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The Every-Other-Month Cycle Blues

May09

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Hiya Amy,
Since google is our best, and worst of friends…You are the one I thought to turn to regarding fertility, ovulation etc…
I am 21, started having periods when I was 14-and they have continued to be pretty normal/regular since. I went on birth control (the pill) when I was 17, switched to the ring, and now have gone off of it altogether since November. I’m not exactly trying to conceive-but we aren’t trying not to-if you get what I mean.
So here is the problem-my periods have been coming (and not coming) every other month. I’ve googled this and found that women are going on about how one ovary may not be producing an egg, but I’ve also read that sometimes it just takes a really long time to get back into the normal cycle after birth control.
I know that I should just go to the doctor to sort this out, that he’ll most likely give me a pill to jump start my periods and get them regular again, but I’ve just been kind of waiting for them to sort themselves out. (I’m in a new place, don’t have my own doctor…nervous about finding a new one to gawk at my bits)
Do you have any advice for me? Did it take long for you to regulate after birth control? Is there any natural remedy I could try to get those dreaded periods back again?
Thanks so much, Amy!
-e.

You need to find a doctor. Even if you have no intention of going back on birth control and “know” that’s just what they’re gonna give you, you still need to find one. So you aren’t officially trying…but not trying not to…trust me, many women manage to get themselves perfectly knocked up with just one functioning ovary. And when that happens your first phone call needs to be to a doctor. So. Scooch. Get on that.
And now! To the real question. I never really regulated after birth control, but I was never regular before birth control. So my experience here doesn’t really apply. I have absolutely nothing to support this, but it seems to me a LOT of women take about six months to get things back to normal after the pill, which would mean your experience since November would be completely normal. Some women take even longer. Usually a year marks the time to start worrying.
Only a doctor (yes, that, again) can determine for sure that one ovary is not releasing an egg, although with your age I’d imagine they wouldn’t be chomping at the bit to pump you full of dye and check for blocked tubes or whatnot, and I bet they’ll tell you to just wait a bit longer — women experience temporary irregular patches in their cycles all the time thanks to stress and diet and a zillion environmental factors, and it’s probably way too soon for you to be self-diagnosing yourself with any of Google’s darker diagnoses.
So. What are your options? Well, one, go to a doctor but make it clear that you have no interest in going back on the pill. Birth control suppresses ovulation, it doesn’t jumpstart it, and it is not the right prescription for someone who is trying to get their system back up to full egg-releasing power. Progesterone, on the other hand, can trigger a period when you aren’t having one. (When I cycled with Clomid I started out with a week of progesterone to force my non-existent period to appear, and then started counting out my cycle days from there.)
paraben-free-pro-gest_lg.jpgYou can get natural progesterone creams at health food stores and other crunchy places. This was something that a LOT of online people suggested for me this time around, when my cycles remained wildly irregular but I was dedicated to avoiding fertility treatments. It’s mostly marketed as a menopause treatment, but I did pick up a tube of it (Emerita Pro-Gest) at Whole Foods and it included instructions for women in their reproductive years. Basically, do nothing for the first 14 days of your cycle (the day your period hits is day one) and then rub a small amount of cream anywhere on your body for the next 14 days. (For a 28-day cycle; you can adjust the use as needed for whatever length your cycle usually is.)
I bought the cream but always hesitated to use it. What if this was the month I got pregnant? Should I still use it during the two-week-wait? Is this stuff really safe? (I can be just as skeptical — sometimes even MORE skeptical — of “natural” remedies that don’t really have to be held accountable or tested for safety as much as their “chemical” counterparts.) Pro-Gest is nothing new, but I remained wary, despite an even dozen of testimonials sitting in my inbox from women who used it. So it mostly sat in my drawer, unused.
I did, however, drink this stuff, which I’ve mentioned before. Raspberry leaf tea. It seemed less hormone-dabbly and safer, plus the package specifically mentioned that it could be used during pregnancy and breastfeeding. I drank it whenever I remembered (i.e. NOT as frequently as the three-cups-a-day recommended on the box) and ta-da! I was pregnant in no time. Do I heap all the thanks on the teabags? Nah. But who knows? It certainly didn’t hurt.
And finally, pick up a copy of Taking Charge of Your Fertility. Personally, this book didn’t really teach me much I didn’t already know (cough obsessive Googling cough) and certainly didn’t hold the magic cure for me, but about 99.9% of the rest of the fertile world will swear it’s life-changing. It’s a good primer, I think, especially since there’s no denying that a lot of us are woefully under-informed about the more subtle workings of our own reproductive systems. If you do decide at some point to move into the “actively trying” stage and are still dealing with an every-other-month cycle, this book will teach you how to make the most out of the fertile months you’ve got.

About the author

Amalah

http://www.amalah.com
Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy's daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it's pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to amyadvice@gmail.com.

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.


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7 Responses to “The Every-Other-Month Cycle Blues”

  1. Julie May 09 at 12:42 pm Reply Reply

    My doctor gave me a nasal rinse kit for a sinus infection while I was pregnant. Once you get past the gross factor of squirting saline solution up one nostril and watching it drain out the other, it worked pretty well. I noticed a difference in sinus pressure the first night I used it, and was better in 2 or 3 days. I only used it once a day, before bed and it was NeilMed Sinus Rinse (available at Walgreen’s and the like). It was perfectly safe for pregnancy.

  2. marymuses May 09 at 1:02 pm Reply Reply

    I had wildly irregular periods (54 to 60-day cycle, sometimes skipping three months altogether, anyone?), so I decided to try drinking a tea called Female Toner (the brand is Traditional Medicinals, I think) from Whole Foods twice a day. The first month of regular tea drinking regulated me to 34 days, and I’ve been like clockwork ever since. I was highly skeptical, but the tea tastes all right, so I thought, “Why not?” And then I was SHOCKED when it did what it was supposed to do. It might not work for everyone, but it’s worth a shot.

  3. Jennifer May 09 at 3:29 pm Reply Reply

    I went off the pill and after 9 months of not getting a very regular period (only 3 periods in that 9 months) I went to the Dr. He checked my thyroid levels and found that they were *ever so slightly* off. He put me on Synthroid and POOF… 2 weeks later I was knocked up. No kidding. I am now 5 months along. Yay!
    That same thing happened to two friends of mine too. Just throwing it out there. Go the the Dr. It could be as simple as a slightly under or over active thyroid (something so small you can’t even detect any difference in your body) but it will put the breaks on ovulation like you wouldn’t believe!

  4. Noelle May 10 at 10:17 am Reply Reply

    My periods started getting all wacky after my son was born. I was using an IUD so I wasn’t very concerned I just thought it was a side effect of the IUD or something. Then my hair started to thin on top and I started getting hair growing on my chin. I went to the doctor and he checked me for Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome or PCOS. I had an ultrasound of my ovaries and it turns out I was not ovulating. Doctors think the main cause of PCOS is insulin resistance (which would explain why I could never lose the baby weight). Enough about me, but she might want to mention this to her doctor and get checked. A lot of women have PCOS and don’t know it.

  5. Ailidh May 10 at 4:23 pm Reply Reply

    Just a note – what Red Raspberry Leaf tea does is cause uterine contractions. This is normal and healthy, and ‘tones’ your uterus. However, it isn’t ideal, especially in early pregnancy… In fact, it’s often used by midwives to induce labour. If you drink it regularly pre-pregnancy, you’re probably fine to continue, but otherwise, and especially if you are sensitive to these sorts of things (like me), you might want to hold off till you are ready for labour. I was pro RRL till i noticed i was spotting after drinking it, and did a bit more investigation… so be skeptical!

  6. jonniker May 10 at 9:12 pm Reply Reply

    I like “Taking Charge of Your Fertility” in theory, but I have to say, it did nothing but freak me out for a little while. It’s very … Dr. Google in its lack of gray areas. Have odd spotting? Oh, easy! Endometriosis! (So not necessarily true like, at all.) “The luteal phase NEVER varies in length!” Really? Because a shitload of doctors will tell you hat actually, it does and it can.
    Basically, it will diagnose you with four thousand types of infertility unless you are one of the lucky few women who have PERFECT 28-day-cycles.
    I say this as a person in the early phases of fertility ah, training, and the book has done little for me except piss me off. So if you’re AT ALL worried about your fertility, I’d say, oddly, that TCOYF is not a great place to kick off. It is known in our house as The Book of Freakouts and, in fact, my husband hid it from me. No kidding. He HID it. I am not longer allowed access to The Book of Freakouts because ha HA! I freak out. Awesome.

  7. e.darcy May 14 at 9:04 am Reply Reply

    Thanks Amy, and everyone. I’ll go ahead and schedule an appointment with the doctor to try to get this sorted out–and will most def. let you all know how it goes!

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