If you have Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS), the timing of your ovulation is likely to vary from one cycle to the next, which can make finding your fertility window tricky. You may also have infrequent periods, making it impossible to know exactly when ovulation occurs. However, clinical studies show that in fact 70% of women don’t ovulate in the middle of their cycle, and you can ovulate at a different time from cycle to cycle, even if your cycles are always the same length.
Everyone is different, and that means that there’s no universal schedule telling you “this is when you’re fertile” – you have to understand your own body to learn when you ovulate. This can be done through ovulation test strips, temping, monitoring your cervical mucus, or using ovulation monitors like OvuSense, among other methods.
How PCOS Affects Ovulation
It’s well known that Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) affects your fertility. If you’re diagnosed with it, it becomes important to understand exactly how PCOS and your fertility are linked; what, if any, symptoms you are experiencing; and what you can do to manage its effects to improve your chances of getting pregnant when you want to.
PCOS is an endocrine condition, which means it is caused by and makes itself known through your hormones. It starts when your body begins to produce too much insulin. This leads to elevated levels of oestrogen and testosterone (the male sex hormone) and this in turn causes problems with your menstrual cycle. It delays the development of eggs in the ovaries, meaning you don’t know when ovulation happens or if it will at all.
A ‘normal’ menstrual cycle is 28 days in length, day 1 being the first day of your period. However, in reality, very few women have a regular 28-day cycle. A cycle may vary from 25-35 days in length, however, for women suffering from hormonal conditions such as PCOS, cycles can be much longer.
When Is Your Fertility Window?
Pregnancy is only possible during a surprisingly short time in each menstrual cycle. Sperm need to meet the egg no more than 24 hours after it’s released – after this point, the egg is no longer viable and can’t be fertilized. Sperm can survive for around five days in a woman’s body after intercourse, so if you know when you’re going to ovulate, you can count back five days to identify the start of what’s known as your ‘fertile window.’
Any kind of irregularity in your cycle makes it all the more important to take advantage of those times when you do ovulate. This means careful tracking of your cycle to spot the key signs that give you a clue when you’re in your fertile window. However, if you have irregular cycles or aren’t sure when you ovulate, it can be incredibly difficult to predict this window in advance.
Using Core Body Temperature to Find When You Ovulate
Unfortunately, many traditional methods of tracking ovulation, such as urine-based luteinizing hormone tests (or Ovulation Predictor Kits, OPKs), don’t work if you have ovulatory issues or PCOS. That’s because your luteinizing hormone (LH) doesn’t rise as expected before ovulation if you have an ovulatory issue – you may receive false positives, particularly early in your cycle, or never receive a positive result.
Instead, one of the most reliable ways to identify ovulation is to measure your Core Body Temperature (CBT), which can be used to map to your progesterone levels. This is a direct indication of how your body is preparing for ovulation. Tracking core body temperature vaginally offers the additional benefit of being able to track when your ovulation is about to happen as well as confirming your ovulation date.
Measuring core body temperature tracks daily fluctuations in your progesterone – the hormone released during the process of ovulation, that also needs to be sustained in the second half of your cycle to help you conceive. This progesterone pattern is unique to you, and devices like OvuSense use it to predict your ovulation up to 24 hours in advance using current cycle data, confirm the exact date of ovulation, and monitor your individual pattern from cycle to cycle – meaning it works even if you have irregular ovulation as a result of PCOS or other issues.
PCOS Diva & OvuSense
Once you know when you expect to ovulate, it is recommended to have intercourse regularly throughout your fertile window to increase your chances of conceiving. Interested in trying OvuSense yourself? PCOS Diva has partnered with OvuSense to give our readers 20% off by using the code DIVA2020 at checkout. You can also read more about Amy Medling, the founder of PCOS Diva, and her first-hand experience with OvuSense here.