What are the Most Common Causes of Late Ovulation?

N. Madison
N. Madison

Some women ovulate late from time to time, and there are many things that may cause this delay. For some women, the cause may be hormonal changes that produce a delay in the maturing of an egg and its release from an ovary. Sometimes late ovulation may also be the result of low body fat and even certain types of medication. Breastfeeding may delay ovulation in some cases, and even such conditions as stress and anxiety may be at fault. In general, an occasional late ovulation is no cause for alarm, but a woman may do well to seek advice from her doctor when delays are frequent.

High or low body fat affect a woman's menstrual cycle.
High or low body fat affect a woman's menstrual cycle.

In many cases, ovulation is late as the result of shifts and imbalances in a woman’s hormones. There are many hormones that must be produced and released in the right amounts for a successful ovulation to occur. Any changes in hormone production or release may cause ovulation delays. Hormonal shifts and imbalances may affect women at any age, and they are sometimes related to stress. In some cases, however, they are related to approaching menopause or medical conditions.

Many women do not ovulate or  menstruate during the first six months of breastfeeding.
Many women do not ovulate or menstruate during the first six months of breastfeeding.

Breastfeeding is another possible cause of late ovulation. Some women do not ovulate or have periods for much of the time that they are exclusively breastfeeding. Delayed ovulation, however, is particularly common during the first six months of breastfeeding.

Emotional stress may result in delayed ovulation.
Emotional stress may result in delayed ovulation.

It is possible for some medications to cause a delay in ovulation as well. For example, a woman who is taking a steroid hormone may experience late ovulation. Some drugs used in the treatment of cancer may have the same effect as well. In fact, some of the medications doctors may prescribe for the treatment of depression and psychosis may alter a woman’s menstrual cycle and affect ovulation.

During ovulation, an egg is released from a woman's ovary.
During ovulation, an egg is released from a woman's ovary.

Having too much or too little body fat can affect a woman’s menstrual cycle. It is too little body fat, however, that is most likely to cause late ovulation. The level of body fat a woman has may affect her body’s production of estrogen. When body fat is lacking, estrogen production may be altered enough to cause late ovulation.

Often, a delayed period is the only sign a woman will have that ovulation has occurred later than usual. If this happens from time to time, it may not be related to a serious problem. If a woman notes delays in her period that happen regularly or more than twice in a row, however, she may wish to consult with a doctor.

Severe bulimia may delay ovulation.
Severe bulimia may delay ovulation.
N. Madison
N. Madison

Nicole’s thirst for knowledge inspired her to become a wiseGEEK writer, and she focuses primarily on topics such as homeschooling, parenting, health, science, and business. When not writing or spending time with her four children, Nicole enjoys reading, camping, and going to the beach.

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Discussion Comments


I usually have my period on time every month. I may be a few days early, but this time I'm two months late and am sexually active. I have done a few home pregnancy tests and the came out negative. I've also had a blood test. I haven't received my blood test results as of yet, but I have noticed blood when wiping. What could this mean?


I don't always track my period, but I know it is messed up, especially this time. I'm very concerned. I haven't had my period for three months now, and I don't know the reason, I'm afraid that I'm out of eggs, or in perimenopause? Can this be possible?


My husband and I went for fertility test and the tests are normal. We have been married for seven months and never use any contraception. Why is there a delay in me getting pregnant?


I'm a 22 year old girl and my menses are late every month. What should I do?

@simrin-- How late is your ovulation? It's not considered late if it takes place up to 20 days into your cycle.

Your situation sounds to me like a hormonal imbalance. Have you had any blood work done to check your estrogen levels and other hormonal levels?

The 20s is actually when reproduction hormones increase in women's body. Your ovulation timings might be off because of this change in hormones. You can have it tested to know exactly what is going on. Your mom probably went through the same because of natural hormonal changes.

It's not necessarily bad to have late ovulation, unless there is a third factor that's causing a hormonal imbalance like disease or medication. Late ovulation doesn't need treatment unless there is this third factor.

I agree with your mom that your ovulation will most likely go back to normal in the following years. But you should still have your hormone levels checked to make sure. It's all guesswork until you have lab work to prove it.


@simrin-- I'm not sure about genetics but I know that stress can completely mess up your ovulation dates. It also happens to me a lot. Whenever things get busy at work, or if I have any personal or family issues going on, my ovulation comes in late by at least a week or more.

Normally, I wouldn't be too worried about it, except that a late ovulation means a late menstruation. And late menstruation gives me more intense PMS symptoms. The main reason that it's a problem is because my husband and I are trying to conceive. It can be difficult to conceive when you don't know when your ovulation is going to take place.

We missed our high fertility dates last month because I couldn't keep track of my ovulation. My doctor is helping me with this though. She gave me a little calendar to make my ovulation calendar. She also taught me how to measure and compare my body temperature and other symptoms to know when I'm ovulating. I hope this helps me keep track of my ovulation dates.


Do you think genetics plays any role in ovulation and menstruation times?

I have delayed ovulation and menstruation often. My doctor thinks that it's probably because of stress and medications as I'm on anti-anxiety medications. But I talked to my mom and she says that her ovulation and menstruation timings were similarly delayed when she was around my age.

She thinks that I took after her and that my ovulation will probably get back in order in my thirties. I hadn't thought about this being the reason before but it doesn't seem unlikely. I know that my menstruation period took after my mom's side. The women on my dad's side of the family have it for 7 days, I have it for 4, like my mom and the women in her family.

What do you think about this? Could late ovulation and ovulation cycles be because of genetics?


I have two friends that have had many months of late ovulation because of low body fat. Both of them have struggled with eating disorders and this has affected their monthly cycles.

One of my friends hasn't had a period for a long time. The other one has them every so often and I am sure her ovulation cycle is also messed up.

I think this is the biggest reason she had such a hard time getting pregnant. If you have a late ovulation or such irregular periods, it can be very hard to determine when your body is ovulating.

The only time I know that I was late in ovulating was when I was breastfeeding. I counted on delayed ovulation during this time, as it can be a natural way to space babies if you breastfeed consistently.


I have always kept track of the day when my period starts, but never really tracked my ovulation days.

Now that I am getting closer to menopause I have noticed a big change in my cycles. I attribute all of this to hormone changes that are happening in my body.

I know that many times my periods are later because of late ovulation. It is also common for many women to have cycles and not ovulate. This becomes more frequent the closer you get to menopause.

It may seem odd to some, but I am more conscious of when I ovulate now than I was when I was younger. Maybe it's because I feel like I know my body better, but I have ovulation symptoms most months that I never noticed before.


Most of the time my periods are very regular and I don't have to wonder when they will come. I have noticed that when I am under an extreme amount of stress, my ovulation is delayed, and I will go longer than usual before my period starts.

Most months I can tell when I am ovulating by the ovulation symptoms I am having. There is a distinct change in my body and I experience some mild cramping and overall body fatigue. This only lasts for a couple of days and is always right in the middle of my cycle.

Stress can have such an impact on our bodies that this does not surprise me how it affects the ovulation cycle in our bodies.

My stress usually comes in the form of having too much going on and burning the candle at both ends. Once I remove some of that stress, my ovulation seems to get back on track.


@Kat919 - Yes, there are several ways you can determine whether you have a late ovulation or not.

One of my friends has used natural family planning as her method of birth control for many years. Not only does she keep track of her days, but also records her temperature and fluids so she has a good idea of what is happening in her body.

I have never tried this, but she says you really get know your body this way and can sense when something isn't right. She keeps track of all of this on an online ovulation calendar. If her period is late in coming, she can check back and see if she ovulated late.

This calendar can be used for someone who is trying to conceive or for someone who is trying to avoid becoming pregnant. If you are hoping to get pregnant, it works as a great ovulation predictor.

It takes the information you have entered and lets you know which days are most probable for you to ovulate.


@ElizaBennett - I would encourage especially women who are trying to conceive to not just count their days (although the 14 days between ovulation and period is really very standard) but to look for other ovulation signs, such as fertile cervical fluid and, most obvious if you are looking for it, the shift in body temperature. It's especially important for anyone coming off birth control or who has irregular periods for some other reason.

A friend of mine got pregnant after going off hormonal birth control while her periods were still irregular. When she went in for her first doctor's appointment at what she thought was about 7 weeks, they did an ultrasound and couldn't find an embryo! They just saw an empty sac.

It was truly terrifying for her, but when she went back the next week, they were able to date her pregnancy at 6 weeks and a couple days. She had just gone in too early--she must have ovulated quite late. If she had been tracking her ovulation, she could have spared herself a week of worry.


It's worth noting that some women *always* ovulate "late," and this is not necessarily a sign of a problem or of low fertility. If your cycles are long but fairly consistent in length, you probably regularly ovulate late. For instance, let's say that your cycles are usually 33 days instead of the "standard" 28. You count back 14 days from the first day of your period to find out when you probably ovulate, and that gives you day 19--while "standard" would be 14.

It's important to know if you are trying to conceive. If you are focusing your efforts around days 13-15 but your cycles are long, you may have a lot of trouble getting pregnant! It's also important because due dates are usually calculated based on your last menstrual period, but if you tend to ovulate late, your "real" due date may be a few days later.

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