How to Track Your Cycle at Home With PCOS
As someone who has spent the better part of 5 years trying to conceive with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS), I am here to tell you that you are not alone if you are frustrated with your body.
Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, commonly referred to as PCOS, affects 6-12% of U.S. women of reproductive age. Due to excessive production of hormones called androgens, women with PCOS may experience a variety of symptoms, including ovarian cysts, irregular or absent menstrual cycles, acne, obesity, insulin resistance, excessive facial hair growth, and/or male-pattern hair loss. For me, my PCOS manifests itself as irregular periods, acne, weight gain, and [drumroll please…] difficulty conceiving.
Getting Pregnant With PCOS
While PCOS does bring about challenges while trying to get pregnant, it is still very treatable. Being diagnosed with PCOS does not mean that you will be unable to get pregnant, either naturally or through fertility treatments.
If you’re thinking about trying to get pregnant with PCOS, it’s always a good first step to track and understand your menstrual cycle. However, since PCOS often results in prolonged or even absent menstrual cycles, that can make it difficult for those with the disorder to determine when or if ovulation will occur. This can be incredibly frustrating for all involved. That’s why it’s so important to let your healthcare provider know about any menstrual cycle irregularities, especially when trying to conceive.
PCOS Cycle Tracking at Home
While it can be baffling not to know when to expect your next period, there are ways to track your cycle at home with PCOS. Although many traditional methods of ovulation tracking such as ovulation predictor kits (OPKs) tend to be unreliable for women with PCOS, there is hope for those with ovulatory issues to better understand both their bodies and their fertility odds.
How? Well, we know that an irregular cycle is often correlated with some degree of hormonal imbalance. That’s why most fertility monitors and period tracking apps that predict ovulation based on the attainment of pre-determined hormone levels (such as luteinizing hormone, estrogen, or a combination of the two) can yield false positive or false negative results in women with PCOS.
In comparison, Fairhaven Health’s OvaCue Fertility Monitor is designed with a technology that has no predetermined hormone level set, making it a more reliable ovulation prediction tool for women with irregular cycles who are trying to conceive. In other words, the OvaCue Fertility Monitor doesn’t look for a specific reading based on statistical averages; rather, it looks for an overall trend in your body’s own unique readings. It is truly personalized to you and your individual cycle.
So How Does OvaCue Fertility Monitor Work, Exactly?
The OvaCue Fertility Monitor predicts ovulation using the Electrolyte Method–a technique that has been demonstrated to be 98.3% accurate in predicting ovulation in clinical studies overseen by the National Institute of Health. Throughout your monthly cycle, the electrolyte levels in your saliva and cervical mucus are impacted by the changes in the reproductive hormones estrogen and progesterone.
As you get closer to ovulation, the OvaCue oral sensor will look to identify specific trends in your oral readings in response to the electrolyte resistance in your saliva. Once this trend is identified, it will provide advance notice of approaching ovulation by predicting and marking the beginning of your fertile window. The vaginal sensor will then provide information about when you are likely to approach ovulation, and later when ovulation has likely occurred by tracking changes in the electrolyte levels in the cervical mucus. These changes in electrolytes reflect the estrogen surge that occurs just prior to ovulation, and later the switch from estrogen to progesterone dominance that coincides with ovulation.
Now, with PCOS, each cycle can look so different from the other, and sometimes it may be possible that ovulation occurs a little outside of the predicted fertile window generated by the OvaCue. For this reason, PCOS charts may require some additional interpretation of the trends and data points in the OvaCue readings.
While the science behind the OvaCue Fertility Monitor might seem complex, actually using the monitor to predict fertility is simple. Between cycle days 2 – 4 of your menstrual cycle, start taking the oral readings by placing the reusable spoon-sized oral sensor on your tongue first thing each morning, as soon as you wake up and before eating, drinking, or brushing your teeth. Continue taking those oral readings throughout your cycle.
Once menstruation ends, you may begin the use of the reusable vaginal sensor. Unlike the oral readings, the vaginal readings can be taken at any time of the day (morning, evening or night), but once you set a time to take those vaginal readings, try taking them during the same 2-hour window (+/-) throughout your cycle. The OvaCue Fertility Monitor interprets your oral and vaginal readings, and automatically computes:
- Your fertility status for that day
- Your peak fertile days for this cycle
- The day you likely ovulated
- The start and end of your fertile window
When trying to conceive, and to increase your chances of getting pregnant, plan to have intercourse daily on the days the OvaCue identifies as your likely fertile window.
The Bottom Line
The OvaCue offers a quick and simple testing process that is completed in a matter of seconds each day. With the OvaCue, you also have access to the accompanying free charting app OvaGraph, which includes a large community of women in various stages of their fertility journey, as well as ongoing dedicated customer support to help answer all your questions and even provide assistance with chart interpretation.
Of course, the caveat to trying to conceive naturally with PCOS is that if you continue not to ovulate regularly or do not get pregnant after one year (6 months if you are over 35), then you should schedule a consultation with a fertility doctor as soon as possible. But if you’re looking to better understand your body and figure out when and if you’re ovulating, then tracking your cycle at home with the OvaCue Fertility Monitor could be a great option for you. Either way, be sure to give yourself grace during this time. You’ve got this!
Kristyn Hodgdon is the Co-Founder and Chief Creative Officer at Rescripted.