Polycystic ovary syndrome, or PCOS, is the main cause of ovulatory infertility. Find out more about how PCOS can mess with the menstrual cycle.
PCOS and 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 that’s involved in stimulating the maturation of an egg, and luteinizing hormone (LH), the hormone that triggers ovulation or the release of the egg.
Due to the imbalance of sex hormones in women who have 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, which are 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.
Signs That You Are Ovulating
Having regular periods is one sign of ovulation. Here are a few other ways that 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 for women with PCOS 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 whether you’re ovulating involves using a thermometer to measure your 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 that 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 if you are trying to conceive. Getting to know your body each month and trying these techniques are important ways to maximize your chances of having a baby.
If You’re Not Sure Whether You’re Ovulating
If you don’t seem to be getting clear signals that you are ovulating, you should see a doctor and get an evaluation. You may need some help with regulating your menstrual cycles or getting pregnant. Typically, a fertility specialist or a reproductive endocrinologist will do a full hormonal work up, obtain a detailed medical history, and possibly do an ultrasound to help determine if and when you are ovulating.