Tips for Women with Irregular Cycles
Dr. Welt recommends the following steps to increase your chances of conceiving:
- Keep track of your cycles and document their length
- Consider using your basal body temperature (BBT) to determine if you are ovulating
- Use a urine-based ovulation predictor kit (OPK) to help you determine if you are ovulating and when. Take the average length of your cycles and subtract 14 days to find your likely ovulation day. During the next cycle, begin using OPKs starting two days before the predicted ovulation day. (For example, an average cycle length of 35 days minus 14 equals 21. Begin using your kits on the nineteenth day of your next cycle.)
"The ovulation predictor kit was key for us," said Longoria. "We got pregnant the first month that we began using a digital, urine-based testing system at home."
Some women, like Longoria, are able to work around their irregular cycles by keeping track and using OPKs, but that's not always the case. If you cannot determine whether you are ovulating, if you are concerned about PCOS or other medical problems, or if you have been trying to conceive for several months without success, make an appointment to see your gynecologist or a reproductive endocrinologist. Using ultrasound and blood tests, the doctor will be able to determine if you are ovulating regularly and can get to the root of the irregular cycles. Luckily, there are ovulation-induction treatments available for women who do not ovulate and for women with PCOS.
That's the route that Chavie had to take. "I had a bunch of tests done by a reproductive endocrinologist," she said. "It seems to be a combination of thyroid problems and PCOS that's causing me not to ovulate and to have irregular cycles. I'm taking some medications, which are helping."
In conjunction with traditional medical treatments, some women with irregular cycles choose to pursue alternative medicine, such as acupuncture. Because there are no clinical trials proving the benefit of alternative medicine, Dr. Welt does not advise it. "There are some women who are very stressed, whose stress is affecting their cycles. These women may benefit from the calming effects of alternative medicine," says Dr. Welt. "But in general, if a woman isn't ovulating, it's because of a medical problem, and I wouldn't recommend alternative medicine to treat that." Chavie did find acupuncture helpful for her, though. She realized that using acupuncture along with her medications produced the best results. "I can ovulate on my own when I do both those things," she said. "We're still trying, but we're hopeful."