Can I Use Ovulation Test Kits If I Have PCOS?

Ovulation kits and PCOS

Using ovulation kits is a very common method of predicting fertility when a couple is trying to conceive. Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), is the most common form of ovulatory infertility. Women with PCOS may have a hard time conceiving a baby and need to know the precise time they are ovulating in order to time it with the narrow 24 hour window of fertilization. After that time period, if a single sperm doesn't penetrate the egg, conception cannot occur that month.

Many women may seek the use of over the counter ovulation kits to know when they are ovulating. Using an ovulation kit may or may not be a good option for women with PCOS. Here's what to know about using ovulation kits if you have PCOS.

What is Ovulation?

The menstrual cycle is initiated when a hormone is secreted in the brain causing an egg follicle in the ovary to begin growing. The two main hormones are follicle stimulating hormone (FSH), the hormone involved in stimulating the maturation of an egg, and luteinizing hormone (LH), the hormone whose surge triggers ovulation or the release of the egg.

The developing egg follicle begins to secrete estrogen, which causes the lining of the uterus (endometrium) to begin to thicken. Once the follicle matures, LH levels increase dramatically, triggering ovulation, which is the release of a mature egg from an egg follicle within the ovary. This occurs on approximately day 14 of the cycle.

If pregnancy does not occur, estrogen and progesterone levels drop and the lining is shed as menstruation, triggering the beginning of the next cycle.

How is Ovulation Affected by PCOS?

Due to the hormone imbalance of sex hormones in women with PCOS, eggs don't always mature or get released from the ovary to be fertilized.

Instead, they collect on the ovaries as small immature follicles, mistakenly called cysts.  

Women with PCOS tend to produce excess androgens or male hormones. As a result, a woman's menstrual cycle and ovulation can be affected. Her cycles may be irregular, longer than normal or may not occur at all. She may or may not ovulate in a given cycle. This can make using ovulation kits difficult.

Additionally, women with PCOS often have persistently elevated levels of LH, which ovulation kits can sometimes use to detect ovulation. 

How Do Ovulation Kits Work?

Right before ovulation, the hormone LH surges.Ovulation prediction kits look for elevated levels of LH. Since women with PCOS tend to have high levels of LH levels to begin with, ovulation kits may not be as reliable as they are for other women.

There are many different types of ovulation predictor kits ranging from affordable to very expensive. Simple ovulation kits may involve a thermometer to measure basal body temperature. Right before ovulation, a woman's temperature will spike. 

More advanced kits will also measure saliva levels of electrolytes and even vaginal mucus changes (thick mucus is a sign of ovulation). 

Will Ovulation Kits Work For Me?

If you are having regular monthly periods, there is a good chance that using an ovulation kit will work.

If you are not having regular periods, the kit may still work, but it can be very difficult to time testing.

If you are using the kit and getting persistently positive results, however, your LH may be constantly high, making using the kit an unreliable way to test for ovulation.

When Should I Use the Ovulation Kits?

Ovulation usually occurs two weeks (14 days) before your next period. So if your cycles are 30 days from the start of one period to the next, ovulation will occur around day 16 of your cycle. It is usually best to begin testing a few days before, say around day 12, to ensure that you catch your ovulation.

Once you get your positive result or surge, begin having intercourse each day for two to three days.

Good Luck!

Updated by PCOS expert Angela Grassi, MS, RDN, LDN

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