What is a short follicular phase and how does it impact on fertility?

If you feel as if you’re ovulating straight after your period, it might be that you have a short follicular phase. Whilst a menstrual cycle ranging from 21 to 35 days in length may be regarded as normal, too much variation from the average 28-day cycle, can mean that fertility issues might pop up when trying for baby.

What is the follicular phase?

The follicular phase is the first stage of your menstrual cycle. It is the time in between the start of your period and the point at which your body releases the month’s fertile egg at ovulation. During this phase, follicles in the ovary mature and get ready to release an egg. This process varies in time and is a major determinant when it comes to the length of your cycle.

Follicular phase length is quite unpredictable as the majority of women don’t always ovulate on the same day each cycle.

Tracking your basal body temperature (BBT) gives you much insight on what is happening during your cycle. During the follicular phase, you will notice a lower temperature than that recorded in the post-ovulatory phase, and until the end of your cycle. Follicular phase length is quite unpredictable as the majority of women don’t always ovulate on the same day each cycle.

How long does the follicular phase usually last?

The follicular phase usually lasts an average of thirteen to fifteen days. At the start of your cycle the production of the Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH) and the Luteinizing Hormone (LH) increases. FSH leads to the stimulation of 10 to 20 egg containing sacs known as follicles. These follicles start to mature at around day 5 when the release of LH increases. With maturity, the follicles produce their very own hormone: estrogen. Estrogen stimulates the production of more LH which in turn helps the follicles continue to mature. Eventually, some of the follicles start to shrivel and to disintegrate, leaving one dominant follicle by around day 8. Whilst this is happening, the increasing levels of estrogen thicken the lining of your uterus to prepare it for the implantation of a fertilized egg. By day 13, the follicular phase is complete.

How does follicular phase length affect fertility?

Shorter cycles have the potential of negatively impacting fertility. A short follicular phase essentially means that ovulation day is taking place early, when ideally, it should be taking place on day 14. Ovulating before day 11 may be an indication of poor egg quality and follicle function.

The follicle’s role in sustaining pregnancy does not end with ovulation. In the second half of your cycle, the follicle has to produce progesterone, a hormone that helps with implantation and for pregnancy to be maintained. Ovulating early can lead to an immature follicle which does not produce the progesterone required to maintain a pregnancy, hence leading to a pregnancy being lost early on. Even if an egg is released in a short follicular phase, it may not have had time to fully mature and could thus have issues with implanting into the uterine lining to begin a pregnancy once fertilization occurs.

Why do I have a short follicular phase?

Follicular phase length is quite unpredictable as the majority of women don’t always ovulate on the same day each cycle. Another cause may be age: the supply of egg cells decreases with age and with every menstrual cycle as you approach menopause. The body compensates this by releasing more FSH, triggering earlier ovulation and hence a shorter follicular phase.

Speak to your ObGyn if you’ve monitored three cycles in a row with a follicular phase of twelve days or less.

Are there any remedies for a short follicular phase?

Taking control of your fertility is still possible if you’re experiencing short follicular phases. Measuring your BBT and keeping a close eye on your follicular phase, will give you insight on how your body is working. Speak to your ObGyn if you’ve monitored three cycles in a row with a follicular phase of twelve days or less. Basic lifestyle changes can help in strides in regulating your hormone function.

A short follicular phase should not be ignored, especially if you are trying to conceive: treatments are available to get your body clockwork back on track for optimal fertility. Speak to your ObGyn about your concerns and together you can identify a solution to limit the effects of your cycle length on your fertility.

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