Are short cycles impacting your fertility & periods?
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A lot of babes have been reaching out to me recently to ask about short cycles - why they happen, what it means for menstrual health & fertility, and if it is something that needs to be addressed.
So, let’s talk about it!
There are different definitions of what constitutes a short cycle, but I loosely consider it to be any menstrual cycle that is shorter than 25 days from cycle day 1 to the day before the period begins again. Reminder - cycle day 1 is the first day of your period.
Short cycles can have a negative impact on our fertility, be a sign of underlying hormonal imbalances, and contribute to uncomfortable periods that are heavy, long, and pms-filled.
BUT, sometimes a short cycle is actually a perfectly balanced menstrual cycle with a perfectly healthy length. When is a short cycle not a big deal? When it happens because of early ovulation.
Some people just ovulate early. The earlier one ovulates, the shorter the menstrual cycle will be. Why? Because when ovulation occurs determines when the period bleed will begin. In a healthy, balanced cycle the period bleed begins 10 to 16 days after ovulation. Therefore, if ovulation occurred on the early side - let’s say cycle day 12 - and the post-ovulation luteal phase is 11 days long - which is a perfectly normal luteal phase length - then the length of that menstrual cycle would be 23 days. This would seem like a really short menstrual cycle, however it gives us signs of a healthy cycle. Ovulation achieved, check. 10+ days after ovulation before the start of the period bleed, check. As a fertility awareness educator, I am not concerned about cycles that are short for this reason.
A person can conceive easily with a cycle that looks like this and also easily prevent pregnancy naturally, whichever is desired. Even in a cycle like this with early ovulation, we would see cervical fluid build up and a sustained temperature rise - both of which would allow us to effectively apply the rules of the natural birth control or pregnancy achievement method.
So, when would a short menstrual cycle be something that could impact our fertility, be a sign of underlying hormonal imbalance, or cause crappy periods?
When they’re happening because there are less than 10 days from ovulation to the start of the period bleed or premenstrual spotting.
The most common reason for short cycles that I see in my work as a fertility awareness educator is because there are less than 10 days from ovulation to the start of premenstrual spotting or the period bleed. This is known as luteal phase defect and has a major impact on our fertility and our periods.
When the luteal phase is shorter than 10 days it can be a sign of low progesterone and/or excess estrogen following ovulation. This imbalance can prevent conception by hindering implantation, the fertilized egg’s ability to attach itself to the uterine lining. Without implantation pregnancy cannot take place even if sperm has fertilized the egg following ovulation.
This imbalance can also lead to heavy, long periods accompanied by pms symptoms like breast swelling & tenderness, fatigue, anxiety, depression, mood symptoms, food cravings, bloating, and more.
Luteal phase defect is the #1 reason I see women stuck with uncomfortable periods and fertility struggles.
The good news is that luteal phase defect can be easily addressed with simple food, supplement, & lifestyle shifts. The key? Ovulate better, support progesterone, & flush out excess estrogen. Here are some tips on how to use food to do just that!
When they’re happening because of anovulatory bleeds.
Sometimes short cycles happen because we consider a bleed a period when in fact it’s an anovulatory bleed. Anovulatory bleeds are bleeds that happen when we go a long time without ovulating and the uterine lining releases itself creating a period-like bleed due to a lack of progesterone to hold the lining in place. If we’re not cycle tracking using fertility awareness methods, we would assume that this bleed is a true period. However, true periods only happen because we ovulate. Any other bleed is not a true menstrual period, it’s something else.
Anovulatory cycles are actually longggg cycles, not short cycles. Why is this? Because a menstrual cycle does not end until ovulation has been confirmed and a bleed follows it. This means if you have a cycle where you start bleeding on cycle day 22, but there’s no confirmed ovulation on your cycle tracking chart then that cycle doesn’t end. It continues until ovulation occurs & a period bleed follows. If ovulation doesn’t occur until cycle day 35 and THEN a bleed arrives 10 days later, that cycle would be 44 days in length. It would not be a 22 day cycle followed by a 23 day cycle.
If you’re having short cycles, you’ll want to learn how to track your cycle using cervical fluid, temperature, and fertility awareness rules to determine how often you’re having ovulatory cycles. If you notice that some of your bleeds are occurring as anovulatory bleed, you’ll want to start supporting ovulation asap. Key hormones to check in on include FSH, estrogen, and LH among others.
When they’re happening because we’re confusing ovulation spotting with a period.
Another common issue is that folks confuse ovulation spotting with a true period. Some folks experience spotting and light bleeding around the time of ovulation. Without cycle tracking cervical fluid and temperature, many people mistake this for a short, light period and then start a new cycle count.
If you have short cycles and they tend to look like a short, light 2 day bleed followed 2 weeks later by a full period, then you might be mistaking ovulation spotting for a short cycle. This can lead to improper timing of pregnancy achievement attempts and wrongly applying the rules of fertility awareness methods of natural birth control.
While it’s generally agreed upon that ovulation spotting isn’t something to worry about, I find that supporting ovulation using food, supplements, & lifestyle shifts often clears up ovulation spotting.
When they’re happening because of perimenopause.
A really common symptom of perimenopause is short cycles. Perimenopause is the phase of life usually in our 40’s and early 50’s when our menstrual cycles start to diverge from their normal rhythm as our bodies navigate the transition into menopause. Reminder - Menopause is the life event that occurs 1 year after our last menstrual bleed. All the period wonky-ness leading up to that life event is a part of perimenopause.
If you’re in your 40’s & 50’s and having short cycles, that can be a normal part of a menstruating human’s life. Perimenopause is often referred to as a second puberty because our body must transition OUT of ovulatory cycles just as it transitioned INTO them in our teen years. This transition can be awkward and accompanied by unpleasant cycles and symptoms.
The best way to help ease the heavier, longer bleeds and pms of perimenopause is to have more healthy, regular ovulatory cycles BEFORE perimenopause starts and to support progesterone & estrogen detoxification once perimenopause sets in. This means avoiding hormonal birth control methods that suppress ovulation (the pill, ring, implant, shot, & sometimes the IUD), following the food-based support here, and tracking your cycle to make sure you’re ovulating regularly in your 30’s.
For amazing information on preparing for a positive perimenopause experience I highly recommend Dr. Lara Briden’s book Hormone Repair Manual.
When they’re happening because of being postpartum.
Short cycles are also common in postpartum cycles. As the body transitions back into having ovulatory cycles, we can experience another puberty-like experience as our brain and body navigate re-establishing ovulatory cycles after a year or more of pregnancy hormones, breastfeeding hormones, and not ovulating. Give your body some time and grace as it re-establishes your menstrual cycle. You can also support the return of healthy, ovulatory cycle by using the food-based supports here
Curious about working with me to learn how to track your cycle, confirm if & when you’re ovulating, and support your menstrual cycle naturally? You can learn all about working with me here.
IMPORTANT - Please always discuss menstrual cycle and period concerns with your doctor, especially if bleeding seems abnormal or unusual. The information provided here is not intended to serve as medical advice, simply an educational resource to help you have more empowered conversations with your health care providers.
Disclaimer: Brandy Oswald, Sauvage Wellness LLC, and her employees are not doctors, nurses, physicians, psychotherapists, or in anyway licensed medical practitioners and information presented here is to serve as an educational resource and not to be interpreted as: (1) medical advice; (2) a 100% effective birth control or pregnancy achievement options or (3) nutrition or health guidelines. By reading this you acknowledge that you understand that as a specialized form of consulting, fertility awareness education is not the same as professional or licensed therapy or medical advice and intervention; and recognize that it is your responsibility to seek such services from a licensed professional. Brandy Oswald is not a medical provider and cannot give medical advice. All information provided by Sauvage Wellness LLC and Brandy Oswald is of a general nature and is intended only for educational purposes to help with your personal health improvement goals and should not be relied on as medical advice. Always consult a physician with any health concerns and prior to changing your diet, lifestyle, supplements, birth control, fitness, or prescription medicine routine. Should you choose to use the information provided by Brandy Oswald it is of your own volition and you recognize that neither Brandy nor Sauvage Wellness LLC is not held liable for any intended or unintended outcomes.
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