How Do Menstrual Cycle & Periods Affect Your Fertility?

What Your Menses Says About Your Fertility

Medically Reviewed By
Dr. Sabiha Anjum (Gynecologist/Obstetrician)
View more Gynecologist/Obstetrician Our Panel of Experts

Having a doctor ask about when you last had your period is quite expected. It isn’t just gynaecologists who ask, but even dermatologists and other health specialists that may inquire as to the last date of your last period. For most women, this is the first time she stops to consider if her period is normal and how it relates to her health, and most importantly, her fertility.

What Is Normal Menstruation?

Here is what normal menstruation looks like:

1. Normal Length of Periods

When an egg is not fertilised, the endometrium begins to break down, which causes bleeding. The length of your period is how many days of continuous bleeding are experienced during each menstruation cycle. The normal length is three to eight days.

2. Normal Length of Menstrual Cycle

The normal length of your menstrual cycle is 21 to 35 days on average. This involves looking at the number of days from your first day of bleeding until you begin the next.

Does Menstrual Length Matter for Fertility?

Your menstrual cycle length and fertility go hand in hand as it can tell if your hormones are balanced and whether ovulation is happening at the correct time. Imbalances will mean that ovulation is not occurring properly, and without ovulation, you cannot get pregnant. Longer or shorter periods are usually a sign that something is wrong with the balance of hormones in your body.

1. Scanty Periods and Fertility

While other women may often say that you are lucky for having lighter periods, a little bleeding is not always a good thing.

What It Is 

If you bleed for less than two days, or your period is very light, a bit like spotting, then your period is considered to be scanty.

Impact on Fertility

Scanty bleeding is usually an indication that the lining of the uterus is not as lush or thick as it needs to be for you to get pregnant. An embryo will implant itself to the uterus wall because it will need to establish a good blood supply to get proper nourishment and grow well. If the lining is too thin, this is not possible, and the embryo is unable to get the nourishment it needs to survive. For women with light periods, getting pregnant is often difficult.

Scanty Periods and Fertility

2. Shorter Periods and Fertility

Shorter periods may be looked upon by some to be a blessing, but it could signal that there is something wrong.

What It Is 

Periods that last for only about three days are considered short periods. If this is a regular pattern that you have that persists on a monthly basis, it is not considered to be abnormal. Younger women who are just entering puberty will often have shorter and irregular periods, but this is because their hormones are still balancing themselves out. For older women, their ovaries are beginning to stop producing progesterone and oestrogen, which means that the endometrium will fail to form. These are considered normal instances of short periods.

Impact on Fertility

If you are of childbearing age and you begin to suddenly have shorter periods and irregular periods, it is most likely a result of hormonal problems. These are very likely to stem from the hypothalamus, which will affect the functioning of the ovaries. Imbalances in the pituitary glands, PCOS and thyroid dysfunction are also other factors that could play a part, and these will have very negative impacts on your fertility. You should visit your doctor if you are going through something like this.

Shorter Periods and Fertility

3. Long or Irregular Periods and Fertility

Many women who go through this are often very unhappy as they experience very heavy flow and cramping as well.

What It Is

When a woman bleeds for longer than the normal eight days, it is considered a long period. Some women bleed excessively and have long and irregular periods.

Impact on Fertility 

In this case, women either do not ovulate, or they ovulate very irregularly. This makes conceiving difficult, and fertility is an issue.

Long or Irregular Periods and Fertility

4. Painful Periods and Fertility

Every woman has experienced painful periods at least once in her life.

What It Is

Painful periods are caused by cramping. This happens due to a chemical that can be found in the body, called Prostaglandins. These occur naturally in the body and can be found in tissue all over, including the uterus. When you get your period, these prostaglandins cause the uterus to contract. If levels of this chemical are too high in the body, then it causes painful period cramps.

Impact on Fertility

While all painful cramps do not mean you will have trouble getting pregnant, the painful periods that cause fertility problems usually develop later in life due to certain diseases such as endometriosis, fibroids, Pelvic Inflammatory Diseases and Adenomyosis.

Painful Periods and Fertility

5. Clotting and Fertility

Clotting is always the body’s natural response to heavy bleeding; this goes for your period as well.

What It Is

During menstruation, the body tends to release anticoagulants to keep the blood flow thin. When the flow is too heavy, the anticoagulants cannot keep up, and this causes the blood clots to appear. These clots are made up of endometrial tissue, coagulated blood and fibrin. Some clots tend to be dark red and resemble a kidney bean. This happens because all the stale blood that has remained in the uterine lining is finally getting pushed out.

Impact on Fertility

As an embryo will need a healthy environment that includes an endometrium with fresh and rich blood, a uterine wall that has stale blood will not suffice, leading to problems with fertility.

Clotting and Fertility

6. Heavy Bleeding Periods and Fertility

If you bleed very heavily, here is what your period says about your fertility:

What It Is

Menorrhagia is the term given to excessive or heavy bleeding that occurs in women during their period and that occur on a regular basis.

Impact on Fertility

There are times when very heavy bleeding could be because of certain conditions, endometriosis, chronic inflammatory disease and others; it can also occur in the absence of any such condition and is caused by the normal clotting of blood in the uterine lining. There are other signs present if the case is due to a disease, in which case, you should keep a careful eye out for symptoms and consult your doctor.

Heavy Bleeding Periods and Fertility

7. Short Menstrual Cycle and Fertility

Here is how a short menstrual cycle affects your fertility:

What It Is

Menstrual cycles that are less than 21 days are considered to be short menstrual cycles. In other words, if less than 21 days have passed from the first day you got your period to the next time it begins, your cycle is short. This usually starts to happen naturally as you begin to hit menopause. If you are of childbearing age, a short cycle is not normal.

Impact on Fertility

If you have a short menstrual cycle, pregnancy becomes a challenge. It could be either one of two things: your egg supply is decreasing, as in the case of older women closer to hitting menopause, or your luteal phase is too short. The luteal phase is the most important phase if you are trying to conceive. It begins from the time of ovulation and will end only when you get your next period. If the phase is too short, even if your egg has been fertilised, it will not have enough time to latch on in the uterus before being flushed out during your period.

Short Menstrual Cycle and Fertility

8. Long Menstrual Cycle

Here is how a longer menstrual cycle length and fertility are connected:

What It Is

If you have a menstrual cycle that is more than 35 days, it is considered to be a long or irregular menstrual cycle. For regular cycles, the release and fall of progesterone are what causes the bleeding to occur, but for long or irregular cycles, progesterone is not released, which means that the oestrogen causes the uterus lining to continue to build. Eventually, after the lining becomes too thick and unstable, bleeding occurs. This will cause a woman to end up with very heavy periods that happen at an unpredictable time.

Impact on Fertility

Menstrual cycles lasting such a long time usually means that ovulation is not occurring or that ovulation takes a very long time to happen. This will leave a woman with fertility problems and difficulty in conceiving.

Long Menstrual Cycle

9. No Menstruation

No menstruation is a very obvious sign that there is something wrong. Here is what it means:

What It Is

Amenorrhea or the absence of menstruation is when you do not get your period. Two kinds of Amenorrhea take place. One is when you still haven’t gotten your period by the age of sixteen, and the other, called secondary amenorrhea, is when it comes, but then is absent for about three months in a row. There could be because of hormonal imbalances and lifestyle factors.

Impact on Fertility

You have fertility problems if you have secondary menorrhoea as a ceasing in your menstruation means that you are not ovulating. As this occurs due to hormonal imbalances, it can be corrected with the help of treatment.

How to Regulate Menses Naturally

The best way to regulate your menses naturally is to keep yourself in balance. Eating a balanced and healthy diet, exercising regularly, sleeping on time and reducing stress is very important. If anyone of these is off, your entire body cycle tends to change. This will have an impact on your menstrual cycle as any small changes will make changes in the levels of the chemicals being released in the body, and as we have seen, even a small change could impact your cycle.

When to Consult a Doctor

Consult your doctor if you have tried to regulate your period naturally but are still experiencing problems such as:

  • A lack of period for over three months
  • If your period occurs too frequently and with less time than the minimal 21 days in between
  • If you frequently experience irregular periods, where they do not occur for over 35 days
  • If your period lasts an unusually long time
  • If your period is extremely painful
  • You have never had painful periods, but they are beginning to cause pain
  • If you do not get your period at all

Every woman goes through menstruation, and it is very important to pay attention to the cycle as it can tell a lot about the state of fertility of a woman. If you notice sudden changes or are experiencing any of the issues mentioned above, make yourself an appointment and consult with your doctor.

Also Read: How Estrogen Levels Affect Fertility

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