Written by: Dr. Amy Beckley, PhD, Founder and Inventor of the Proov test — the first and only FDA-cleared test to confirm successful ovulation at home.
Written on 8/29/19
Updated on 9/3/21
Now, Proov can help you track your cycle all month long — keep reading to learn how!
We track our cycles for many different reasons — some of us are trying to conceive, others are navigating the perimenopausal transition, and some of us track to better understand how our hormones are affecting our daily lives.
For a long time, tracking the first half of our cycle was relatively easy as there are several methods for predicting when ovulation will occur (LH test, cervical mucus monitoring, BBT tracking, etc.). However, after that, the end of our cycle until the start of our period was a bit of a black box.
But now, Proov can help you track your cycle all month long — keep reading to learn how!
But first, a quick cycle review!
Are you familiar with the parts of your cycle? Let’s quickly recap — we could for sure use a refresher.
Your cycle begins on the first day of your period. The first phase of your cycle is called the follicular phase, which lasts from the beginning of your period all the way until ovulation.
During the follicular phase, your body and ovaries are preparing for ovulation. Follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) increases to help your ovaries grow mature follicles and eggs, while estrogen put out by the growing follicles starts thickening the uterine lining in preparation for implantation and pregnancy.
When your body is prepared to ovulate, it will send a surge of luteinizing hormone (LH) to your ovaries which triggers the mature follicle to rupture and release an egg. Ovulation will occur about 12-36 hours after an LH surge, which marks the end of your follicular phase.
Then the second half of your cycle, the luteal phase, begins. During this phase, the empty follicle from which the egg was released (now called the corpus luteum) starts producing progesterone.
After ovulation, progesterone takes about 7 days to rise to an optimal level. It then should remain elevated for four more days in order to allow for the best possible chance at conception. This is because progesterone supports implantation and pregnancy by making sure the already thick uterine lining is “sticky” enough to allow for the best possible chance at conception.
If you conceive, progesterone should remain elevated through early pregnancy until the placenta is developed enough to take over progesterone production. If you do not conceive, progesterone levels will drop, signaling to your body that it’s time to shed your uterine lining, and your period and a new cycle will begin.
Why is cycle tracking important?
We believe that cycle tracking is critical for any woman, regardless of her age, life stage, or goals. Of course, if you are trying to conceive, understanding when you ovulate and if it was successful helps give you the best possible chance at conception.
But that’s not all! The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) actually considers your cycle to be the fifth vital sign. This means that the health of your cycle gives insight into your overall health as the other vital signs, like body temperature, pulse, and blood pressure, just to name a few.
In fact, the ACOG recommends that young girls be educated on what to expect from their cycle (i.e. what’s considered healthy and normal) so they can identify changes that may impact their overall health. Tracking your cycle to better understand what’s normal for you can help you identify and treat any potential issues early on.
For example, irregular cycles can be a sign of polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), while amenorrhea (or the absence of a period) can be a sign of a greater hormonal imbalance, an abnormal body weight, or high stress levels. Ensuring your cycles are regular and your hormones are at optimal levels can help you live a happier and healthier life.
Ensuring your cycles are regular and your hormones are at optimal levels can help you live a happier and healthier life.
How can Proov help me track my cycle?
Together with the Proov Insight app (available on iPhone and Android), our Proov tests allow for all-cycle tracking to help you better understand your cycle and ovulation. Our app has been calibrated to provide numeric results for all Proov tests, along with all-month tracking, info on what your results mean, and personalized action plans to support your goals.
The Proov Insight app will also walk you through specific testing instructions based on your unique cycle, but here’s a quick look at how full-cycle testing works:
Early follicular phase
At the beginning of your follicular phase, you’ll want to take your Proov PdG (urine marker of progesterone) baseline test either on cycle day 5 or the day after your period ends, whichever comes later. While this test will be negative, it will be helpful later in your cycle so definitely don’t forget to take it! Baseline hormone levels help ensure your ovaries are ready to start a new cycle.
Next, you’ll want to use Proov FSH tests to understand your ovarian reserve, i.e. how many eggs you have left. As we mentioned, FSH is the hormone which stimulates your ovaries to produce eggs each cycle.
When your ovarian reserve is optimal for your age and you have many eggs left, not much FSH is required to stimulate your ovaries and you can expect your FSH levels to be low at the beginning of your cycle. However, as you age and your ovarian reserve decreases, your ovaries need more help to recruit eggs, meaning more FSH is required to stimulate them and your levels will be higher.
We recommend testing FSH levels on cycle days 5, 7, and 9. If you are trying to conceive, you’ll want your numeric FSH level (which you can get from the Proov Insight app) to be under 10. If you get two or more FSH levels over 10 in one cycle, we recommend consulting your doctor as your ovaries may not be working optimally. When FSH levels reach 25, this is a sign that you might be entering menopause.
Mid to late follicular phase
After FSH testing, we’ll start testing LH levels with Proov Predict to identify peak fertility. You’ll want to begin testing LH about 18 days before your next suspected period (don’t worry — the Proov Insight app will do this math for you). Ideally, you’ll also want to test two times per day — once in the morning and once in the evening — since LH surges can be short and we don’t want you to miss it.
A positive LH test indicates a surge and that you’re in your two most fertile days and ovulation should follow in 12-24 hours. While this may not mean a lot to you if you’re not trying to conceive, understanding when you’re supposed to ovulate is critical.
If you never get a positive LH test, this could be a sign that you are not ovulating, in which case we recommend consulting your doctor. On the other hand, if all of your LH tests are positive — indicating consistently elevated levels — this could be a sign of PCOS, which is another reason to consult your doctor.
It’s important to note that while a positive LH test predicts that ovulation should be coming soon, it actually does not confirm whether or not an egg was released. Which brings us to the final phase, the luteal phase.
A positive LH test indicates a surge and that you’re in your two most fertile days and ovulation should follow in 12-24 hours.
After your first positive LH test, which is considered your “peak day,” you’ll want to count out 7 days and begin testing with Proov PdG tests (again, the Proov Insight app will do the counting for you). Our patented PdG testing protocol recommends testing PdG levels each morning on days 7, 8, 9, and 10 past peak fertility.
We like to see 3-4 positive PdG tests during the testing window, with a positive result on day 10 past peak, to confirm that ovulation was in fact successful. Successful ovulation refers to an ovulatory event in which an egg is released and PdG levels remain adequately elevated for long enough throughout the implantation window.
But PdG is not just important when trying to conceive — healthy PdG levels after ovulation are a sign of a healthy hormone balance and can improve your mood, sleep patterns, and even cognitive function.
If PdG levels don’t rise to an optimal level or drop too soon following ovulation, this can lead to a hormonal imbalance between estrogen and progesterone or a short luteal phase. These can cause unwanted symptoms such as premenstrual syndrome (PMS), spotting, or menstrual cramps, and make it more difficult to get pregnant.
Luckily, there are plenty of ways to naturally raise PdG levels if they’re on the lower side. We also always recommend consulting your doctor if you have concerns about your PdG levels.
With Proov, you now have all the tools you need to track your cycle, all cycle long!