The conception journey is often full of ups and downs, which is why most women in Australia get confused at some point. Taking time to understand the basics of pregnancy can help make the journey easier and increase the chances of having children.
One of the challenges most women face today is dealing with polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS). Whenever one has PCOS and wants to get children, it is easy not to know the risks they face. In Australia, this hormonal condition affects 1 in 10 women in their reproductive years, and it’s known to cause disruptions to the hormone levels, menstrual cycle, hair, ovaries (developing cysts), and skin. Combined, these issues make it difficult for the egg to develop or be released during ovulation as it needs to. Becoming pregnant with such conditions is much harder.
Generally, the first step to getting pregnant is understanding when ovulation occurs. Most women primarily rely on ovulation tests to determine when they ovulate in unplanned pregnancies, and this works if you don’t have any health complications. However, if you have PCOS, these at-home ovulation test kits may not work as expected. This piece will help you understand how polycystic ovarian syndrome affects ovulation tests and things you can do once you are diagnosed with the condition to increase your chances of conceiving.
Does PCOS affect ovulation test accuracy?
Ovulation test kits are designed to pinpoint a woman’s fertile window. They work by detecting the hormone levels responsible for signalling impending ovulation. However, things will be different if you have PCOS. For instance, ovulation may not occur as expected due to hormonal imbalances, and luteinising and oestrogen hormone levels may not follow the usual predictable pattern. This makes it difficult to determine when you ovulate each time you take a test. Remember, ovulation predictor kits work by comparing the hormone levels to certain thresholds, but if these hormones have several peaks within a cycle, the results will be less than accurate.
You and your cycle will be the primary determining factors for accuracy. The ovulation test will likely work for you if you have regular periods. But if your hormones keep fluctuating, primarily because of PCOS, several variables will influence the accuracy of the test, and the results you get may not be reliable.
PCOS and ovulation
While PCOS is common among women, its occurrence varies widely. The women affected by this condition experience different symptoms like not having periods, having irregular periods, and egg quality issues, among other issues. A hallmark of polycystic ovarian syndrome, even though it’s not the absolute requisite for diagnosis, is experiencing the absence of lack of ovulation. This is one of the most popular infertility causes in most women.
How does polycystic ovarian syndrome affect ovulation?
If you have a healthy menstrual cycle and your hormone levels are balanced, your ovaries will make eggs and release one in each menstrual cycle. The hormone balance issues associated with PCOS usually create problems in the ovaries, making it difficult for the eggs to develop as they should. Due to this, the egg may not be released during ovulation in each menstrual cycle, which is called an anovulation cycle.
Typically, the luteinising hormone surge in each menstrual cycle triggers the release of an egg from the ovaries. Ovulation will be affected since women with PCOS have high LH hormone levels or experience multiple luteinising hormone peaks in one cycle.
If the luteinising hormone levels are high, one cannot experience a luteinising hormone surge to signal ovulation, and therefore ovulation may not occur. Women with PCOS also have reduced FSH levels or high oestrogen levels and overproduction of androgens. Because of hormonal imbalances, women with PCOS usually have irregular cycles, and their ovulation is not typical.
How does PCOS affect ovulation predictor kits?
Ovulation predictor kits measure the levels of luteinising hormone in the urine to track ovulation. Whenever you have a luteinising hormone surge, it indicates that ovulation will take place soon. You can generally start testing a few days before the expected ovulation date. Those with regular cycles will find it easier to use ovulation tests to identify their fertile windows and the most appropriate time to have sex to get pregnant.
Although ovulation tests work for some women with polycystic ovarian syndrome (particularly those with minor hormonal imbalances or menstrual cycle irregularities), they don’t always work for everyone. Some women can use an ovulation test to predict ovulation with slight timing adjustments. But most PCOS patients usually have abnormal hormone levels, making it challenging to use ovulation tests and get accurate results. Irregular periods also make it difficult to determine when to test, and the constant high levels of luteinising hormone may skew the results.
How can I know when I ovulate with PCOS?
If you have polycystic ovarian syndrome, it will be challenging to know when you ovulate. Irregular periods are the primary sign of ovulation, but there are other options you can consider to determine if you ovulate or not. The symptoms and signs differ among women; some know when they ovulate, while others experience no symptoms.
It is more difficult to determine if you are ovulating from hormones alone when you have PCOS, which is why ovulation tests work for some women. However, if your hormone levels are below average, you shouldn’t rely on them to predict ovulation. Instead, consider using other methods, such as measuring the basal body temperature, tracking cycles, and checking your cervical mucus and position. Understanding your body and its signs during ovulation can also help you determine when you ovulate.
Various options to test and monitor ovulation when you have PCOS
Once a healthcare provider confirms your PCOS, you should educate yourself about the condition. Women’s experiences with this condition vary significantly, so knowing your body and menstrual cycle will help manage the condition. This process might require more leg work but will help you keep track of your ovulation, particularly if you intend to conceive soon.
Consider using a different ovulation test
Ovulation kits are unreliable for detecting ovulation in women with PCOS, but you can still use them to predict ovulation. The ovulation tests usually vary in price and accuracy. Some test kits only measure the luteinising hormone, while others can measure additional hormones. Given the inconsistencies associated with the hormone levels of people with PCOS, some doctors recommend using various types of ovulation kits each day to see if you can catch your LH surge. If you use this method, you should be prepared to buy many ovulation kits. As you continue to test, you will determine the best ovulation kits for you; even if it’s a brand you are not accustomed to, it can offer precise results.
Use different methods
PCOS can make it difficult to track your ovulation accurately. If your hormone levels are outside the normal threshold, you should consider using various methods to monitor and track ovulation. This may include:
- Monitoring cervical mucus changes
- Checking basal body temperature
- Looking out for changes in cervical position and texture
The low-tech methods mentioned above will assist you in predicting ovulation. The results you get may be incorrect or misleading due to the variability of these options.
Consult with your doctor
The first step to understanding your body is to talk to your doctor about PCOS. Your healthcare provider will share accurate details about the condition and determine the best steps after an evaluation or exam. While there isn’t a cure for PCOS, the condition can still be treated. But first, you should communicate with your doctor to rule out any underlying issues.
Fertility2Family is your trusted companion in your fertility journey, providing support and guidance, especially when dealing with conditions like PCOS. Our extensive blogs offer crucial insights to aid your path. Our precision-engineered ovulation tests can help you track your cycle, boosting your chances of conception. We provide resources and products that empower you with knowledge and assurance.
Evan is the founder of Fertility2Family and is passionate about fertility education & providing affordable products to help people in their fertility journey. Evan is a qualified enrolled nurse and has expertise in guiding & managing patients through their fertility journeys.