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Causes Of Long Menstrual Cycles

Menstrual Cycles, Long Periods, Long Follicular Phase, Health, Women's Health, Healthy Periods, Functional Medicine

Causes Of Long Menstrual Cycles

If you’re struggling with long menstrual cycles, there could be a couple of reasons this is happening. Note that when I say “long menstrual cycles”, I mean the complete cycle from the first day of your period to the day before your next period. We are not talking about long period bleeding here. I find there is a lot of period talk that is negative, but your period is awesome and is a report card of what is going on inside.

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Menstrual Cycle Basics

The first half of your cycle is called the follicular phase and it happens from the first day of bleeding to ovulation. The reason for the follicular phase is to grow and mature an egg to be released for ovulation. The increasing estrogen is also important to grow the uterine lining for possible implantation of a fertilized egg!

The second half of your cycle is the luteal phase and starts from ovulation to the day before you start bleeding. This part of the cycle is for implanting a fertilized egg and still increasing the uterine lining. When pregnancy does not occur, this is when hormone levels drop + uterine lining is shed.

Use this graph to understand the peaks + flows of what your hormones do throughout the cycle.

Women's menstrual Cycle

Causes Of Long Menstrual Cycles

It’s important that you know how the menstrual cycle works because with a longer menstrual cycle, there is usually a longer follicular phase. When this phase is longer, that often means that ovulation is delaying and/or doesn’t happen. If ovulation is being delayed or is not happening (anovulatory cycles), this can be from…

  • Stress – This can be stress that is coming in from all fronts – physical, emotional, mental.
  • Thyroid issues – Thyroid hormone levels affect ovulation, so if you struggle with hyper or hypothyroidism, this could play a role.
  • PCOS – The larger amounts of testosterone, usually found in PCOS, can inhibit ovulation
  • Breastfeeding {Note that if you are within the first year of being postpartum and are breastfeeding, it can be normal for your cycles to be irregular at first! Hormones like prolactin are the reason here.}
  • Undereating – Not enough calories and nutrients can signal your brain to stop ovulation. I see many women who are trying to lose weight or just “cut back” and they end up eating less than 1500 calories. This is NOT okay.
  • Overexercising – This can be an additional stressor to the body and when combined with undereating, it’s a dynamic duo of letting your body know there isn’t enough food in the world + it’s probably not ideal to bring a baby in.
  • Nutrient Deficiencies – Certain deficiencies like vitamin D. has been died to delaying ovulation.

It’s okay to see some changes throughout the year here and there because there are so many things that can affect your cycles. If it starts to become a trend, make sure to make an appointment with your doctor.

I would also recommend making an appointment with us, so we can assess your lifestyle + diet because we always have found something in the list above that needs improving + often cycles are brought back to normal. Because let’s be honest, BIRTH CONTROL DOES NOT FIX YOUR PROBLEM. You are not deficient in birth control, but you do need to listen to your body and understand what it’s telling you. That’s where we come in!

Do You Bleed If You Don’t Ovulate?

You can still bleed and seem to have a “normal long cycle”, even if you don’t actually ovulate. After a long cycle, the build-up of the uterine lining can become so heavy that it will trigger bleeding. It’s very important to know if your body is ovulating or if it’s not ovulating at all. Progesterone is triggered by ovulation and has lots of health benefits, so if you struggle with low progesterone, it could be because you aren’t ovulating (even if you find yourself bleeding once per month).

Lab Testing For Longer Menstrual Cycles

I do recommend that before you jump to sex hormone testing, like the DUTCH, it’s important to ensure that you’re checking things out like your thyroid, blood sugar balance, etc. These are all foundations to having a healthy menstrual cycle. If you are ready to test sex hormones, the DUTCH is our absolute favorite lab test. It shows sex hormone levels, metabolism of the sex hormones, and one of the most important things that is mentioned in the list above – ADRENALS!

This is often overlooked and not tested (or maybe you’ll get a single snapshot of cortisol via blood, but that isn’t enough) when it 100% should be. I love that the DUTCH pairs this up!

Another benefit about the DUTCH is for the ladies who are having weird long cycles – they have cycle mapping. This is where you are taking the test (it’s urine by the way) all month, so we can see where your hormones are peaking, not peaking, ovulation is occurring, etc. When I took mine, I noticed that my follicular phase was longer during that cycle.

Dutch test paperwork

You can download a sample of what the DUTCH tests for here!

Don’t forget to book an appointment with us if you’re ready to take back control of your cycles + work on improving your cycles!

Lahana Vigliano, CCN
Avatar for Lahana Vigliano
Lahana Vigliano

Lahana Vigliano is a Certified Clinical Nutritionist and CEO of Nuvitru Wellness. She has her Bachelor's Degree in Nutrition Science and Masters Degree in Nutrition Science and Functional Medicine. She is currently pursuing her doctorate degree in Clinical Nutrition. Lahana and her team help support women who struggle with weight loss, hormonal imbalances, digestive issues, chronic fatigue, and many other lingering issues that leaves women not feeling their best. She uses food as medicine, as well as herbs and supplements when needed, to support her clients. She looks at the whole body holistically making sure women are understanding how nutrition, sleep, stress, and their environment impact their health. Connect with her on Facebook + Instagram (@nuvitruwellness).