Can I Use an Ovulation Kit If I Have PCOS?

Challenges with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome and Ovulation Kits

Ovulation kits and PCOS
What should you know about using ovulation test kits if you have polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)?. PeopleImages/Getty Images

What do you need to know about ovulation test kits if you have polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)? How does PCOS affect ovulation and how can you use this information to understand........

Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) and Infertility

Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is one of the most common forms of infertility in women. Some women with PCOS can have a difficult time conceiving as their menstrual cycles may be irregular and the tools used to detect ovulation (such as ovulation test kits and body basal temperatures) can sometimes fall short.

While using an ovulation test kit can be challenging for women with PCOS, there are insights that may help. Perhaps the best way to start is by reviewing your basic understanding of ovulation and the hormonal response women undergo during their menstrual cycle.

The Basics of Ovulation

The menstrual cycle begins when a type of hormone, called follicle stimulating hormone (FSH), is secreted in the brain, causing an egg follicle to start growing in the ovary. As the egg follicle develops, it secretes estrogen which causes the lining of the uterus to thicken in preparation for the egg.

Once the follicle matures, a hormone called luteinizing hormone (LH) will increase dramatically, triggering the release of the egg from the ovary (ovulation). This occurs around day 14 of the cycle.

If pregnancy does not occur, the estrogen and progesterone levels will drop dramatically, and the lining will be shed as menstruation.

How Ovulation Is Affected by PCOS

Due to hormonal imbalances common in women with PCOS, eggs don't always mature or get released as they are meant to. Instead, they collect on the ovaries as small, immature follicles referred to as cysts.

Because women with PCOS tend to produce excessive male hormones (androgens), the menstrual cycle can also be affected, occurring irregularly, over longer periods of time, or not at all.

Further complicating the issue are the persistently high levels of LH seen in some women with PCOS. It is this particular anomaly that can make ovulation testing all the more challenging.

Ovulation Testing in Women With PCOS

There are several different ways to determine if you are ovulating regularly with PCOS, including ovulation prediction test kits.

Ovulation prediction kits work by detecting increases of LH level in urine. (As noted above, it is the increase in LH which triggers the release of the egg from the ovary.) When a spike occurs, it is fairly certain that ovulation is in process. However, in women with PCOS, the kits have varying degrees of reliability.

How reliable will ovulation prediction kit be for you? There are several variables that can influence in the accuracy. For example:

  • If you are having regular monthly periods, there is a good chance that the ovulation kit will work.
  • If you are not having regular periods, the kit may still work, but it may difficult to know when to start testing or even what stage of the cycle you're in.
  • If you are receiving persistently positive results, it would most likely mean that your LH levels are abnormally elevated. In such case, the kit may have little value.

    Tips for Using an Ovulation Test Kit

    If you fall into any gray areas as far as your menstrual cycle or hormonal levels are concerned, you may still be able to use an ovulation kit if you give yourself a wider berth in terms of timing.

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

    Once you receive a positive result, you should start having intercourse every day for the next two to three days.

    (Learn more about baby making sex.)

    Choosing the Right Ovulation Test Kit

    It is important that you choose the right ovulation test kit as well. There are a wide assortment of kits available ranging in price from affordable to very expensive. The most simple kits involve the use a thermometer to measure basal body temperature. More sophisticated ones measure for electrolytes in saliva and changes in vaginal mucus.

    In the end, expensive doesn't necessarily mean better. If you have PCOS and have doubts as to whether your ovulation kit is accurate, speak with your doctor who may be able to offer advice based on your specific case and needs.

    Bottom Line on Using Ovulation Test Kits With PCOS

    Infertility is common among women with PCOS, and the first step is usually to determine whether you are ovulating and when. That said, ovulation test kits may not always be accurate, and you may not have any idea when to even start using these. With so many different types of test kits available, and with other methods of evaluating ovulation as well, it can be very helpful to sit down and talk with your doctor about the best way to find that fertile time. And while you wait for your appointment, take a moment to learn about how to get ready for pregnancy with PCOS.

    Sources:

    Cunningham, F. Gary., and John Whitridge Williams. Williams Obstetrics. New York: McGraw-Hill Education Medical, 2014. Print.

    Kuang, H., Hin, S., Hansen, K. et al. Identification and Replication of Prediction Models for Ovulation, Pregnancy and Live Birth in Infertile Women with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome. Human Reproduction. 2015. 30(9):2222-33.

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