Changes in Your Period
The menstrual cycle is a truly elegant feedback system. In theory, and most often in practice, it runs like a well-oiled machine with very little intervention. The body produces hormones in a cycle, each one of which causes changes that automatically "flip the switch" to turn itself off and the next hormone in the cycle on. (Get the details in How Ovulation Happens.) Ovulation, of course, is key to getting pregnant, as an explanation of the mechanics of conception makes clear. But ovulation is only part of the continuous cycle.
Changes or abnormalities in your period might be the easiest aspect of your cycle to notice, as actual menstruation is a hard-to-ignore symptom. Irregular menstrual cycles—having cycles that are shorter than 21 days, longer than 35 days, or vary between extremes—are very common. You can actually be "regularly irregular." And most women will have times when their periods get a little wacky due to illness, travel, or stress. Still, variations can be worrying. Other symptoms may be more subtle, but are worth noticing. For example, even if a woman has some periods, it doesn't mean that she is ovulating. The body can still shed the uterine lining without ovulation occurring. Particularly if pregnancy is your goal, you should have your worries evaluated.
Over the years, readers have submitted questions to Babyzone.com, which we asked women's health specialists to answer. The following questions represent the most common period concerns and curiosities. If you have a persistent problem or anxiety, definitely check with your own gynecologist.
I went off the pill about two months ago, and I have not had a menstrual cycle since then. For a couple of days I had a colored discharge. Could this be a menstrual cycle? Is it still possible to conceive if my regular menstrual cycle has not come back?
Yes, it's possible to conceive before a real period, assuming you ovulate. Generally, menstrual bleeding happens only after you ovulate. If you fail to ovulate (it's often delayed after being on the pill), you can have some dysfunctional bleeding, which could look like what you describe. Give it some time. If you're not cycling normally in another month, check with your doctor: Doctors usually give such disorders a good three months to straighten out.