Ovulatory Dysfunction is the absence of ovulation or abnormal ovulation activity. This condition is a major cause of infertility. It is often associated with irregular menstrual cycles and is usually caused by hormonal disorders. For example:
Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome
Adrenal and ovarian hormone abnormalities are the most frequent cause of ovarian dysfunction, and the most common example of this is Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS). It is estimated that 5 to 10 per cent of Australian women have PCOS, but many don't know they have it. Often women with PCOS have insulin resistance, which causes high insulin levels. Their ovaries and adrenal glands may also be producing too much of the hormone testosterone. These hormonal imbalances mean that the follicle containing the developing ovum can't mature properly. Often the ovum doesn't get released from the ovary, so there is no ovulation. The struggling follicle keeps making more testosterone, and this interferes with the ovulatory process. It isn't long before lots of these tiny cysts cover the ovaries.
If you have PCOS you've probably had irregular cycles since you first began menstruating. Other symptoms can include acne, hirsutism, and weight gain, but some women have none of these symptoms. When keeping your chart you may notice a continuous fertile type of mucus pattern, or days of sticky or slippery mucus forming no progressive pattern to a peak of fertility.
Women who are diagnosed with PCOS may be prescribed the Pill as a way of inducing regular monthly bleeds. But the Pill only treats some of the symptoms without treating the underlying cause. For example, taking the Pill doesn’t address the problem of insulin resistance, which increases the risk of developing diabetes. Insulin and glucose levels should be measured, and medication, diet and exercise may be prescribed to treat the insulin resistance. Regulating insulin levels and restoring glucose balance can help control testosterone production as well. This will help restore normal ovulation and regular cycles.
Keeping a chart of your cycles and your cervical mucus patterns will help your doctor diagnose this condition and plan your treatment. And if you're trying to conceive, your chart will help you work out which cycles might be fertile ones. Diet, exercise and medical treatment will help restore normal ovarian activity.
A Billings Ovulation Method® teacher will help you make sense of your chart and recommend you seek medical advice when necessary.
Other Hormonal disorders
Hyperprolactinaemia: Prolactin is a hormone associated with breastfeeding, but sometimes high levels of this hormone develop after taking certain medications or due to conditions like a pituitary tumour or a hormone imbalance like hypothyroidism. The excess prolactin interferes with the hormones that control the growth of the follicles. Women with this hormonal disorder may not menstruate at all, have irregular bleeding or they may have short cycles with pre-menstrual spotting. Hyperprolactinaemia can be treated with medication.
Hyperthyroidism/hypothyroidism: Women with thyroid hormone levels that are too high may have irregular menstrual cycles with long gaps between menstruation and unusually light bleeding. Women with thyroid hormone levels that are too low can experience irregular bleeding which may be abnormally heavy and prolonged. In the section called Case Studies you can read about a woman whose abnormal patterns of cervical mucus helped her identify a thyroid abnormality.