Anovulation, also known as “lazy ovary syndrome”, “tired ovary syndrome” or “functional ovarian failure”, is a condition in which the ovaries do not function as they should and do not produce the amount of hormones needed for a normal menstrual cycle.
Given that ovulation is a key process in a woman’s menstrual cycle, as it is the moment when a mature egg is released from the ovary and is ready to unite with the sperm, thus leading to fertilisation, lazy ovary syndrome represents a disorder that can lead to disruptions in ovulation that may affect a woman’s fertility and reproductive health.
To understand what exactly poor quality ovulation or lazy ovary syndrome consists of, an ovary is called lazy or tired when it does not produce the eggs it is supposed to produce, and the ovarian follicles do not fully mature properly, which means that the mature egg is not released for it to meet the spermatozoid in the fallopian tube.
The term “lazy ovary” is not standard terminology in medicine. Typically, non-ovulation in these terms may be due to some other cause, including “polycystic ovary syndrome”.
Symptoms anovulation or signs of non-ovulation
There are certain signs of poor quality ovulation or anovulation symptoms that could point to ovulation disturbances that are secondary to lazy ovaries, but they are fairly non-specific, as shown below.
Irregular menstrual cycles
Menstrual irregularity is a sign of lazy ovary syndrome. It can range from extremely short to very long cycles, as well as the absence of menstruation (amenorrhoea), in which case it is one of the main symptoms of non-ovulation.
Changes in cervical mucus quality
Cervical mucus (in the cervix) is a viscous substance that changes in texture and consistency throughout the menstrual cycle in order to facilitate the progression of sperm towards the fallopian tube. Any alterations in this cervical mucus, both in quantity and texture, can signal ovulation problems. For example, the absence of increased production of clear, stretchy cervical mucus during the ovulatory period may indicate a hormonal imbalance.
Aggravated premenstrual syndrome (PMS) symptoms
A more intense and prolonged premenstrual syndrome than usual could be a sign of ovulation abnormalities or even anovulation. This can include emotional, physical and behavioural symptoms, such as extreme mood swings, bloating, headaches and fatigue.
Excessively severe or prolonged ovarian pain may also point to problems with the ovaries or fallopian tubes.
Difficulties in conceiving due to anovulation
The irregular release of eggs from the ovary can make conception difficult and increase the challenges in trying to get pregnant. Chronic anovulation is a cause of infertility.
Changes in libido
Hormonal fluctuations can affect libido and sexual desire.
Excess of male hormones in the bloodstream
If both ovaries do not function due to polycystic ovary syndrome, there is an excess of male hormones in the bloodstream and this leads to increased body hair (as the most frequent symptom), a greater tendency to acne and obesity, the latter due to insulin resistance.
Possible causes of lazy ovary syndrome
The causes of lazy ovary syndrome can vary, but in many cases, they are difficult to detect. Several factors contribute to its onset:
- Hormonal imbalances: disturbances in the production of female hormones, such as oestrogen or progesterone, which are responsible for making the menstrual cycle function properly, can interfere with normal ovarian function.
- Lifestyle: prolonged and chronic stress can affect this hormonal regulation and contribute to lazy ovary syndrome. Factors such as excessive exercise, poor diet and lack of sleep can also have an impact on ovarian health.
- Genetic factors: some women may have a genetic predisposition to this condition.
- Autoimmune diseases: in some cases, autoimmune diseases (for instance, endometriosis) can affect the ovaries and how they function.
Diagnosis and treatment when a woman does not ovulate
When there are problems with irregular menstrual cycles or difficulty conceiving or very painful PMS, we usually do a study of why this is happening. In such a study, we may discover that the ovaries are not working properly. The diagnosis of a lazy ovary involves not only a detailed assessment of the woman’s symptoms, but also hormonal and imaging studies (ultrasound).
The treatment needs to be related to the cause, whether it is anovulation (when the woman does not ovulate) or when we are talking about poor quality ovulation or lazy ovaries, and to the needs of each individual patient. So there are several options:
- Lifestyle changes: improving diet, managing stress and balancing it with exercise can help regulate menstrual cycles, but it will also certainly help any woman in general.
- Hormone therapy: the use of hormone therapies can restore hormone levels and help regulate menstrual cycles.
- Fertility treatments: if the reason for the ovarian study is the wish to have children, there are several options among a number of fertility treatments to make this wish come true.
In short, what has been called “lazy ovaries”, whatever the cause of their “laziness”, deserves attention and understanding in the field of women’s health because of the repercussions it can have. And while it can be frustrating for sufferers, it should not be forgotten that treatment options are available and a fertility specialist should be consulted if the patient is thinking of having children.