If you’re tracking your fertile window with ovulation tests or other methods, you may be learning new things about your cycle. In fact, you may have had a cycle where you ovulated earlier. There could be a few reasons for this, so let’s dive in. 

 

By OBGYN and fertility expert Dr. Kenosha Gleaton

If you’re tracking your fertile window with ovulation tests or other methods, you may be learning new things about your cycle. Typically, women ovulate around cycle day 14 (with cycle day 1 counted as the first day of your full period). However, only a small percentage of women ovulate exactly on cycle day 14; most women actually reach their fertile window earlier or later. You may have had a cycle where you ovulated earlier. Maybe on cycle day six? Day 10? Day 12? There could be a few reasons for this, so let’s dive in. 

A short follicular phase

The follicular phase of your cycle starts on the first day of your period and ends with ovulation. A short follicular phase is one that is under 12 days. There are many possible reasons you may have a short follicular phase and ovulate earlier in your cycle, including:   

  • Age. Prior to menopause, your cycle length shortens and the timing of your ovulation may become earlier as the follicular phase shortens. This is a normal pattern with aging, and may occur in your late 30s and 40s. 
  • Lifestyle factors. Lifestyle factors such as stress can alter the timing of ovulation. 
  • BMI. A low or high BMI can impact the timing of ovulation. 
  • No reason at all. Some women occasionally (or regularly) ovulate earlier in their cycle.

One thing to know is if you always ovulate early, or if it was just random this one cycle. It’s helpful to track for several months to see if it’s a pattern, or if you had one off month. As always, talk to your OBGYN if you have any concerns about the timing of your ovulation.  

Is it bad to ovulate early?

Nope! Even for women with regular cycles, who see Aunt Flow every 28 days on the clock…you may not ovulate the same day within each cycle (which is why ovulation tests are super helpful if you’re trying to time sex to get pregnant). And the timing of the fertile window is even less predictable for women with irregular cycles.

Does early ovulation mean infertility?

Early ovulation does not mean infertility, but it is something to look into. It can be difficult to get pregnant if ovulation always occurs before cycle day 11. That’s because the egg needs time to mature and develop in a follicle, in order to be fertilized and turn into an embryo. 

Furthermore, there may be an association between women with shorter follicular phases and miscarriages. One study showed that women with a history of miscarriage had a follicular phase of 14 days compared to 16.2 days for women without a history of miscarriage.

Does early ovulation affect my ability to get pregnant?

Not necessarily. One study found that when a woman ovulates before cycle day 11, she has less chance of conceiving than a woman ovulating later in the cycle, but the study was small—with just 21 women. Another study of 696 cycles among 221 women found that the pregnancy rate per cycle for women who ovulated early (before cycle day 13) was 20% compared to 21% overall. And in this study, the case with the earliest ovulation (cycle day 8) produced a healthy pregnancy and healthy infant. 

Ultimately, your ability to get pregnant will depend on why you ovulated early in your cycle. Tracking your cycle for a few months is important. Bring this data to your OBGYN who can help understand what’s going on.

Is Day 10-12 too early to see peak LH surge? 

It is not uncommon to see an early LH surge in your cycle. Only a small percentage of women ovulate exactly on cycle day 14. That being said, it may be more difficult to get pregnant with early ovulation. It could also mean you are entering early perimenopause. 

How to fix a short follicular phase

You may read about “natural” fixes (seeds, herbs, acupuncture, etc.) to lengthen the follicular cycle on the internet. There is no evidence that these approaches work. 

If you are regularly ovulating early in your cycle, it’s important to talk to your provider to understand why. If you are not ovulating regularly, your OBGYN or REI may prescribe a medication to stimulate your ovulation. 

Take-aways

  • The timing of ovulation can be highly unpredictable, even if your cycle is regular.
  • Only a small percentage of women ovulate exactly on cycle day 14; most women actually reach their fertile window earlier or later.
  • Early ovulation can be due to aging, lifestyle factors, BMI, or nothing at all.
  • Early ovulation may make it more difficult to get pregnant, depending on why early ovulation occurred.
  • It’s helpful to track your cycle for several months using ovulation tests, and discuss the results with your OBGYN.