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Houston Fertility Center

Get Your OB On Board: Regular Menstruation Does NOT Equal Fertility

By Sonja Kristiansen, MD on November 10, 2011


"Getting your period" is a big event for girls. And many a parent or counselor has tried to console young women's related worries by offering comments that equate menstruation with motherhood. It's understandable that so many of my patients at Houston Fertility Center grew up with the message that if you're menstruating, you can get pregnant.

Your OB/Gyn may even tell you something similar. After all, it's basically true for the average woman with average fertility. But if you're one of the many women who has regular menstrual periods but can't seem to get pregnant, you might be feeling dismissed by your primary care doctor's casually hopeful remarks.

Once you have reason to understand more than the average woman about menstruation, you'll find that the connection between periods and fertility is a bit more complicated. Your OB/Gyn might do a great job of providing you with that in-depth education about the reproductive details of menstruation -- but you'll probably first have to request more explanation. And never hesitate to ask! You definitely won't be the first patient in my office to say with great frustration, "But, Dr. Kristiansen, I have a period every month!"

Your body's menstrual and ovulatory cycles are absolutely linked, but they are also separate. Both cycles are the result of communication between several organs and glands which emit different levels of various hormones, producing a cascade effect that's supposed to be ongoing. There are so many different points along the path where something can go wrong. A small, seemingly insignificant glitch in one spot -- whether it's a gland that produces too much or too little of a hormone, or an organ that isn't responding to its cues -- winds up disrupting the whole fertility process.

Simply put, and as many Houston Fertility Center patients will attest, women can have regular periods and still be infertile, for many reasons -- some structural (as in blocked fallopian tubes), some hormonal (sometimes resulting in anovulatory bleeding, in which no eggs are being released).

It's pretty complicated. And if your OB/Gyn is more OB than Gyn (they're really not all the same!), then their focus in both training and, more importantly, experience may be on helping women manage their pregnancies and deliver their babies -- not on the many things that can go wrong when you're trying to get pregnant.

So if you've heard "If you're having a period, you have nothing to worry about" from your doctor, he or she may not be putting you off or ignoring your worries. It might just not be their area of expertise.

This is the 3rd post in a series called Is Your OB On Board With Baby-Making?
Also see: Get Your OB On Board: Time Is (Almost) Everything
~ Dr. Sonja Kristiansen M.D.

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