How Do I Know If I'm Ovulating Regularly With PCOS?

The female reproductive system.
The female reproductive system. Science Picture Co/Getty Images

Polycystic ovary syndrome, or PCOS, is the main cause of ovulatory infertility. 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.

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.  

PCOS and Ovulation

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.

Having regular periods is one sign of ovulation. Here are a few other ways you can determine if and when you are ovulating to maximize your success in conceiving a baby.

Ovulation Prediction Kits

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 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.

Basal Body Temperature

Another way to determine if you're ovulating involves using a thermometer to measure basal body temperature. Right before ovulation, a woman's temperature will spike. This can be done using a simple thermometer and recording your temperature every morning during the month. When you see the temperature rise, there's a good chance you may be ovulating.

Checking Your Cervical Mucus

A woman's cervical mucus changes throughout the course of her monthly menstrual cycle. At the start of her cycle, her cervical mucus will be dry. When the cervical mucus is in the wet or egg white consistency stage, that is a sign that ovulation is approaching.

Checking Cervical Position

Just like your cervical mucus changes, your cervix also goes through changes throughout the course of your monthly menstrual cycle. You can reach inside your vagina to feel your cervix. If you are able to feel your cervix pretty easily, you're usually not close to ovulating. If you are ovulating, your cervix may be higher in your body and more difficult to reach.

Using one or more of these techniques can help you make sure that you are timing sex properly. Getting to know your body each month and monitoring these techniques are important ways to maximize your chances of conceiving.

If you don't seem to be getting clear signals that you are ovulating, you should see a doctor and be evaluated. You may need some help in regulating your menstrual cycles or getting pregnant. Typically a fertility specialist or reproductive endocrinologist will do a full hormonal work up, obtain a detailed medical history, and possibly do an ultrasound to help determine when or if you are ovulating.

Updated by Angela Grassi, MS, RDN, LDN

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