You may be wondering which irregularities in your mucus pattern and your menstrual cycles should be considered abnormal. There are different kinds of ovarian activity that are completely normal responses to different times and events in your life. Your Billings Ovulation Method® chart will help you make the connection between what is going on with your mucus pattern and menstrual cycle and what is going on in your life and your body. So let's take a look at these normal "irregularities" before we look at what might be abnormal.
The Onset of Menstruation
When adolescent girls first begin to menstruate, their cycles are often irregular until their hormone patterns mature. In the first couple of years there may be times when no egg is released from the ovary. The bleeding following this hormone activity can be irregular, prolonged and heavy. Knowing that ovulation can be delayed for weeks or months is helpful information when working out what is and what isn't normal. Studies have proven that teenagers can recognise when ovulation does occur by monitoring their patterns of cervical mucus. If a girl's cycles haven't settled into a regular pattern of 25-33 days within two years she should visit her doctor for investigation.
The Approach of Menopause
At the other end of reproductive life, women approaching menopause also experience changes in their menstrual cycle. Mucus patterns may become irregular in response to fluctuating oestrogen levels. Delays in ovulation, with patches of mucus and episodes of bleeding, may become common.
Stopping Hormonal Contraception
If you've stopped hormonal contraception you may not show signs of fertility for some weeks or months until your own ovulatory hormones return to normal function. You may notice that there is no well-defined mucus pattern, indicating that you haven't yet started ovulating again, or that the cervix hasn't recovered from the effect of the contraceptive and isn’t yet producing fertile mucus. If you're planning a pregnancy, research shows lower conception rates in the first three months after discontinuing the pill, sometimes persisting until the tenth month. But every woman is unique. Your fertility may return quickly and you could become pregnant within a few weeks after stopping contraception. By keeping a chart of your mucus patterns you will be able to track your returning fertility.
If you’re planning a pregnancy it’s a good idea to start taking a folic acid supplement, ideally for a few months before you become pregnant.
After giving birth and weaning from breastfeeding your return to full fertility may take several weeks or months. You may notice a long delay until you return to regular menstrual cycles. Or you may return to fertility within the first few months of giving birth even if you’re fully breast-feeding.
Long-distance travel, hormone therapy, hormonal contraceptives, strenuous physical activity, significant weight loss or gain, stress, and illness can all disrupt your hormone levels and cause changes in your patterns of cervical mucus and menstrual cycle.
If your chart reveals abnormal patterns that you cannot explain, you may have a hormonal disorder or some other problem that requires further investigation. The next section looks at normal types of bleeding, and then we get on to abnormalities to look out for in your pattern of cervical mucus or menstrual cycle.