Anovulation – when the ovaries do not release an oocyte during a menstrual cycle.
Check out my previous post on signs and symptoms you can keep track of to know if you are ovulating if you haven’t read it already and in this post I’m going to talk about some factors that can impair or inhibit ovulation.
During times of stress – whether it’s physical or mental stress (the body perceives and reacts to those stressors using the same biochemical messengers), your body is not going to be thinking “this is a good time to reproduce”. Persistent low-grade stress, with the occasional “fight or flight” signal indicates to the body that all it needs to do and focus its energy on is to SURVIVE. GnRH – a biochemical messenger that eventually leads to the downstream stimulation of ovulation, is inhibited by the presence of CRH (produced in the hypothalamus in the brain, leads to the downstream stimulation of cortisol production) and Cortisol. So when your body is under stress, CRH and Cortisol levels are high, inhibiting GnRH – ultimately inhibiting ovulation.
Diet can influence ovulation and progesterone production through a couple avenues. Your ovaries have insulin receptors (say what!) which actually play a major role in sensitization to LH (a hormone coming from the pituitary) which is the trigger for ovulation! This highlights the importance of good systemic control over your blood sugar – focus on eating real foods (veggies, fruits, whole grains, lentils, grass fed meats)and avoiding those processed and refined carbohydrates.
Progesterone is a steroid hormone, meaning it is synthesized from cholesterol. You want to supply your body with enough “building blocks” so it is able to synthesize all your steroid hormones in the quantity that your body needs – which means getting enough healthy fats in your diet (nuts, seeds, avocado, olives etc.)So even if you are ovulating, your corpus luteum may be not producing enough progesterone because it’s lacking the “building blocks” to make it.
Hormonal Birth Control
If you’re on hormonal birth control and it’s working how it’s supposed to, it is suppressing your endogenous hormones (hormones that your body is naturally supposed to be making) in order to inhibit ovulation. Even though you’re missing out on reaping the benefits of your endogenous hormones, I’m still team #thanksbirthcontrol because I understand the control over our reproduction it allows us as women and the freedom of choice it provides us. However, if you’re currently on it, there are things you can be doing to support your health in the meantime to combat side effects and nutrient deficiencies. I’ll save that for a future post!
The three categories I talked about in this post are not the only factors that can inhibit ovulation, however they are three major lifestyle changes that can be made to best support your ovulation. There are medical conditions that have anovulation as a component of the pathophysiology such as PCOS, Hypothalamic amenorrhea, and the female athlete triad to name a few – but those are all much more complex and deserve their own post in order to be explained!