How to Track Ovulation With Irregular Periods

Marie-Claire De Villiers
By Marie-Claire De Villiers
Kirsty Mac Dougall
Edited by Kirsty Macdougall

Published July 13, 2022.

Woman in pink holding up calendar with days marked by hearts and hand touching her shocked mouth

Getting to know your cycle and when to expect your period can be difficult if it changes month to month. This lack of a predictable pattern also makes it difficult to estimate when you will be ovulating until it actually happens.

Your period can be described as irregular if your entire menstrual cycle is shorter than 24 days or longer than 38 days. You may bleed twice a month or only after more than a month. The leading cause of irregular periods is an imbalance of the two hormones involved in menstruation: estrogen and progesterone. Their fluctuations can be triggered by a range of biological and environmental factors, which make it more important to track your cycle if you want a fair warning of your period arriving, or of your ovulation, for conception.

Causes of Irregular Periods

The hormones released by your brain are affected by what's happening to you as a whole. So besides the age-stage influences of puberty and menopause, other factors may affect your hormone levels from time to time, including:

  • Serious illness This results in your body clock having to reset itself into a normal pattern.
  • Medications Some of these include painkillers like ibuprofen, antidepressants, or cancer treatments.
  • Stress Stress triggers the release of the hormones adrenaline and cortisol, which affect your cycle.
  • Pregnancy and breastfeeding Pregnancy can disrupt your periods after childbirth, and regular breastfeeding tends to depress ovulation for up to a year.
  • Poor diet This refers to a diet lacking sufficient energy and minerals to sustain a normal body weight.
  • Excessive exercise Frequently overexerting yourself also depletes body weight and affects your hormones.

Can You Get Pregnant If You Have Irregular Periods?

Yes, it is possible to get pregnant despite having irregular periods. However, the chances are less than 30% because that's the success rate for healthy women with regular periods. Moreover, irregular ovulation linked to irregular periods accounts for 30–40% of all infertility cases.

Calculating Fertility With Irregular Periods

Tracking your ovulation and calculating your fertility window can be more challenging with irregular periods. However, it is very important to do when trying to conceive. Here are some ways to help you determine when you are ovulating.

Use an Ovulation Test

The most obvious solution would be to use an ovulation test. While they can be helpful, remember that ovulation tests don't function as pregnancy tests. And even as a test of ovulation, it is not the best and only indicator of ovulation. It's best to check for other signs when calculating your fertility.

Check Your Body's Signs of Ovulation

You can work with your own pattern of fertility by closely monitoring your body's signs of ovulation. Even if your period is irregular, ovulation should follow after the end of the period. One of the signs might be ovulation pain. This is not a sign that it's too late to conceive. In fact, it is a good indication that you're ovulating and can conceive. Consult your gynecologist if you notice no ovulation signs for more than two months.

Use an Ovulation Tracking Device

You can also include period tracking apps and ovulation tracking devices to help calculate your fertile time by measuring your body's basal temperature daily. However, ovulation trackers tend not to record ovulation until after it has happened. This means you miss the opportunity of a fertile day.

Regularly Track Your Irregular Periods

You can get an idea of your hormone levels and balance by noting certain signs in your body. If you keep track of your cycle, you can understand which physical and emotional signs are an expression of hormonal activity. It's a good idea to keep a monthly chart or menstrual diary and take note of the following:

  • When a period might be due in the next few days, record possible signs such as facial acne, breast tenderness, low mood, and tearfulness.
  • During your period, note details like cramps, the length of the flow, and any stress factors in your life.
  • At the end of your flow, record if it suddenly or gradually stops.
  • Over the subsequent ten days, record what you notice about your vaginal mucus and other signs of ovulation.
  • During the days after ovulation and before your next period, record any mucus changes.

If you think you have irregular periods, get help from your gynecologist to help you make the most of your fertility window in your cycle.

How often you have sex can help your chances of conceiving. It is recommended that you only have sex once every 24 hours to get the best sperm count and most fertile sperm. When you have sex may also play a role, as it's best to have sex in the morning.