Can you have a period if you haven’t ovulated?

Is it possible for you to have periods without ovulation ever having happened? Well, yes and no, and here’s the difference between a period and a breakthrough bleeding, and why you are getting a flow at all.

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A regular period means you’re ovulating, right?

When you have fertility concerns and you visit your doctor, unfortunately 9 out of 10 times, you’ll be told that you are ovulating regularly if you’re having your period regularly. You know what, though, that isn’t actually the case.

I recently got this question from one of you on on of my YouTube video’s (When you get multiple positive ovulation tests per cycle):

“How is a period possible if you haven’t ovulated?”

Well, the short answer is: technically periods without ovulation aren’t periods, they are breakthrough bleeding. To explain this, I need to give you a recap of which hormones go where and when in your cycle.

Estrogen

In the first half of your cycle (from your period until ovulation) estrogen is dominant. Estrogen does thickens the lining of your uterus. As estrogen goes up, the anterior pituitary gland is triggered to also start releasing LH, luteinizing hormone. LH is what we test with ovulation tests because when that’s high enough, that is when we ovulate. So if you’re able to pick up on an ovulation test that LH is spiking, you know that you’ll almost be ovulating and that’s the time to get busy if you’re trying to conceive!

Once LH has spiked, you ovulate and what is left behind in your ovary is a little sac called the corpus luteum. The corpus luteum produces progesterone which is dominant in the second half of your cycle.

Progesterone

In the second half of your cycle progesterone is important because it maintains the uterine lining and it prevents you from having a flow.

Progesterone also keeps you from having your flow when you’re pregnant as it stays stays high the entire pregnancy. At first the corpus luteum keeps producing progesterone after implantation and at around 12 weeks the placenta takes over.
Once baby is ready though, she is getting a bit big for your womb and since her quarters are getting a little tight, she get’s a bit stressed 9don’t worry, it’s healthy stress). Her stress hormones tell our body to stop producing progesterone and as that drops, contractions start.

The same basically happens at the end of your cycle if you are not pregnant. The corpus luteum that is producing the progesterone, will start to shrivel down and as it shrivels down, progesterone starts to drop naturally. That is when your flow starts.

In conclusion:
Estrogen up → LH up → ovulation is triggered → progesterone up → corpus luteum shrivels → progesterone drop → period

When you however do not ovulate, this entire cycle does not happen! There is no ovulation, so there is no production of progesterone, so there is no progesterone drop that starts your the flow.

Breakthrough bleeding

“So what is happening then?”, is what you’re wondering, right? Well, estrogen keeps being produced and the uterine lining keeps being built up, but then progesterone doesn’t come into the picture to maintain the lining. Eventually the body just sheds the lining because nothing is happening (and that is a good thing because you need a fresh lining in case you do ovulate & conceive!). Then there you have it, that’s your breakthrough bleeding.

So the best for you to know if you are ovulating is through charting your cycle. You need to take your temperature (BBT) to see if your temperature goes up. Because if it does, that tells you progesterone has gone up and you have ovulated.

The conclusion is that having a (regular) period doesn’t mean that you are ovulating. The only way that you can tell if your periods are coming without ovulation is through charting and taking your temperature.

How to chart is something you can learn in a couple of easy lessons of my fertility charting course. It is free and you will learn lots about your fertility and how to make use of it. So head on over to the sign-up page to get started right away!

Reasons for periods without ovulation

If you truly are having periods without ovulation, of course you want to know why this is happenening! There can be several reasons for this:

  1. PCOS – it is very common for women with pcos to not ovulate but have somewhat regyular peiords although their cycles are uasually long. My key goal for women with PCOS is always to get them ovulating again because that usually restores their hormone balance and brings down the cysts.
  2. Stress – ha! Did you know that stress can not only make you ovulate late, but it can actually completely prevent you from ovulating? This can even happen as a one-off thing because you’ve had a busy month or were sick, but it can also become chronic. However also stressing about falling pregnant can be stress!
  3. High prolactin levels
  4. Being underweight (causes your body stress)
  5. Too much exercise (also causes stress)
  6. Perimenopause – yes unfortunately, but hey, you only need one good egg!
  7. Past use of the pill – unfortunately, sometimes our bodies don’t remember to ovulate after using the pill for a long time. Luckily homeopathic detoxes are very effective to get you ovulating again. The Fertility Boost plan is ideal if all you need is a contraceptive pill detox.

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