Anovulation: Everything You Need to Know

Ovulation happens when an ovary releases a mature egg in preparation for pregnancy. To achieve ovulation, hormone levels must rise and fall at certain times.

Anovolulation occurs if an egg does not mature, and a woman does not ovulate in some menstrual cycle. Anovulation may cause irregular or no menstrual periods at all.

READ ALSO: Ovulation Bleeding

Some medications and external factors that affect hormone levels can trigger anovulation.

Sometimes, a woman may have one anovulatory cycle and then go back to a regular cycle. It may be a chronic problem in some cases.

When anovulation occurs, a woman cannot get pregnant. This is normal for women who have completed menopause. However, for women of childbearing age, anovulation is abnormal, unless something has disrupted the body’s hormone levels or damaged the ovaries.

Symptoms of Anovulation

Women who ovulate regularly often see signs that occur during each cycle. They may experience the following:

  • regular periods
  • increased amounts of cervical mucus
  • a drop and subsequent rise in resting body temperature in the middle of the menstrual cycle (around day 10-16)

Women with very irregular periods, or who do not see signs of ovulation, may wish to try an over-the-counter ovulation predictor kit. These kits measure levels of hormones in a woman’s urine to determine when she is ovulating.

A doctor may also be able to test a woman’s hormone levels or carry out an ultrasound scan to check the ovaries.

Hormonal contraceptives

Some birth control methods contain hormones that are aimed at stopping ovulation and preventing pregnancy. They may include synthetic forms of the hormones progesterone and estrogen, and some contain only synthetic progesterone.

READ ALSO: Important Facts on Ovulation and Fertility to Help You Get Pregnant

These types of birth control methods include:

  • birth control pill – taken orally daily
  • birth control patch – applied weekly to a particular part of the body
  • vaginal ring – placed inside the vagina once a month
  • birth control implant – inserted under the skin of the arm, lasting up to 3 years
  • intrauterine device (IUD) with hormones – placed inside the uterus for 3 to 5 years
  • birth control shot – given as an injection in the arm every 12 weeks

These drugs can impede the ability of the ovaries to grow and release an egg. As a result, the woman will have anovulatory cycles while taking the medication.

It is imperative to note that some IUDs contain copper rather than hormones. Copper does not cause anovulation; rather, it interferes with the ability of sperm to reach an egg.

Many packs of birth control pills contain 21 active tablets and seven control tablets. A woman who takes this type of birth control pill may still have a period during the week that she takes the placebo pills, although it is lighter than a regular period and is not caused by ovulation. Other methods may cause spotting.

Side effects of drugs

Certain medications designed for other purposes can still stop ovulation. They include:

NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs)

NSAIDs include many over-the-counter pain relievers, such as ibuprofen and naproxen. One study suggested that NSAIDs can cause anovulation after taking them for just 10 days.

Herbs and natural remedies

Some herbs contain hormone-like substances that can unsettle ovulation. If someone is trying to get pregnant or is not ovulating regularly, they may wish to discuss any herbs or supplements they are taking with their doctor.

READ ALSO: What Is a “Normal” Menstrual Period?

Skin creams and other topical products with hormones

Some products contain estrogen or progesterone that are designed to fight aging or help with problems such as premenstrual syndrome (PMS). These products can cause anovulation or hormone imbalances when absorbed into the body.


Steroids are a type of hormone that can reduce inflammation. They can also affect the hormones required for ovulation.

Cortisone and prednisone are common types of steroids that are prescribed for a variety of illnesses, such as lupus, asthma, and more. Topical steroids are used on the skin to treat inflammation and allergic reactions.

Epilepsy or seizure drugs

These medicines may interfere with ovulation and the menstrual cycle. A study concerning how these drugs interfere with ovulation was published in the Journal of Human Reproductive Sciences.

Some epilepsy drugs may also cause congenital disabilities, so people taking these drugs should discuss pregnancy plans with their doctors.

Cancer treatments

Radiation, chemotherapy, and cancer drugs can cause permanent damage to the ovaries. If someone is trying to conceive and has not had success, they may wish to discuss their medications with a doctor. The doctor can prescribe an alternative medicine or may consider a drug to encourage ovulation in some cases.

Health conditions

Certain health problems like polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), can interfere with the body’s proper balance of the hormones that are vital to ovulation. These include conditions that affect the thyroid, adrenal, hypothalamus, and pituitary glands.

According to the National Institutes of Health, polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) affects up to 20 percent of women of childbearing age. Women with this condition usually have too much insulin and testosterone, which may disrupt the hormonal balance and lead to anovulation.

Fortunately, conditions that affects hormone are often treatable. Many women may be able to achieve ovulation with proper medical treatment.

Weight gain or loss: This may also be closely linked to ovulation as the hormone estrogen relies upon a healthy body weight for normal levels.

READ ALSO: Eight Possible Causes of a Late or Missed Menstrual Period

Women who exercise excessively or who have high levels of stress: These categories of women may also experience anovulation because of disrupted hormone levels.

Premature menopause: This is also known as premature ovarian insufficiency. A woman may be diagnosed with this if she stops ovulating before the age of 40. Early menopause can be treated with medications to stimulate ovulation and achieve pregnancy.


Disclaimer: The content provided on is purely informative and educational in nature and should not be interpreted as medical advice. Please use the content only in consultation with an appropriate certified medical doctor or healthcare professional.

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