How to Know If You Are Ovulating Regularly With PCOS

Many women who have difficulty conceiving would probably agree: Finding out the reason is crucial to ending the frustration.

Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) can make it difficult to conceive by affecting your menstrual cycle and ability to ovulate. But rest assured: There are ways to check if you are ovulating.

Learn more about how PCOS can disrupt the menstrual cycle and how to tell if or when you are ovulating.

How to Track Ovulation With PCOS

Verywell / Ellen Lindner

PCOS and Ovulation

The menstrual cycle begins when a particular hormone is secreted in the brain. This ultimately causes an egg follicle in the ovary to begin growing.

Two main hormones are involved in this process. The first is follicle stimulating hormone (FSH), which stimulates the maturation of an egg. The second is luteinizing hormone (LH), which triggers ovulation, or the release of the egg.

Women who have PCOS have eggs that don't always mature or get released from the ovary to be fertilized. Instead, they collect on the ovaries as small, immature follicles. These are mistakenly called cysts.

A woman with PCOS tends 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 or longer than normal. Or they may not occur at all. She may or may not ovulate in a given cycle. These irregular cycles make it difficult to know when ovulation is occurring, if at all.

This will affect a woman's ability to conceive. And in the United States, this is a common problem. Nearly 9% of married women between the ages of 15 and 49 are infertile, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says. (Infertile is defined as being unable to conceive after a year of trying.)

About 16% of women in the same age group have trouble getting pregnant or carrying a fetus to term. This condition is called "impaired fecundity."

Signs That You Are Ovulating

Having regular periods is one sign of ovulation. You can find out if and when you are ovulating to maximize your chance of conceiving a baby by:

  • Purchasing an ovulation prediction kit. It can detect elevated levels of LH, which surges right before ovulation. Women with PCOS tend to have high levels of LH. So a kit may not be as reliable for them as they are for other women.
  • Taking your basal body temperature: Another way to determine whether you're ovulating involves using a thermometer to measure your temperature while you're at rest. Right before ovulation, a woman's temperature will spike. For most accurate results, temperatures need to be recorded using a digital thermometer at the same time every day.
  • 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 cervical mucus is wet or the consistency of raw egg whites, ovulation may be approaching. 
  • Determining your cervical position: 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 fairly easily, you're usually not close to ovulating.

Using one or more of these techniques can help you know when to time sex properly if you are trying to conceive. The "fertile window" typically begins two or three days before ovulation and lasts about a week,

Get to know your body each month and try these techniques. They can maximize your chance of conceiving.

If You're Not Sure

If you don't get clear signals that you're ovulating, see a doctor and get an evaluation. You may need help regulating your menstrual cycles or getting pregnant.

Typically, a fertility specialist or a reproductive endocrinologist will do a full hormonal workup, gather a detailed medical history, and possibly do an ultrasound. These steps can help determine if and when you are ovulating.

Summary

Polycystic ovary syndrome causes hormonal changes that can make your menstrual cycle irregular and interfere with ovulation. This can make it hard to know if and when you are ovulating.

There are certain tests you can do yourself to try to predict ovulation, so you can time sex appropriately for the best chances at conception. If you're still having trouble, a fertility specialist or your obstetrician-gynecologist can help.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Is there a cure for PCOS?

    There isn't a cure, but there are things you can do to manage your symptoms and increase your chance of conceiving. Your doctor may prescribe medication like Clomid (clomiphene) to help you ovulate. Managing your weight through healthy eating and exercise may relieve symptoms and may help regulate hormone levels.

  • What are the chances of getting pregnant with PCOS?

    It depends on how often you ovulate, as well as your health and your partner's health. While PCOS can make it more difficult to get pregnant, you can greatly increase your chances by seeking medical guidance. A study found that 80% of patients prescribed clomiphene will ovulate, and about half of those will conceive within six cycles.

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4 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Barbieri RL, Ehrmann DA. Patient education: Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) (Beyond the Basics)

  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. FastStats: Infertility.

  3. Office on Women's Health. Polycystic ovary syndrome.

  4. Frankfurter D. Getting pregnant with PCOSA Case-Based Guide to Clinical Endocrinology. 2015:317-326. doi:10.1007/978-1-4939-2059-4_38

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