Ovulation Predictors and PCOS
Many of us with PCOS are often wondering, “Did I ovulate this month?” It is nice to know if your hormones are coming back into balance, but If you are trying to get pregnant, accurate ovulation prediction is a must. For conception to occur, at least one healthy sperm must be waiting in the Fallopian tube at the exact time that the egg is released from the ovary. If fertilization does not happen within 12-24 hours after ovulation, the egg will disintegrate and become absorbed into the uterine lining, which is then shed during menstruation.
But, in order to ensure that there are sperm waiting around in the Fallopian tube for the egg to be released, intercourse must be timed carefully, which means that a woman must have some sense of when she will ovulate. When a couple has intercourse, sperm enter the female reproductive tract and begin the long and difficult journey to the Fallopian tube, which can take up to 24 hours or more. While sperm can survive in the female reproductive tract for up to 5 days, only the heartiest sperm will last this long. As a result, is recommended that couples who are trying-to-conceive plan to have intercourse a number of times in the few days leading up to ovulation, and then again on the day of ovulation as well. This will increase the chance that enough vital sperm are present when the egg is released – greatly increasing the chance that one sperm will be able to fertilize the egg.
The ovulatory process involves several different hormones and causes some physiological changes that can help women identify their fertile window. For example, the surge in estrogen that occurs a few days before ovulation causes changes in the consistency and quantity of cervical mucus. Many women see the consistency of their cervical mucus change to a thin, stretchy, “egg-white” consistency, and other women might feel twinges of pain in the area of their ovaries. Unfortunately, not all women can depend on experiencing these symptoms as a way to predict ovulation. And, for women with ovulatory disorders and/or irregular cycles, ovulation prediction is quite difficult. As a result, many women use one or more ovulation prediction tools. As with most things, ovulation prediction tools come in a variety of “shapes and sizes”, so to speak, and fall in a wide range of price and sophistication. To help women choose the ovulation prediction tool that best fits their specific needs, I have provided a detailed explanation of the different ovulation prediction tools available from the makers of OvaBoost – Fairhaven Health.
It is often helpful to record the results of your ovulation prediction efforts, cycle after cycle. This allows you to understand more about your cycle, and to detect trends in cycle length and ovulation day. OvaGraph.com is a FREE online fertility charting community – allowing unlimited storage of menstrual cycle data and connection to a supportive and informed community of women who are charting their fertility.
OvaCue Fertility Monitor, $329
The OvaCue Fertility Monitor is a hand-held electronic fertility monitor with a color-coded calendar screen. The monitor uses unique technology to measure and track changes in the electrolyte levels in your saliva and cervical mucus to provide up to seven (7) days advanced notice of ovulation and to confirm when ovulation has occurred. Using the OvaCue for ovulation prediction involves taking readings each day with a spoon-sized oral sensor beginning on Cycle Day 2, or by Cycle Day 4 at the latest. (Remember that Cycle Day 1 is the first day of full blood flow of your menstrual period.) The monitor will track trends in these oral readings, looking to identify a specific trend (called the “Cue Peak) that marks the beginning of your fertile window. Once this trend is detected, the monitor will color-in the calendar with varying shades of blue (from light to dark), indicating low to peak fertility, and providing 5-7 days advance notice of ovulation.
Once your menstrual period is over, or by Cycle Day 8 at the latest, you will begin testing daily with a vaginal sensor. Using the vaginal sensor allows the monitor to determine the point in time that your body switches from estrogen dominance to progesterone dominance, which is the indication it is looking for to confirm that ovulation has occurred. When the monitor detects this shift, it will display a pink box, indicating that ovulation has occurred and your fertile window is closed.
The OvaCue can be very helpful for women with irregular cycles and hormonal imbalances. While other fertility monitors and ovulation prediction tools can identify the fertile window only when a pre-determined threshold of a given hormone (estrogen or luteinizing hormone, for example) is reached, the OvaCue is not looking to identify a certain amount of a given hormone. Instead it tracks trends in the oral and vaginal readings, looking for relative ups and downs that signify that the hormonal changes that are part of the ovulatory process are occurring. The monitor has demonstrated 98% accuracy in predicting ovulation in studies funded by the National Institute of Health.
Fertile Focus Ovulation Microscope, $27.95
The Fertile Focus is a microscope that helps women pinpoint their most fertile days by allowing them to identify the visual changes that take place in saliva throughout the monthly cycle. Just prior to ovulation, women experience an “estrogen surge,” and a distinct fern-like pattern becomes visible in saliva due to the increased amounts of estrogen in the body. To use the Fertile Focus, you simply place a drop of saliva from under your tongue on the lens of the microscope. Once the sample is dry, you view the sample under the microscope, looking for a ferning pattern. Approximately 5 days before ovulation, many women see “full ferning”, which is the sign that ovulation is around the corner and they are entering their fertile window. The Fertile Focus includes a powerful lab-quality magnifying lens, is reusable cycle after cycle, and is small and portable. More information about how to interpret ferning patterns in your saliva with the Fertile-Focus can be found at www.fertile-focus.com.
Ibasal Digital Basal Thermometer, $59.95
BBT charting is one of the most time-tested ways to track your fertility status. In simple terms, your basal body temperature is the temperature at which your body rests, which tends to be a little bit lower than your “normal” temperature. By taking your BBT each morning throughout your cycle you will be able to detect the natural rise in your basal body temperature that occurs just after ovulation. This post-ovulatory shift in BBT is due to the hormone progesterone, sometimes referred to as the “warming hormone”.
To be able to detect this very subtle rise in temperatures requires that you are consistent about how and when you take your daily temperature and that you are diligent and accurate in your record keeping. In addition, you will need a special basal body thermometer. For less than $10, you can purchase an easy to use and accurate digital basal thermometer, and for less than $15.00 , you can purchase a mercury-free glass basal thermometer. For a larger sum, you can purchase the most advanced BBT thermometer available, the ibasal digital basal thermometer, which offers many bells and whistles including a built-in alarm to ensure consistent timing of readings and an automatic fertility prediction based on your BBT data and any other fertility data that you enter into the thermometer.
BFP Ovulation Test, from as low as $.56 ea
If you are trying to conceive, you are probably familiar with the acronym POAS – “pee on a stick”. One of the most popular tools for ovulation prediction are urine-based ovulation tests that work by detecting the rise in luteinizing hormone (LH) that occurs just before you ovulate. This pronounced spike in LH typically occurs 12-48 hours before you ovulate, providing you with a clear signal that your fertile window is open and that intercourse over the next couple of days will maximize your odds of achieving pregnancy. When using ovulation test sticks to predict ovulation, you first need to determine which cycle day to begin testing. To do this, you must know your cycle length (the total number of days from the start of one period to the start of the next period). Once you know your cycle length, then you subtract 17 from that number to determine the day to start testing. For example, if your average cycle length is 29 days, you will need to begin testing on cycle day 12. It is recommended that you test at least one time every day until you see a positive result, which is indicated by the control line appearing as dark as the test line. Unlike when testing for pregnancy with an at home pregnancy test, you do not use first morning urine with ovulation tests. Many women test mid-morning, and it is often necessary to test more than 1 time per day, as the LH surge can be very short-lived for some women. Fairhaven Health’s BFP Ovulation tests are midstream format (as opposed to test strips that you dip into a sample of collected urine), and are 99% accurate at detecting the LH surge that precedes ovulation.