Whether you want to have a baby or not, your ovulation cycle needs to happen for balanced hormones and good health.
Ovulation is the main event of the menstrual cycle. It happens during the halfway point in the menstrual cycle for about 24 to 48 hours (1-2 days). Ovulation is when the egg gets released from the ovary into the fallopian tube to prepare for fertilization and pregnancy.
Progesterone is the hormone that promotes pregnancy and ovulation, and if progesterone is low, then you may not be ovulating (pro meaning to upgrade and gesterone meaning pregnancy).
Here are 10 reasons you may not be ovulating:
Stress can be one of the reasons you're not ovulating. The body's stress response produces cortisol, which can counter your normal hormone levels for estrogen and progesterone. When cortisol levels are high, progesterone can drop to low levels.
This happens because if you are stressed, your body does not prioritize pregnancy. It's a defense mechanism, prioritizing survival over procreation. High-stress levels encourage energy conservation as much as possible, so hormone levels and digestion will take a back seat.
2. Nutrient Deficiencies
Many nutrients are essential to maintain stable hormone levels for promoting ovulation. Consequently, nutrient deficiencies are one of the reasons for not ovulating. Healthy fats are necessary for stable hormone levels and nutrient absorption of fat-soluble vitamins.
One of these types of vitamins is vitamin A which helps to improve egg quality. Magnesium soothes our uterine muscles to defend against PMS, and it promotes hormone production and regulation. Iron helps oxygenate our cells and is one of the essential minerals in our body for ovulation.
3. Over Exercising
Over-exercising is any exercise performed at a high frequency and intensity during the week with minimal to no rest days. It is important to note that exercising, in general, is okay and beneficial for hormone levels. It is the excessive nature of exercise that is harmful.
The main issue with this is that our bodies need a stable body fat percentage to maintain a normal menstrual cycle, and estrogen levels will drop as body fat drops. As a rule of thumb, most females need at least 17% body fat to maintain a normal menstrual cycle to ovulate.
Additionally, over-exercising puts a large stress on the body from our bones and the large energy output. With little rest, you can damage your stress levels from inflammation and too little recovery time.
If you are overexercising your body will have a hard time recovering, and will not prioritize a menstrual cycle or ovulation because those things require a lot of energy - resulting in you missing your period.
4. Not Eating Enough
Undereating is one of the reasons for not ovulating because of its effect on hormone levels. Undereating refers to the decrease in your calorie intake below your energy output per day. These undereating patterns put our body into a state of panic and stress because we are trying to survive at an energy level insufficient for our current size.
From this stress, estrogen and progesterone levels decrease because we are not prepared for pregnancy. Estrogen is additionally essential to be maintained in a healthy range, just as progesterone is to achieve ovulation. Estrogen is released from our ovaries, but also our fat tissue. After prolonged undereating, our body fat percentage will decrease, and as a result, ovulation will not occur when you go below your body’s comfortable threshold of body fat.
5. High Prolactin
Another one of the reasons for not ovulating because you have high prolactin levels. Prolactin is a hormone typically released right after childbirth and throughout breastfeeding. Its function is to provide the milk from the mammary glands in the breast for baby. During this time, prolactin will lower progesterone and this is what causes a missing period, due to no ovulation.
Now, prolactin is not just produced during breastfeeding; many women can have a missing period due to high prolactin without having been pregnant. High prolactin in women that are not preparing to breastfeed can occur due to stress, thyroid issues, alcohol, and undereating.
6. Low Thyroid Function
Low thyroid or hypothyroidism can also explain one of the reasons for not ovulating. The thyroid is a gland in our throat that needs to release hormones to maintain a stable metabolism, among other things. If these hormones are not released as frequently as they should, this is called low thyroid or hypothyroidism in more intense situations.
As mentioned, low thyroid and high prolactin have a connection to what causes low progesterone. Our body will try to stimulate more thyroid output, so additional hormones in the brain, specifically the hypothalamus, will be released to generate more thyroid hormones.
These hormones, unfortunately, can also increase prolactin production and will therefore decrease progesterone. Decreasing progesterone will affect the endometrial lining build-up and cause you not to ovulate, resulting in a missing period.
7. Not Eating Enough Fat
Fat is a crucial nutrient for hormone production and nutrient absorption. This is why eating not enough fat is one of the reasons for not ovulating. Fat is a macronutrient, but healthy fats are polyunsaturated and monounsaturated, which have maintained healthy hormone levels in women and prevent anovulation.
8. Hormonal Birth Control
Hormonal birth control is another reason for not ovulating. For the duration of the time that you take an oral hormonal contraceptive, you are not ovulating. This is because birth control administers artificial hormones to the body to simulate the hormone levels of when you are pregnant. During this time, your brain-ovary connection is shut off, and you do not release an egg to ovulate because your body thinks that it is pregnant. When you are pregnant, you do not ovulate.
PCOS or polycystic ovarian syndrome is a condition that can be one of the reasons for not ovulating. One of the three diagnostic criteria for this condition is anovulation/irregular periods due to not ovulating regularly. This happens because women with PCOS have high androgen levels, which cause their progesterone and estrogen levels to be much lower, resulting in missing periods and occasional ovulation.
10. Elevated Androgens
As in patients with PCOS, elevated androgens cause estrogen and progesterone levels to be low which is one reason for not ovulating. These androgens are testosterone and DHEA. Androgens are male hormones that we produce too, just in smaller doses. When these androgens get too high we stop ovulating because of the decline of progesterone and estrogen hormone.
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