are an indication of possibility of female infertility and should be taken seriously. Most of the time, such patients have to rely on assisted reproductive techniques such as IVF.
Short Menstrual Cycle
Menstrual cycle which lasts less than 21 days is regarded as short menstrual cycle. It points out to ovulation issues such as depletion of eggs and impending menopause. As a woman approaches menopause, her ovarian reserve gets diminished, having a detrimental impact on fertility. Similarly, the release of follicle stimulating hormone by the brain is accelerated. Consequently, ovulation occurs at a rapid pace and the menstrual cycle is shortened. This can make conception difficult and it is best to see an infertility specialist to resolve the problem.
Irregularity of menstrual cycle is not limited to time period but the duration of bleeding too. The normal menstrual period lasts for seven days and anything beyond that indicates complications such as improper ovulation, implantation issues or disruption of uterine lining. Prolonged bleeding may also be attributed to serious reproductive issues such as uterine fibroids, polyps, infection and even cancer. Even the slightest irregularity of the menstrual cycle should be taken seriously and treatment should be sought in time before there is a compromise with fertility of a woman.
Gaudium IVF is the top infertility centre in India where patients are offered extensive reproductive techniques as well as gynecological solutions for diverse infertility and reproductive issues. Visit here for free second opinion from Dr Manika Khanna, the leading infertility specialist in Delhi.