What is an ovulation test? How to use this handy tool

Ovulation looks and feels different for everyone and testing kits can be useful.
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Lucinda Starr
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Last updated on
June 3, 2024
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What Is an Ovulation Test? How to Use This Handy Tool
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If you're thinking about having kids, you've probably been told how important the ovulation phase is during your menstrual cycle. It's actually the point in your cycle that reveals when you're entering your fertile window.

But, how do you know when your body is ovulating? While ovulation looks and feels different for everyone, there is a stack of common signs and symptoms of ovulation that can be tracked using specific ovulation tests.

Also known as an ovulation predictor kit, these handy tests can help you keep track of your most fertile days and increase your chances of getting pregnant naturally.

Let's take a look at everything you need to know about ovulation tests, what ovulation tests use to detect and predict ovulation and when you should start testing to get the best possible ovulation test results.

What is ovulation?

First up, let's start with the basics.

Ovulation is the stage of a menstrual cycle where the egg (ovum) is released from one of the ovaries and moves through the fallopian tubes to your uterus where it can be fertilised [1]. The ovulation stage typically occurs 2 weeks before the start of the menstrual period.

So, what should you care about ovulation? This stage of your menstrual cycle is far from just another 'time of the month'. If you're looking to conceive, ovulation is crucial to how easy (or not so easy) your fertility journey might be.

In a nutshell, ovulation lasts for just 16-32 hours and indicates the time when your body is most fertile [1]. While it's technically possible to fall pregnant up to 5 days on either side of ovulation, you'll have the best chance of conceiving naturally if you know exactly when your body is ovulating.

And that's where ovulation tests come in handy!

What is an ovulation test?

An ovulation test is an at-home test kit used by women (or anyone with a uterus) to help you find the right time in the menstrual cycle to fall pregnant [2]. Since you're at your most fertile during ovulation, ovulation tests and ovulation testing kits can help increase your chances of getting pregnant.

An ovulation test kit works to detect ovulation by measuring an increase in luteinizing hormone (LH) levels in your urine. An LH surge in your urine prompts the ovary to release the egg and when it reaches a certain threshold it indicates ovulation is likely to occur within the next 12-36 hours [3].

Essentially, using an ovulation test can help you pinpoint your most fertile days and help you have the best success when trying to conceive.

How do ovulation predictor kits work?

If you've never taken an ovulation test before, it's pretty straightforward. Remember: each ovulation test comes with specific instructions, so make sure to thoroughly read the instructions of your particular ovulation testing kit before you get started.

Typically, all you have to do is pee on a test strip or stick (just like you would with a pregnancy test) and wait a few minutes for the indicator to pop up.

As for the results, an ovulation predictor test will give you one of the following responses:

  • Ovulating: If the test line appears darker than the control line then you're about to ovulate and you're in your most fertile window.
  • Not ovulating: If the test line appears lighter than the control line you're not in the ovulation phase yet.

Do ovulation test kits work?

You're probably wondering: are ovulation predictor kits worth the investment? Let's walk you through what the research says.

Clinical research shows that ovulation test kits are great to detect ovulation using the LH surge method because of its accuracy, and affordability [4]. Plus, these ovulation tests are much less invasive than other methods, making them an accessible way to check your ovulation.

Ovulation test kits can help you in predicting ovulation and tell you your most fertile days. However, they may not give you 100% accurate results and a positive ovulation test result doesn't necessarily mean you will fall pregnant.

It takes two to get pregnant. Which is why we want to provide you and your partner with the a preparation kit that has everything you need to start your conceiving journey.

How does it differ from a pregnancy test?

While the testing methods might be similar, there are some important differences between ovulation tests and pregnancy tests.

Pregnancy tests and ovulation tests measure and detect different hormones in the body. A pregnancy test tells you if you're pregnant, whereas an ovulation test can only predict ovulation.

Pregnancy tests measure the hormone Human Chorionic Gonadotropin (hCG) which is only produced in the body if you are actually pregnant. Ovulation predictor tests measure the hormone LH which spikes in the body right before ovulation.

When do you take an ovulation test?

Ovulation generally starts about halfway through your menstrual cycle, so the best time to use an ovulation predictor kit is a couple of days before you hit halfway through your menstrual cycle.

It also helps to track your period cycle length to get to know how long your menstrual cycles are, particularly if you have irregular periods.

Make sure to read the instructions carefully as different tests can have different instructions and may tell you to test at different times of the day which can be a little difficult to get the hang of. Luckily, most ovulation test kits come with several test strips so you can ensure you test correctly.

There is no consensus on exactly what times of the day you should be using an ovulation test, however, you should probably be taking them twice a day. For the best results, some test kits recommend testing once in the morning because morning urine is the most concentrated and not affected by eating and drinking. You can also test again in the afternoon just to be sure.

Ultimately, the test kit you choose will help you determine what time of the day to be using your ovulation test kits. The time of day may also depend on what makes sense for your regular routine or body.

For example, if you're someone who stays ultra-hydrated you might get better results in the morning because the urine is less diluted. However, if you're quite busy in the mornings and you know you'll forget to use the test strips, then the afternoon may be a better option for you.

What are other ovulation signs?

While ovulation test strips are one key way to check where you're at in your cycle, there are other ways to track your ovulation too.

The ovulation signs and symptoms differ depending on the person but there are a few signs you can look out for, including:

  • Discharge or cervical mucus appears more stretchy and clear.
  • Basal body temperature rises and stays elevated during your peak fertility window.
  • You might start to feel more nauseous and get more headaches due to hormone changes.
  • You might experience light brown spotting or discharge.
  • Mild pain in the lower abdomen or pelvis.
  • Increased sex drive.
  • Sore and tender breasts.
  • Increased sensitivity to smells and taste [5].

Can I get pregnant 2 days after a positive ovulation test?

Since ovulation predictor kits measure LH surge in your urine, they are a good predictor of ovulation. Once you receive a positive result, your ovary should release an egg within 1-3 days which means it's ready for fertilisation.

You can have sex with your partner anytime during the ovulation period, which is known as timed intercourse, as you're at your peak fertility and the egg can survive 24 hours after it is released and the male's sperm can survive in the woman's body for 5 days [6].

However, based on research, your best bet at getting pregnant actually occurs one day before ovulation [7]. Let's run through some day-specific figures to give you a clearer idea of your chances of getting pregnant:

  • 27% chance of getting pregnant 3 days before ovulation
  • 33% chance 2 days before ovulation
  • 41% chance 1 day before ovulation
  • 20% chance on the day of ovulation
  • 8% chance 1 day after ovulation

What are some reasons you may be failing to ovulate?

A failure to ovulate is the most common reason for female infertility, which is the case for roughly 40% of women [8]. There are some explanations and potential causes of experiencing a failure to ovulate including:

  • Gynecological or ovarian conditions such as polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) which is a complex hormonal condition causing irregular cycle length or primary ovarian insufficiency (POI) where your ovaries don't produce normal amounts of estrogen or don't regularly release eggs [9][10].
  • Endocrine disorders including thyroid disease can affect the production of hormones in the body meaning there may be too many or not enough of a certain hormone or group of hormones.
  • Age can contribute to fertility issues, where there are fewer eggs in your ovarian reserve.
  • Environmental factors include how much sleep you get, what food you eat and your weight can all contribute to a failure to ovulate [11]. Psychological stress and substance use can further impact infertility.

If you've taken many ovulation tests but you are still struggling with getting pregnant you're not alone. There are so many different reasons why you may be experiencing challenges with ovulation and your best bet is to talk to your doctor to discuss your options.

If you are on your pregnancy journey, then using an ovulation home test can be a great way to understand and keep track of your most fertile days and increase your chances of getting that positive test result.

Photo credit: Getty Images

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