If you love kids and have been trying to get pregnant for a while, it’s important to know when you ovulate. This matters because you can significantly increase your chances of getting pregnant by identifying the “fertile window” in your cycle.
But how can you tell when you’re ovulating so that you can get the timing right? Although many methods to detect ovulation are available, including the basal body temperature method, calendar method, and cervical mucus method, these are mostly based on identifying the physical signs of your body and can be influenced by other factors. Comparatively, ovulation test kits are a more precise and reliable method of telling when you’re ovulating because they involve a testing kit.
Read on to learn more about when to take ovulation tests, how they work, how to interpret the faint lines on ovulation test results, and more.
What Is an Ovulation Test?
You can use ovulation testing kits at home to determine exactly when you’re ovulating. These test kits contain strips that test the hormone levels in your urine to assess whether you’re ovulating. These kits are convenient to use and can help you identify your fertile window.
Although the kit doesn’t guarantee you'll get pregnant, it places the odds in your favor by telling you exactly when you should try to conceive.
These testing kits are easily available from different brands in the family planning section of your local convenience or drug store. They’re usually near the home pregnancy tests.
When to Take an Ovulation Test
Understanding your menstrual cycle can be challenging. But accurate knowledge of your monthly (28-day) cycle can help you save money and the effort of randomly and repeatedly testing, only to receive negative results.
Here’s a simple way to understand how your menstrual cycle works. Your period usually lasts for three to four days. Once you’re done with your period (menstrual phase), your ovaries start preparing a new ovum (egg) for release during ovulation.
Midway through the cycle (i.e., around the 14-day mark), luteinizing hormone levels in your body suddenly rise and signal to the ovary to release the egg for fertilization in the uterus. This process of egg release is called ovulation. If a sperm fertilizes the egg, it results in conception. But after ovulation, the egg remains viable only for a day or so if it doesn’t get fertilized.
The fertile window usually includes the days just before, the day of, and the day after ovulation. This means that you can begin testing around day 10 or 11 of your cycle. If your cycle is shorter or longer than the usual 28 days, you may want to consider the midpoint as the ovulation day and adjust your testing days accordingly. If you have irregular cycles, use the shortest cycle dates to estimate your ovulation day.
If you’d like to skip this math, you could download an app that keeps track of your period dates and calculates your ovulation dates for you based on the average length of your cycle.
How Does an Ovulation Test Work?
Ovulation test strips measure the luteinizing hormone levels in your urine to determine whether you’re ovulating. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to take the test:
- Before you begin, always read the package instructions carefully. Most testing kits will explain when the ideal time is to start testing.
- Unwrap the testing strip (or stick) and take off the cap to expose the absorbent end (tip).
- Insert the stick into the test holder until it clicks into place. Begin testing when the test-ready symbol appears.
- Either pee on the absorbent tip for 5 to 7 seconds or pee in a cup and dip the stick in urine for 15 seconds.
- Leave the tip pointing downward for 20 to 40 seconds until the test-ready symbol flashes. Replace the cap and wipe off the extra urine.
- The test results are usually available within 3 to 5 minutes. Check the box for instructions on exactly how long you need to wait before reading the results, as this may vary a little across brands.
- If no result appears after 10 minutes, you may need to retake the test.
How to Read Ovulation Test Results
Most ovulation test strips have two faint lines. The first line is called the control line. The purpose of this line is just to let you know whether the test strip is working correctly. It doesn’t reflect your ovulation status at all.
The second line is called the test line. This line is the actual indicator of your ovulation status. If the test line is as dark as or darker than the control line, this means that the luteinizing hormone levels in your body are higher than usual and you’re probably ovulating or about to begin ovulating.
If the test line is lighter in color than the control line, this means that your luteinizing hormone levels are too low and you haven’t begun ovulating yet.
Many different types of ovulation testing kits are available. Some testing kits may display yes/no or smileys in the result window, making them easier to interpret than the testing strips with two lines. If you’re using a digital testing kit or an app, it may even display your luteinizing hormone levels on previous days, giving you a clearer idea of how close you are to ovulation.
Once you obtain a positive result, your results are likely to remain positive for a few days, which can help you pinpoint the days on which the luteinizing hormone surge occurs. In the coming month, you can then begin testing a few days earlier, as the fertile window begins a few days before the rise in luteinizing hormone levels.
Through trial and error, you’ll be able to track your entire cycle accurately, thus maximizing your chances of conception.
Do Ovulation Tests Always Work?
Ovulation testing kits may not be fully effective if you:
- Have polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), because your luteinizing hormone levels might be constantly elevated in this condition, leading to a false positive result
- Are menopausal, because your luteinizing hormone levels are also elevated in this stage, making the test results seem falsely positive
- Have irregular menstrual cycles, because you may find it difficult to judge when to take the test, and it might work out to be quite expensive to keep taking the test based on guesswork, especially when you’re unsure of your period dates
- Are taking infertility drugs, because they can affect your hormone levels
The Bottom Line
Even after you’ve made the decision to have a baby and start trying to get pregnant, conception may not happen immediately. Getting pregnant in the shortest amount of time and with the least amount of frustration requires proper planning and calculation.
Ovulation testing kits may be a great investment at this time to get the timing right and drastically increase your chances of conception. But if you still can’t conceive after trying for a long time, consider visiting a fertility specialist. Don’t hesitate to speak to your health care provider about any questions or concerns.