The Best Ovulation Predictor Kit & Fertility Monitoring for PCOS [Podcast] - PCOS Diva

The Best Ovulation Predictor Kit & Fertility Monitoring for PCOS [Podcast]

PCOS Podcast 52 - Katie DaviesOvulation Predictor Kits (OPKs) are popular whether a woman is trying to conceive or using them for contraception. Unfortunately, not every woman is able to use OPKs, especially if they have PCOS. Why? Our luteinizing hormone (LH) levels show different patterns than non-PCOS women, so the average kit most often gives a false positive/negative. It leads to confusion and frustration. So what can we do? Expert, Kate Davies, joined the podcast to explain the hows and whys of OPKs and fertility monitoring.  Listen (or read the transcript) as we discuss:

  • How to use OPKs to self-advocate at the doctor’s office
  • Alternative methods of fertility monitoring
  • Which kit works where others fail
  • Her favorite mobile apps for tracking fertility
  • How to prevent the act of trying to conceive from becoming mechanical and losing the intimate connection between you and your partner

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katedaviesKate Davies is a fertility practitioner, fertility coach and columnist. Kate works with women wishing to optimise their ability to conceive naturally and coaches women going through a difficult fertility journey.

Kate is a registered nurse specialist and worked for over 20 years in the UK’s National Health Service as a specialist nurse in Gynaecology, Sexual and contraceptive health and fertility. Four years ago Kate, frustrated with the lack of support and high quality advice for women who were struggling to conceive, founded her private practice ‘Your Fertility Journey’. Shortly after this, she trained as a fertility coach to offer her patients much needed emotional support as well as medical advice. Kate now has a thriving practice and consults women nationally and internationally via the wonders of Skype.

Kate has a special interest in PCOS and over the years has worked with 100’s of women who suffer with this debilitating condition. To enhance her practice, Kate has recently undertaken specialist training to enable her to offer women both the specialist advice and emotional support they desperately need.

Kate loves her job and her best days are when one of her lovely ladies calls her to say she is pregnant. Often she is the second person to know – what a privilege! Kate is very proud of the Facebook Support Group she founded over two years ago. This group, full of inspirational ladies going through all sorts of fertility journeys, gives ladies a safe place in which to ask advice, find support and get virtual hugs.

As well as her natural fertility and coaching services, Kate is also passionate about Natural Contraception and teaches women internationally on how to use this effective, safe and natural method of contraception.

Facebook Support Group:




Full Transcript:


Amy: Hello, and welcome to another edition of the PCOS Diva Podcast. This is your host, Amy Medling. I’m a certified health coach and am the founder of PCOS Diva. I’ve invited Kate Davies. She is a fertility practitioner. She works with women wishing to optimize their ability to conceive naturally, and she coaches women going through difficult fertility journeys. I thought that she would be the perfect expert to bring on to talk about OPKs, and if you’re in that trying-to-conceive space, you know that OPKs are ovulation predictor kits. I really want Kate to help us demystify ovulation predictor kits for women with PCOS. Welcome, Kate, to the podcast.


Kate: Thank you, Amy. Thank you very much for inviting me. It’s great to be here.


Amy: I just want to give our listeners just a little bit more information about your background. You are a registered nurse specialist. You’ve worked for over 20 years in the UK’s National Health Service as a specialist nurse in gynecology, sexual contraceptives, health, and fertility. Four years ago, you were frustrated with the lack of support and high-quality advice for women who were struggling to conceive, and you founded your private practice called Your Fertility Journey, and shortly after this, you were trained as a fertility coach to offer your patients much-needed emotional support as well as medical advice. Thank you so much for coming on with us today.


Kate: Oh, thank you. It’s really good to be here, and it’s really good to be talking about OPKs and getting my opinion on them as well, so thank you.


Amy: Let’s dive right in. What is your view on the accuracy of OPKs, in particular for women with PCOS?


Kate: Okay, yeah. Well, I have to admit, I’m very skeptical of the reliability of ovulation predictor kits, and as a result, I really don’t recommend them to any of my patients. I think … If I give a bit of background, really, I know you’ve mentioned it, Amy, but about OPKs, these are sometimes referred to as LH kits, as various different names for them. Sometimes they’re also referred to by the brand name as well. They’re used to detect the rise of the ovulation hormone, luteinizing hormone, otherwise called LH, which is released into the bloodstream 24 to 36 hours prior to ovulation. LH is the hormone that triggers the release of an egg from the ovary. After the hormone surge, ovulation normally occurs, like I said, about 24 to 36 hours later.


Unfortunately, not every woman is able to use OPKs. This is particularly the case if you have either polycystic ovaries or polycystic ovarian syndrome, so PCOS. Certainly with PCOS, you’re likely to have often quite higher levels of luteinizing hormone at various different times of the month, so whereas a woman would normally have this higher level of luteinizing hormone, as I mentioned, prior to ovulation, if you’ve got PCOS, then it’s very likely that you’ve got it at different times throughout the month, and that’s what causes what we call false positive results, leading to real confusion for women as to when they’re ovulating, and therefore when they’re trying to get pregnant. This will cause a real, real problem for women with PCOS, because clearly she doesn’t know when she’s ovulating. She wants to find out when she’s ovulating, and as we know, women with PCOS won’t ovulate necessarily every cycle, so this causes a real issue with trying to identify that fertile time.


However, even in women without PCO or PCOS, it’s really widely documented in the clinical literature that OPKs can produce false negative results, so different from the false positive, but false negative, meaning that they get no indication of ovulation even though they’re about to ovulate. It’s something that I see countless time for women, unfortunately, who use OPKs. Now, I’m not saying that they don’t have a place. Some women absolutely love them, rely on them, and get on really, really well with them, but it really is a word of caution that, in my opinion, in my professional opinion over the last 20 years, they are notoriously inaccurate, and for that reason, and especially with PCOS, I don’t recommend them.


Amy: It sounds to me that using them would somewhat cause more stress for what is an already, for most women with PCOS, stressful time in their lives, when they’re struggling to conceive.


Kate: Yeah, absolutely. I think generally women become very all-consumed when trying to conceive, and obviously this then can start to put pressure on their relationship with their partner. One of the things that I say a lot to my fertility-coaching patients, and they report to me, is that trying to conceive always becomes about baby making, and they lose that intimacy, that loving time that they previously had as a couple and often forget. In many ways, why they got together in the first place has gone out of the window, because the focus is so much on trying to conceive.


If you then add that with using OPKs, and I’m going to talk in a minute about the inconvenience surrounding them, but if then you’re using an OPK and you’re having to time when you’re using an OPK, for example, then you become very fixated and very focused on, basically, passing urine onto an OPK stick, and that makes it quite mechanical. The whole act of trying to conceive becomes very mechanical, very focused, and you lose that intimacy between the two of you, and that’s one of the things my fertility-coaching patients just really desperately want to get back, is that intimacy and love that they had between them, that spontaneity, I suppose, which just goes completely out the window when you’re trying to conceive.


Amy: How do you coach your clients around that problem?


Kate: I think it’s trying to put that romance back. It’s sometimes taking the focus off trying to conceive and putting it onto something else. We’ve all heard about how fantastic sometimes date nights can be. It’s just changing tack a little bit. It’s just changing the focus to remembering almost what it was like when they first got together. That can be hard, because a lot of women don’t want to give up the focus of trying to conceive, or certainly don’t want to give the focus of being aware of when they’re fertile, but perhaps there’s other ways in which they can manage that probably more effectively than the OPKs.


I think one of the big things, with OPKs, is that they become quite confusing and inconvenient. I find there’s a lot of confusion surrounding the optimum time to test. I don’t know whether you’re familiar with this, Amy, but some manufacturers of OPKs suggest that you test first thing in the morning, as this is a more convenient time, you’re likely to have held your urine for the required four hours prior to testing, but then others suggest that the first sample in the morning isn’t sufficient, as the LH surge is very likely not too present in the urine until later.


This, then, causes massive confusion, because therefore the only optimal time to test is late morning or early afternoon. This suddenly becomes really inconvenient, because imagine trying to do that when you’re busy at work. You’re working in office, and suddenly you have to dash out, mid-meeting. That might not even be possible to test your urine late morning or early afternoon. You just think the inconvenience of that, also the stress, the stress that you must have. It’s just another stress that my patients say they just don’t want when it comes to trying to conceive. Also, how easy would it be to not be able to test, miss that test, and then the stress that that causes, because you’ve missed the day of ovulation. Because in a 24-hour period, it’s really easy to miss that LHS surge, and therefore not get an accurate result and completely miss ovulation. Did you find that, Amy?


Amy: I’ll be honest with you, I never used an ovulation predictor kit. I don’t know if it was just when I was going through my fertility journey. Now, we’re talking my youngest is going to be 13 on Wednesday, so that was many years ago, 14 years ago, and that just wasn’t part of the toolkit, I guess, I was given. I know I was using the Creighton Model of natural family planning, and I know I want to ask you, because you are an expert on natural contraception and fertility planning, I want to get that in a little bit, but it was not something that I used. As I’m listening to you talk, I can just feel the frustration that it would have caused me, not to mention probably the amount of money that you’re spending, because these things aren’t cheap.


Kate: No, absolutely. The cost of OPKs used every month really, really adds up, and that’s one of the frustrations, I think, that my ladies do feel. I think if you add the cost to the inaccurate result, then you are literally just pouring money down the drain, or you might as well do that. There are other ways in which you can accurately predict ovulation that are a lot more cost-efficient.


Amy: Tell us about that.


Kate: Yeah. One of the things, as you quite correctly mentioned, is observing your temperature and your cervical secretion, whether it be the Creighton Model or whether it be another method. Whatever you use, whether you’re using it for … You can use it in both ways. You can use it for natural contraception, which we’ll talk about in a minute, or you turn it around and you use it to identify your fertile time, and that’s a really, really effective way of determining your fertile time, when you ovulate, and if you can find that-


Amy: I will- Go ahead … I was just going to add that I know I found it somewhat confusing, and that’s sort of how I was diagnosed with PCOS, is that I had these anovulatory mucus cycles, because you don’t have a really clear, okay, this is definitely ovulation-type mucus, that you just question, you’re not quite sure, and I found that a little bit confusing when I was using a natural contraception, and in that case, trying to figure out when I was ovulating.


Kate: Yeah. You’re absolutely right. It’s quite interesting, actually, when I look at a cycle, a BBT cycle, and a cervical-secretion cycle of a lady who either knows or doesn’t know that she has PCOS, you start to get this buildup of secretions and then it disappears, and then you might, a few days later, get another buildup of secretions but then it disappears, and that’s a real sign for me. I do quite a lot of diagnostics on women’s charts, and that’s a real sign for me that there is something going on there hormonally.


Again, with a temperature, you might start to get a temperature spike, but then it, again, goes back down, nothing happens, and it’ll try again. They’re often … We’ll call those false rises. They’re attempting. You’re trying to ovulate, but it’s just not happening again. The stars aren’t aligned. It’s not going to happen at that moment, so it might then happen two days later, or it might not happen that cycle at all, but next cycle, you might have a beautiful biphasic curve, which is what I’m looking for in a normal cycle. When you have the temperatures at a lower level, you get the temperature rise, and then the temperatures stay elevated until either the end of that cycle, or they continue to stay elevated with a confirmed pregnancy. That’s one way of determining when you’re fertile. It’s definitely harder with PCOS, but it is absolutely possible.


Another option is to use a fertility monitor. One that I recommend is called the OvuSense Fertility Monitor. This is really accurate. It’s actually an easier way of checking your temperature than using BBT under your tongue, because it’s more accurate with five-minute measurements taken overnight, and the sensor is placed into the vagina overnight. It’s really convenient. It’s really easy. It downloads the data straight to your smart phone. It couldn’t be easier. That’s a very, very good way of identifying when you’re fertile and when you ovulate. You can’t use it for natural contraception at the moment, but it’s a fantastic one to be able to help you conceive.


Amy: Yeah. I’m so glad you brought that up, because I’ve written about the OvuSense on PCOS Diva, and I’ve been hearing a lot of good things. In fact, a woman just posted in my Jumpstart alumni page that she, after doctors were telling her how difficult it was going to be for her to conceive, and going through a long journey, using the OvuSense Monitor and acupuncture, and then doing my Jumpstart program, she just had a beautiful little baby girl. Yeah, women are using the OvuSense and having great success. Can you tell me why the OvuSense … ? It does make sense. If you’re taking your temperature every five minutes throughout the night, you have a much better understanding of your fertility, but why is this OPK a good solution for women with PCOS? Why does it seem to be working well for women with PCOS?


Kate: Well, it’s clinically trialed. They’ve done so much research into it. It’s able to predict and confirm ovulation, and it confirms with 99% accuracy, so from that point of view, it’s just brilliant, because it’s the only fertility monitor that is able to do that, is able to confirm ovulation in that way. It’s just fantastic, and I’ve seen so many women who have really, really good effects. Not only do they identify when they’re most fertile, but they’re getting control back. They’re getting control back. They’re getting an understanding of the cycle, which is what they’ve unfortunately never had before.


A lot of women, for example, have no idea that they’re even ovulating. Perhaps they’re told by their doctor they’re not ovulating because they go along and they have their progesterone test done, and of course, we know that the test is called a Day 21 Progesterone Test, and then they’re told they’re going to have it on day 21. Well, that’s just pointless. If you’ve got PCOS, then you’ve got a long cycle, because we all know that you need to have it done a bit later than that, but perhaps when they’re first diagnosed, or even prior to diagnosis, they don’t know that. They don’t know when they’re fertile or they don’t know when they ovulate.


A lot of women who start using OvuSense are just so excited, because for the first time ever, they can see that they ovulate. Now, it won’t necessarily be every cycle, but they suddenly know that they’re ovulating. It’s giving them that control. It’s also telling them … A lot of women think that they ovulated ten days or so before that they actually do, so it’s really having the understanding of exactly when that happens. OvuSense is so clever that it uses a fantastic algorithm that is able to really identify exactly what’s going on in the body in real time, which is another fantastic thing that clearly OPKs can’t do.


Amy: I like the idea that you can actually bring a read-out to your doctor. PCOS Diva is all about educating yourself so that you can advocate for yourself, and in order to advocate for yourself, oftentimes you need the cold, hard facts. I encourage women to bring in copies of PubMed studies to show their doctor, maybe on a supplement that they’re interested in taking. This, you can actually show your doctor your print-out of your cycle.


Kate: You can, and obviously, you can keep all the different cycles, so you can go into the doctor with six months or whatever of data, which is very, very powerful. Certainly, if a doctor is saying, “No, you’re not ovulating,” you’ve got the evidence, which is fantastic, and that’s really helped a lot of women.


Amy: Yeah. I just think it’s so validating for women with PCOS.


Kate: Well, it totally gets them back control, which is so important.


Amy: Yeah. For women that may be listening that are not quite ready to conceive, or that are interested, “Well, once I have conceived, maybe I’m not really interested in going back on the pill” … I know I was one of those women. When I tried to go back on the pill after the birth of my second son, I just could not tolerate it. There’s some new research that just came out about how the pill can really lead to feelings of depression, and that’s definitely how I felt. I was looking for a non-hormonal birth control. I know that there’s the copper IUD out there that a lot of doctors that I’ve interviewed feel like that is a good solution for women with PCOS. I think for many, it is. I know I’m someone, I’ve been tested with mineral testing, that I have copper excess, so I’m not sure if I would want to put the copper IUD in. Tell us a little bit more about the work that you do on natural contraception.


Kate: Sure, yeah. Well, I’m all for women having choice, and I think that’s really important, so I think … If women go and see their doctor for contraception, often they have a discussion with a doctor about the hormonal contraceptions, or the copper coil, or the hormone coil, and often natural contraception isn’t really talked about, mainly because of the myth that actually it’s not an effective method of contraception, but natural contraception, if taught and used correctly, is up to 99% effective. Now, when you think of it that way, natural contraception is more effective than the pill and definitely more effective than the IUD. That’s quite interesting.


There’s been a massive resurgence in interest in natural contraception over recent years. I think that all coincides with women becoming more aware of toxins, of what they’re putting into their body in every aspect of their lives. It might be they’re aware of toxins that they perhaps use in the home, cleaning products, beauty products. If they’ve got children, they’ll be thinking about what toxins their baby, their children are having, and wanting to eliminate that as much as possible. That’s also happening now with medication, and women really feeling that they don’t want to take hormones, that, like you say, they’ve perhaps had experiences of side effects with hormones, they perhaps don’t want the copper coil for whatever reason, whether it be copper loading, or whether it be the invasive procedure, or discomfort. There’s various different reasons.


I can talk about this very easily in the fact that I’ve worked with contraception for years, so I have offered women all the different types of contraception, and it’s why I’ve really become an advocate for natural contraception, to highlight how fantastic this method is and how it is a great alternative for a lot of women. How I work with that is I teach women how to use this effective method of contraception. It takes a little while to learn. It’s not something you can learn very quickly. On average, it takes about three months to learn, but once you have that method learned and nailed, you’ve got a method for life.


I remember meeting a lady. She wasn’t one of my patients, but I met a lady a couple of years ago who had used natural contraception since she was in her early 20s. She’s now in her 50s, and she had all these charts, all these fantastic data. It was way before mobile phones and charting on your phone, but she had paper charts of all of her reproductive years, including she could identify when she had her three children based on these charts. It was really incredible looking at this information. We were trying to encourage her to take it to a museum, because it’s just wonderful information. For her, it was something that completely became part of her life. Like I said, she uses it as a method of contraception, but then she was able to turn it around and use it as a contraceptive method, or as a fertility method to conceive when she wanted to. That’s why I say, in many ways, it is a complete method for life.


Like I said, it takes a bit of time, but you learn to identify and record your fertility indicators. There’s your temperature, your changes in your cervical secretions, cervical mucus. Also, if you wanted to, not necessarily, but depending the position of your cervix changes throughout the month, you use this information and correlate this information to work out when you’re fertile and when you’re not. There’s so many days in the cycle when you can confidently have sex without using another method of contraception or using a barrier method, if you wanted to, and then there’s a short window that with time becomes shorter, as you get to know your body better, when potentially you could conceive, and therefore you avoid, you have abstinence around that time.


Amy: You had mentioned mobile apps. Do you have any favorite mobile apps for tracking?


Kate: There are one or two. I’m probably a bit old-fashioned in the fact that I much prefer the paper option of writing it down. I think there’s something about physically charting your cycle with pen and paper on charts that means that you learn better, rather than putting it into an app, but I do completely get the convenience of the apps.


I’m not a mad advocate of Fertility Friend, mainly because I notice that always seems to put the cover line in the wrong place, so I constantly see inaccuracies with that. There are some good ones out there, but I think you have to be aware that they are literally just for you to put data in. They’re not … They shouldn’t, and if they do, they don’t do it particularly accurately. You have to be very careful with when they’re telling you that you’re fertile, because often it’s wrong, so they need to be used with caution, I think, is what I’m trying to get at.


Amy: Well, I’ve really enjoyed the information that you’ve given us on OPKs and the natural fertility method. I think I would love for you to leave us with some words of wisdom. Being a fertility coach and working with women who are trying to conceive, and that emotional exhaustion, and that roller-coaster ride that you end up going on, maybe you could give us just a couple tips on how to cope with the ups and downs of the journey.


Kate: Yeah, no, sure. Yes. I’m sure everyone that’s listening to this podcast will completely appreciate that the journey is a very complex one, and it definitely is a roller coaster with the ups and downs. I think the secret very much is finding ability to navigate your fertility journey successfully. That doesn’t necessarily mean, success for you, that you end up with your goal, with a baby, but at least you navigate your journey maintaining a sense of yourself, which I think is really, really important. What I find with many women is that they’ve lost the ability to feel positive and to feel as though there is hope, and that’s what they need to try and achieve, to bring back that sense of self, which is so important.


Couple of things that I always get my fertility-coaching patients to do. The first one is to keep a fertility journal. That’s one of the most important things, mainly because all of the different tools that I teach them to use, to help them navigate their journey correctly, often you need to use your journal in which to write them down or to consider different things. What I find is many women who are keeping a fertility journal start to really notice the negativity creeping into their writing, and they can try and change those thoughts to a more positive mindset.


It takes a bit of work, but that’s one way of really changing how you’re thinking. When you free-text into a journal, and you don’t stop yourself, you might write your worries down or your concerns, and then you read back over it, you can think, “Oh, okay, yeah, I can see I’ve been quite negative there. What do I need to do right now to change that to more of a positive mindset?” Whether it be an action or going to do a bit of research into something that’s worrying you, it just starts to put everything into perspective a little.


Amy: I love that. I know one of the tenets of being a Diva is a Diva is powerfully positive and something that we really have to work on. It doesn’t just happen. That’s one of the reasons I post a positive quote on PCOS Diva Facebook page every day. It’s as much for me as it is for the women who follow the page. I have to work on that positive mindset every single day. I love that idea of journaling and seeing that negativity creeping up, because you don’t often notice it just in day-to-day life. Often, my husband will say to me, “Gee, Amy, you probably need to get back to your affirmations or positive inspirational books,” so yeah, that’s a great tip.


Kate: Absolutely. Positivity, to me, it’s one of my core values. I don’t know if you’ve ever done a values exercise on yourself, Amy, to work out what your values in life are, but positivity is one of my core ones, and it’s something that I try and be all the time, but I agree with you, it’s very difficult to be positive all the time. I’m a fertility coach, and I work on positivity all the time, but I still have to remind myself to be positive. I know we were talking earlier about I’m about to climb Kilimanjaro this week, and at the minute, I’m feeling really, really negative about that, so I need to go away and coach myself, definitely.


Amy: Yeah. I do have to highlight that. It’s amazing you’re climbing Mount Kilimanjaro for a cause. Maybe you could just share with listeners why you’re doing this.


Kate: Well, I’m doing it because I have military connections, and I’m actually doing it for a military charity that looks after service men and their families at times of distress, whether it be through bereavement, illness, or financial hardship, all these type of things. It’s a really worthy cause, and yeah, that’s why I’m doing it. Very exciting and a bit scary.


Amy: You’ll have to keep your journal. It’ll be so interesting to experience it through your eyes. You’ll have to post it on the Your Fertility Journey site.


Kate: Yep, absolutely. Well, I will be. I’ll be keeping my journal, and I can tell you now, I will be looking out for negativity and changing it to positivity.


Amy: Tell us more about your practice, and if women want to learn more about what you do and your fertility coaching, how they can reach out to you.


Kate: Sure. Well, like you said, I’ve started my practice about four years ago. I was really frustrated because I felt that women were often told, who were trying to conceive naturally, “Oh, go away, keep trying,” and not given the support, not given the advice that they desperately needed, and often, that type of advice means that you then don’t need to go down the route of assisted conception, because you’ve done something actively about your concerns early.


My business, Your Fertility Journey, I offer natural fertility consultations, fertility coaching. I have a special interest, as we’ve talked about, in PCOS, so for PCOS support, and I’ve got an online program that’s called “Boost Fertility in 30 Days.” Basically, it gives women who are starting out in natural contraception, sorry, not natural conception, all the information they need on how to boost their fertility.


Obviously, as we’ve talked about, I often add to a contraception teaching as well. I love it. I’m very passionate about what I do. I love anything to do with fertility, and fertility coaching, I tend to coach a lot of ladies going through assisted conception, and it’s obviously fantastic, really rewarding, and I love my job every day, especially when one of my patients tells me that they’ve conceived. That gives me a buzz all day long.


Amy: Oh, definitely. I know. It really is a gift, isn’t it? Well, thank you so much, Kate, for joining us. It’s really been a pleasure. I look forward to having you on again soon, talking more about fertility.


Kate: Absolutely. Look forward to it. Thank you very much, Amy.


Amy: Thank you everyone for listening. I look forward to being with you again soon. Buh-bye.


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