Late Ovulation: Can You Still Get Pregnant?
Medically reviewed by Rachel Liberto, RN on October 3, 2019
Wondering if ovulating late in your cycle impacts your chances of getting pregnant? The answer is that it depends on what is causing you to ovulate later than normal.
In a textbook 28-day menstrual cycle, ovulation happens on day 14. The trouble is, women aren’t textbooks, and normal, healthy cycles can vary from woman to woman and in the same woman from cycle to cycle.
What is late ovulation?
Ovulation after day 21 of your menstrual cycle is considered late ovulation. For some women, ovulation always occurs on the late side. And for other women, ovulation typically happens earlier but they may experience one or several “off” cycles where ovulation happens later than what is normal for them.
Can late ovulation cause a late period?
Yes, late ovulation causes a late period. Understanding the two phases of the menstrual cycle is the key to understanding your period’s timing.
The follicular phase begins on the first day of your period and ends on the day you ovulate. The second phase, called the luteal phase, then begins, ending when you get your period.
In the absence of extenuating circumstances like menopause, breastfeeding, calorie restriction, and intense exercise, a woman’s luteal phase tends to be very regular—usually between 10 and 16 days. Your personal normal is unlikely to fluctuate by more than a day. Therefore, you’ll pretty much always get your period the same number of days after ovulation.
The follicular phase, on the other hand, is subject to greater fluctuations. Stress, illness, travel, and changes in eating or exercise habits can all result in later ovulation, extending the length of your cycle by days or weeks.
What causes late ovulation?
Late ovulation can happen for many reasons. The first and most benign is that your personal cycle is completely normal but completely unwilling to agree with that textbook average of 14 days. For other women, the idea of having a regular cycle is completely foreign.
Major culprits that can result in late ovulation include:
- Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS): PCOS disrupts your body’s hormone levels, affecting your ability to release a mature egg every cycle. Some people with PCOS ovulate infrequently, while others stop ovulating altogether.
- Hyperprolactinemia: If you have higher than normal levels of prolactin (the hormone that stimulates breastfeeding), your estrogen levels may be affected. Lower estrogen can result in shorter luteal phases when you do ovulate or long, irregular, or missed periods.
- Thyroid Disorders: Both hyper- and hypothyroidism can result in menstrual disturbances. Disrupted levels of thyroid hormones can stop ovulation and change the regularity of your period.
- Exercise combined with a calorie deficit: Exercise and rapid weight loss can cause amenorrhea (missed periods). One study found that patients who lost more than 20% of their body weight saw decreased levels of the luteinizing and follicle stimulating hormones necessary for ovulation.
- Medications: Always review the medications you’re taking with your healthcare provider if you’re planning a pregnancy, as some may affect ovulation.
Having long and irregular periods is symptomatic of many of these conditions. Luckily, treatments do exist, so it’s best to raise any questions you have with your healthcare provider.
Can you ovulate late and still get pregnant?
Ovulation indicates that you are fertile no matter when it occurs during your cycle. You can get pregnant whether you ovulate on day 14 or day 44. Absent any underlying causes, late ovulation is not a sign that something is wrong.
But many women who ovulate late in their cycle also have irregular cycles with inconsistent ovulation. Long, irregular cycles can make it harder to track your fertility which in turn can make it harder to get pregnant.
If your late ovulation goes hand in hand with a short luteal phase (1o days or less), some evidence indicates your pregnancy chances could be affected because your body doesn’t have enough time to produce the amount of progesterone required to prepare the endometrium (the innermost lining of the uterus) for conception.
If your healthcare provider believes you have a short luteal phase, you may be prescribed progesterone to give your uterine lining more time to build up during your cycle.
Can late ovulation cause miscarriage?
No evidence exists to support the idea that late ovulation causes miscarriage.
After an egg is fertilized, it still has to finish the journey down the fallopian tube and into the uterus, where it needs to implant in the uterine wall for the pregnancy to be viable. This journey typically takes the 6 – 12 days after ovulation.
When implantation happens later than 12 days post ovulation (DPO), the risk of early pregnancy loss increases.
|Days Post Ovulation||Percent of Pregnancies Resulting in Early Loss|
This increased miscarriage risk with later implantation may happen because unhealthy embryos develop and implant more slowly. In this case, it’s not that a healthy pregnancy failed because it implanted too late. Rather, late implantation can be a sign the pregnancy was never going to be viable.
Does late ovulation affect pregnancy tests?
Pregnancy tests measure the amount of human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) in your urine. Because the body only produces hCG once an egg implants in the uterine lining, late ovulation can certainly affect the reading—especially if you thought you ovulated earlier than you actually did.
After implantation, hCG levels double roughly every 48 hours. Baseline hCG levels, early pregnancy hCG levels, and hCG doubling time vary from woman to woman and pregnancy to pregnancy, influencing how early you can get a positive pregnancy test. If your period is late but you have a negative pregnancy test, it’s probably because you ovulated later than usual.