Late ovulation: causes, symptoms and tracking
By Andreia Trigo RN BSc MSc
If you have late periods, you may find it difficult to identify your fertile window and get pregnant. As frustrating as it may be, late ovulation is in fact quite common. Ovulatory disorders happen to about 25% to 30% of couples trying to conceive.
In this article we talk about possible causes, symptoms and tracking late ovulation so you can time intercourse and get pregnant.
Every month, during the follicular phase of the menstrual cycle, the ovarian follicles will develop an egg in anticipation of its release. The follicular phase can last between 10 to 16 days and is followed by ovulation which corresponds to the release of that egg from the ovary. Ovulation lasts only a few hours and usually happens between day 11 and day 21 of the cycle, depending on the length of the follicular phase that preceded it.
Ovulation is considered late if it occurs after day 21 of your menstrual cycle. If the egg hasn’t been fertilised by sperm, ovulation will be followed by a luteal phase in which hormones are released to trigger shedding of the uterine lining.
Causes of Late Ovulation
Whilst the luteal phase is relatively constant, lasting about 14 days, the follicular phase can vary in length from 10 to 16 days before ovulation. If the follicular phase is prolonged, ovulation will be late. This usually occurs due to hormonal problems. There are several aspects that can cause hormonal imbalance:
1. Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)
PCOS is characterised by hormonal changes which make the ovaries develop a lot of follicles with immature eggs. Apart from irregular or absent periods, women may also experience high levels of male hormones, weight gain and difficulty conceiving. Lifestyle changes and certain medications can help manage PCOS symptoms.
2. Thyroid problems
Thyroid hormones regulate several body processes and can affect reproductive hormones, resulting in irregular or absent periods.
If your thyroid is over producing hormones, you may feel irritable, lose weight or sweat more than usual. If your thyroid is under producing hormones, you may gain weight, feel depressed and tired. Your doctor will be able to prescribe medication to manage under and overactive thyroid problems.
Chronic stress can also affect hormonal balance, resulting in irregular or late ovulation. Managing stress factors and doing activities that make you feel relaxed, happy or accomplished can be useful.
Some medications can cause late or absent ovulation. Pay particular attention to steroids, antidepressants, any hormonal skin products, antipsychotic medications, anti-epileptic drugs, medications for high blood pressure and thyroid medication. If you are taking any of these drugs, speak with your doctor.
5. Age and weight
Irregular ovulation is common in teens during the first years after the first period. It is also common when women get closer to menopause and have less eggs available.
Being over or underweight can also affect hormonal balance resulting in late ovulation or irregular cycles.
Symptoms of Late Ovulation
Ovulation is considered late if it occurs after day 21 of the menstrual cycle. On the myLotus monitor, you may notice the LH surge happening after day 21. If your cycle is irregular, you may need to measure LH a few times in the same month to determine ovulation, but you will always be able to identify it if you ovulate.
Ovulation also gives a few other physical signs around mid-cycle, which won’t be present if ovulation is late or absent:
- Cervical mucous is clear, stretchy and similar to egg whites.
- Increase in basal body temperature.
- Lower or side abdominal pain.
Tracking Ovulation with Late Periods
As long as you are ovulating – even if it’s late ovulation – you will be able to get pregnant, as long as you are monitoring ovulation and time intercourse to your fertile window. Using myLotus can help you identify your fertile window even if you have irregular cycles, but you may need to measure LH a few times every month to identify it.
If you have been trying to conceive for a while and are concerned, talk with your doctor as some medications can be used to stimulate ovulation. The doctor can also perform some investigations to check if you have any of the hormonal problems described above. Also contact your doctor if you notice that your cycles are less than 21 or more than 35 days; if your period stops for more than 90 days or if your periods become suddenly irregular.
Andreia Trigo RN BSc MSc is a multi-awarded nurse consultant, author and TEDx speaker. Combining her medical experience and her own infertility journey, she developed unique strategies to help people undergoing similar challenges achieve their reproductive goals. Her mission is to improve accessibility to fertility care and support worldwide at minimal cost to populations. She is the founder of the Enhanced Fertility Programme, the evidence-based programme that improved help for fertility, currently in use by several clinics and patients worldwide.