Ovulation dysfunction is the cause of infertility in about 20% to 40% of all couples who have issues trying to conceive, but it’s still not well understood. Ovulation dysfunction isn’t a single condition. It’s a generic term for a group of fertility issues that cause a woman to have irregular or absent menstrual cycles. To learn specifically about ovulation dysfunction and PCOS, read our articles PCOS Types and Treatments and What is PCOS and What are the Symptoms?
There’s a lot of confusion surrounding the term "ovulation dysfunction", especially since people tend to view ovulation as a single event, rather than the process it actually is. There are many points in the fertility cycle where issues can occur that cause ovulation dysfunction.
Causes of Ovulation Dysfunction
In some senses, ovulation starts with the brain. If there are issues with certain parts of the brain, your menstrual cycle can be affected. One brain-related cause of ovulation dysfunction is issues with the hypothalamus, a part of the brain that helps control ovulation. If there’s something physically wrong with it -- or you’re under extreme stress or have an eating disorder -- it won’t function properly and can cause ovulation to stop altogether.
Ovulation dysfunction can also be caused by hormonal issues. Some women can have thyroid issues that cause abnormal ovulation. Others might have high levels of prolactin, a hormone that breast-feeding mothers produce that prevents a woman from properly ovulating, sometimes even if they haven’t had children.
There also may be issues with ovulation itself. A well-known issue is the diminished ovarian reserves in women over the age of 40. A less common issue is premature ovarian failure that stops premenopausal women from ovulating. These are generally the hardest cases to treat.
Symptoms of Ovulation Dysfunction
All of these conditions lead to a variety of similar symptoms that include uterine walls being to thick or too thin, poor production of cervical mucus, and poor egg maturation. This, in turn, prevents a proper fertilization or maturation of an egg.
Despite all these issues, most women with ovulation dysfunction do in fact ovulate. Know this, there are many low-cost and natural ways to increase your chances of getting pregnant with this condition. For example you can get to know your ovulation cycle using ovulation test strips and confirm you've ovulated through tracking your basal body temperature or PdG tracking. Using the Premom app can help you track your signals and symptoms to help you better understand your personal ovulation cycle. In most cases ovulation dysfunction makes trying to conceive hard, but not impossible.
Updated May 1, 2019