We often start the "trying to conceive" process by taking steps to understand our cycles. These strategies can be helpful for those for us with regular cycles, but they often fall short for women with irregular cycles.
We often start the "trying to conceive" process by taking steps to
understand our cycles. Many of us do so by using ovulation trackers, taking our temperatures, tracking our cervical mucus, and various other methods.
These strategies can be helpful for those of us with regular cycles, but they often fall short for women with
irregular cycles. Everyone’s hormones behave differently. For us to really take control of our health and fertility, we must gain insights on our personal cycles. Cycle tracking and fertility Cycle tracking and irregular cycles Tracking your fertile windo w How cycle tracking relates to fertility
Your fertile window is when you're
ovulating — so if you want to conceive, you're going to need to do it during ovulation.
How do you know when you're ovulating? Ovulation kits and trackers track your hormones — specifically surges of estrogen and
luteinizing hormone (LH) to measure whether or not we're ovulating. >>RELATED: 8 Signs Your Hormones May Be Out of Balance – And What to Do Next
High levels of estrogen can indicate that we are about to ovulate, while spikes in LH can signal ovulation. When these hormones reach a certain threshold, the ovulation tests return a positive result. In other words, once these hormones pass a certain pre-set amount, we're told we're ovulating.
Why standard cycle tracking doesn't work for irregular cycles
While this process may work for women who have “perfect” cycles and regular hormone levels, it is not helpful for the majority of us, whose cycles differ. Some women’s cycles stray slightly from the norm, while others are completely different.
For example, women with PCOS frequently have consistently high levels of LH. This means that a woman with PCOS could have a baseline LH level that is higher than the tests’ threshold. The test will read this hormone level as a surge of LH and tell a woman she is ovulating, when in reality, this is the woman’s normal hormone balance.
>>RELATED: PCOS and Getting Pregnant
This makes ovulation trackers completely unhelpful for those of us with irregular hormones and cycles. The tests do not understand our cycles, and therefore cannot differentiate a hormone baseline from a surge. Almost all of these tests explicitly say that their technology will not work for women with PCOS. This is because they do not account for the large variation of hormone levels in women.
Irregular cycles vs. regular cycles
Below is a graph displaying how LH trends vary based on a woman’s cycle.
Because of the difference in hormone levels, it would be more useful for women with irregular cycles to track actual hormone levels daily to give a sense of personal baseline hormone levels.
>>RELATED: The Power of Cycle Tracking: Understanding Your Hormones and Taking Action
This way, when we do have a surge of LH, we'll be able to see a difference — instead of being told we're constantly ovulating. It is important for women to learn about our body’s hormone trends AND not just the amount of a hormone at a given time. Once we have data on our unique cycles, we can understand our hormone patterns and better detect the best times to conceive.
How women with irregular cycles can track their fertile window
Women with irregular cycles can track hormone levels and learn about cycles by using quantitative tests, which provide a personalized fertility profile. As opposed to tests which use threshold hormone levels based on the “perfect woman” (who doesn’t exist), tools such as
Oova learn a woman’s baseline hormone levels in order to detect LH and progesterone spikes from there.
This is vital for women with irregular hormone levels. Everyone is different, and when trying to conceive, it is crucial for us to know our own fertility profiles. It is important to look for surges of LH and progesterone, yet to notice these hormone spikes a woman must know her baseline. Oova can alleviate the stress of trying to conceive and enable us to feel more in control of our health and fertility by understanding our unique, individual cycles.