ovulation test

Ovulation test

Having a baby is one of the hallmarks of a great marriage. However, getting pregnant is a tricky task for most couples and desperate spouses often fall into the trap of trial and error tactics.

If you are having trouble getting pregnant, it's good to realize that it’s not necessarily due to a health problem that's preventing you from having a baby. You are just not having intercourse on the right days of a woman's ovulation cycle. This means that you are missing the most fertile days of the cycle which may be reducing your chances of getting pregnant.

To take the guesswork out of getting pregnant, science has come up with simple tools called ovulation tests. These are the tools that you can use to find out whether you are in the ovulation period or not.

Ovulation test

Two types of ovulation tests are common in the market today. They are both based on the body fluid that they test. They are:

  • Urine-based tests. These tests detect an increase of luteinizing hormone (LH) that occurs a few days before ovulation. There is always a small amount of LH in a woman's body, but the surge in LH levels is an indicator of the fertile period of ovulation. During this window, the LH rise by more than 3 times the normal amount. When the surge occurs, a woman is due to ovulate in a day or two and 12-36 hours between the surge and the release of the egg has been found to be the most fertile time in your ovulation cycle.
  • Saliva-based tests. Unlike urine-based tests, these tests detect the rise of estrogen levels as ovulation approaches. Most kits in this category don't measure the exact levels of estrogen in the body; they look for the effects of the increased hormone levels. When estrogen levels soar, the level of salt in a woman’s system rises too, and when the salt dries, it forms a fern-like pattern as it crystallizes. As such, saliva-based tests check for the ferning effect and can be thought of as little microscopes to check for this.

How to use the kits

Ovulation testing tools, also called ovulation predictor kits (OPKs), usually come in a pack with around 5-10 testing sticks or strips. To detect a hormonal surge, you have to test for a few days in a row so that prior to ovulation, you can mark your normal readings on the stick making it easier to detect a change in hormone levels in your body.

The right time to start testing for the most fertile window is based on your ovulation cycles. While most women have a 28-day cycle, some women have been known to push an extra week or two without ovulation. Based on the average length or 28-day cycles, you should start using an OPK on the 11th day after your menstruation starts.

After getting the stick or strip out of the pack, you need to put it into contact with your urine; just like pregnancy kits. Normally, you hold the stick in the stream of your urine for 5-10 seconds. Alternatively, if you aren't for this method, you could collect your urine in a clean container and then dip the strip in the urine for 10 seconds.

Most sticks have a specific color for normal hormone levels in your urine, so you have to determine what color your kit uses to represent normal levels and increased levels.

If the color that denotes a surge in hormone levels appears, then you should ovulate in the next 24- 36 hours, but the hours may vary for different women.

Newer versions of these OPKs have done away with colors and in their place, there is a smiley face to show an increase in hormone levels. These kits work the same way but show the results differently.

Best ovulation test

When choosing an OPK, you need one that is easy to use and shows you the most accurate results. These are some of the most used products in the market; not because they are cheap, but because their results are unparalleled.

  1. The Clearblue digital ovulation test. This is the leading OPK in the market right now, with a tested accuracy that's over 99%. It is a urine-based testing kit that, unlike other brands, detects both the LH hormone and the estrone-3-gluronide. According to the manufacturer, Clearblue, this second hormone helps pick the four most fertile days of your cycle. When it comes into contact with urine, a smiling face appears on the screen saying that you are nearing ovulation. The face becomes bolder as your hormone levels continue to increase and so does your levels of fertility. A solid smiley shows at the peak of your fertility window and these are the days when you and your spouse should get busy working on getting you pregnant. The kit costs around $30 for 10 sticks. It's especially good for detecting a four-day window while most kits will only detect a 24-36-hour window.
  2. Clearblue fertility monitor. Also manufactured by the abovementioned brand, this kit comes with strips and a monitor. You dip the strips in your urine or place them in the flow of urine and then place them on the monitor. The monitor measures estrogen and LH levels to identify your most fertile days. Unlike the digital test, this fertility monitor has the downside of only detecting 2 of your fertile days, giving you a very short window to get pregnant. The upside, however, is that this kit stores your results for about six days so that it can monitor surges and personalize the results to you only. Clearblue says that it works more than 99% of the time and users aren't complaining. Another downside is that it's costly and you have to buy the monitor and the strips separately. The monitor can cost upwards of $200 while the strips cost about $2 each.
  3. Fertile-focus ovulation microscope. Unlike other tests in this list, this test is a saliva-based test that checks for ferning of your saliva. It's simple to use compared to other tests. One drop of saliva placed on the lens is enough and you have to let it dry first for the ferning to be visible. The kit comes with a small magnifying lens that you should use to check for the crystal-like ferns on your saliva. Its 97-98% accurate and is the cheapest option for most people because it can be reused. After use, always clean the lens before using it a second time. Price-wise, the kit comes at around $30 and can be used anywhere, even on the go. The huge downside with this test is that there is no one-size-fits-all fern size or appearance and most women have complained of missing the ferns. While it's not always easy to spot the ferns, studying the user manual should give you a clear picture of what to expect.

What can affect test results

Various substances can affect the accuracy of the results of these ovulation tests. These include:

  • Use of contraceptives. Contraceptives cause unusual ovulation patterns. If you've recently stopped using contraceptives and you want to get pregnant, you may notice irregular readings like having no fertile days for more than a month. To be on the safer side, you should wait until you've had at least two natural menstruation cycles before you can use an ovulation test. That gets rid of the irregular readings giving you accurate results of when your most fertile time of the month is.
  • Fertility drugs. Most fertility drugs contain LH which is the primary hormone that ovulation tests check for. If you use an ovulation test, you may get a positive reading but you aren't ovulating. The LH in the drugs is causing the tests to detect a high level of the hormone in your body.
  • Taking excessive amounts of water. Too much water doesn't affect ovulation, but if you plan on using a urine-based test, then the water may dilute the hormone levels in your urine. While this is not a big problem with the test kits mentioned in this article, it may cause lesser sensitive test kits to give you inaccurate readings. As such, minimize your water intake 2-3 hours before the test.
  • Taking the test early in the morning. While pregnancy tests are recommended to be performed in the morning, ovulation tests aren't. Like we said before, there is always some LH in your blood, the levels are just raised around the time of ovulation. Given this, every time you pee, there is a little of the hormone and while sleeping, you don't pee. This means that the levels of the hormone in your urine may get concentrated. Very sensitive kits can detect this concentration and mistakenly label it as a sign of approaching ovulation. While the levels may not be enough to show the soar at the height of ovulation, they may make the tests show that you are a few days from ovulation, yet you are days or weeks away. Take the test later in the day when you've gotten rid of this overnight urine.

Tips for taking ovulation tests the right way

  1. Take the test multiple times. Even in the packaging, most tests are designed to be taken more than once, which ensures that you detect your fertility window the moment it comes and take action right away. It also prevents missed fertility windows that could happen if you take the tests too far between. So, take the test regularly, possibly daily around the time your ovulation usually starts
  2. Track your menstrual cycle. If you aren't keeping track of your cycles, you never know when to take the test and when not to. As such, you use way too many tests when a few would work perfectly and save you the extra bucks.
  3. Take the test at the same time every day. LH levels are not constant in your body, but they are relatively stable at certain times in the day. If you want a consistent reading that will be easy to monitor, take the same test at the same time each day. Just remember not to do it early in the morning after you've woken up.

It takes some effort to get pregnant. However, with an ovulation test, you can take away the guesswork and consequently reduce the number of disappointments that you have to endure.

If you take the test and notice that you are at the height of your fertility window, don't waste time. This is the best time to have intercourse and ensure that you get pregnant.

If after the intercourse, the menstruation never comes, it's time to head over to your chemist and purchase a pregnancy test kit because there is a very high chance that you did it. You are pregnant!

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