24 January 2023

How to track ovulation with PCOS

track ovulation with PCOS
By the Editorial Comitee IVI Blog

How to track ovulation with PCOS? Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) is a very common condition which affects around one in ten women. If you or someone you know has PCOS, you probably also know that it’s one of the most common causes of infertility. This is because it tends to go along with irregular periods. These are not necessarily a health problem in themselves. However they can make life quite a lot more difficult when you’re trying to conceive.

In this article, we focus on how to track ovulation with PCOS. What is PCOS and why is it associated with infertility? Is there a special PCOS ovulation test? If not, what is the best way to predict ovulation with PCOS? We’ll also offer a few pointers on how you can improve your chances of conceiving and when, if you don’t become pregnant despite trying, it’s advisable to consult your doctor or fertility specialist.

What is PCOS?

Polycystic ovarian syndrome is a condition that results from a hormonal imbalance. It’s associated with high levels of ‘male’ sex hormones such as testosterone, the occurrence of multiple follicles containing immature eggs which accumulate around the ovaries, and either irregular ovulation or no ovulation at all. Obviously, this is a problem for fertility because, in the absence of a mature egg to be fertilized, conception cannot take place.

The hormonal imbalance which can lead to PCOS often leads to irregular periods. However it does not completely drown out the pattern of hormonal variations and other physical changes that accompany the menstrual cycle and ovulation. If you have PCOS, it can be more difficult to monitor and predict your precise time of ovulation, but it is still possible. And, if improving your chances of conception is your aim, predicting ovulation is the first step to achieving this.

Is there a PCOS ovulation test?

How to track ovulation with PCOS using a test? There is no specific test that has been developed to help people with PCOS to predict ovulation. Although there is a well-established menu of options for all women. For most, it’s a matter of trial and error to establish which works best for your body and your lifestyle. However, there are some ovulation monitoring and prediction methods which are likely to work better for you if you have PCOS than others.

How to track ovulation with PCOS

The starting point for all ovulation monitoring is to keep track of your menstrual cycle. Whether it’s regular or irregular, knowing the pattern by keeping a record can help. If you decide to consult a doctor, both you and the doctor will have a head start on understanding what’s going on. If you’re trying to conceive it’s the basis of your ovulation prediction. Understanding your baseline pattern can help you to identify any changes which could be relevant to your reproductive health and fertility. Here are the main ways that you can try to track and predict ovulation. Learn also more about how effective they may be for you if you have PCOS:

Cycle tracking apps

The aim of cycle tracking apps is to make it easier for you to achieve what you could do equally well. An app can help you to establish the timing and duration of your normal cycle. Some apps can use this information to predict the likely timing of your ovulation. However, if you have irregular or very long cycles, whether or not you also have PCOS, these apps are unlikely to be able to predict ovulation and their usefulness is limited.

Ovulation predictor kits

These kits, which are easily available from pharmacies, work by identifying the level of Luteinizing Hormone (LH) in your urine. Since LH levels surge between 24 and 48 hours before ovulation, this is one of the best and most reliable prediction methods. However, one of the characteristics of PCOS is consistently higher than average LH levels. Therefore some kits may give false ‘positives’ even when you are not about to ovulate. Fertility experts recommend that with PCOS, you should aim to use a kit which has a threshold well above your baseline to increase the chances of accuracy.

Cervical mucus monitoring

This is a well-known DIY-type of ovulation prediction. Around the time of ovulation, your cervical mucus tends to increase. It becomes aswell more slippery, or like egg white, in consistency. In women with PCOS, however, typically reduced levels of estradiol lead to cervical mucus which is more sticky and less elastic than in women without PCOS. Despite this difference, tracking cervical mucus can still be a helpful method of ovulation prediction for women with PCOS.

Basal body temperature monitoring

Since your basal body temperature rises after ovulation, monitoring can help you to understand you cycle. However, it’s notoriously difficult to take consistent measurements of very small fluctuations in your basal body temperature. It can be impacted by factors such as stress, lack of sleep, alcohol consumption or illness. In addition, it does not predict but rather registers that you have already ovulated. This can be helpful for future prediction for women with a regular cycle but limits its usefulness for women with PCOS who are highly likely to have an irregular cycle.

We would conclude from this that the most helpful method for you if you have PCOS is probably to use an ovulation predictor kit, bearing in mind our caveat about sourcing a brand that has a high threshold to avoid false positives.

Can fertility treatment help with PCOS?

If you are ovulating at all, even unpredictably, there are certainly fertility treatments that can help you to conceive. These range from hormonal treatments which can trigger ovulation, helping you to conceive naturally, or Artificial Insemination (AI), to the more complex but highly effective In Vitro Fertilisation (IVF)Contact us at IVI to find out more.

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