There is a growing demand for effective fertility monitoring. Some women spend a lot of time trying to understand their ovulation in order to get pregnant, others simply want to understand how their body works better. In this article we describe how ovulation tests can actually help you monitor your fertility and what to watch out for.
What exactly is an ovulation test?
Ovulation tests are also known as OPKs (Ovulation Predictor Kit). The basic tests in this field measure the increase in your Luteinizing Hormone (LH) which typically occurs before ovulation and triggers it. Most kits come with test strips to measure the concentration of this hormone in your urine in order to tell you when your ovulation is approaching.
The standard test strips usually have two lines: One is the control line, which tells you that the test kit is working. The second line is the test line. You can tell that your LH level rises when the test line is similar in color to the control line or darker. If you’re trying to conceive, this is one of the easiest ways to determine the best time to have sex to increase your chances of getting pregnant.
There are many different kinds of ovulation tests- some are more advanced and some are basic like the ones described above. The key question you need to ask yourself here is, how easy and how transparent you want to handle reading and saving your test results.
Simple ovulation tests are usually just hormone test strips with which you can measure your Luteinizing Hormone (LH) concentration in urine. Since it can be hard to accurately read those test strips with the human eye, many women prefer digital solutions, but it can be hard to separate the wheat from the chaff if you don’t know what to look out for.
Debunking “digital” OPKs
While some OPKs may claim they are digital, in reality they are not really digital at all: Many ovulation tests that are advertised as fertility monitors or connected ovulation test systems are simply holders with batteries you can put test strips into. They then tell you via bluetooth or on the holder directly whether you are fertile or not, but might not give you any more insight than that. There’s also a difference on how they depict that you’re fertile: Some choose to do so through smiley faces, others simply through displaying “fertile” or “not fertile”.
High hormones don’t necessarily mean high fertility
Another thing you want to look out for when buying an OPK is which and how many hormones it tests and also how often. As mentioned earlier, many ovulation tests, no matter if digital or not, solely focus on your Luteinizing Hormone (LH) and its surge. While this hormone is indeed important when it comes to ovulation, there are also other hormones that can give indications about the timing of ovulation even if they are not surging. Your Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH) for example, typically decreases a few days before ovulation. So by only testing LH and solely relying on OPKs which focus on the surge in this hormone, you might actually miss some days of your fertile window- because even if no increase in LH is getting detected yet, you can already be fertile.
What to look out for when buying OPKs
Here’s our ultimate guide to buying ovulation tests, to make sure you get what you are looking for:
Check how “digital” they actually are
When looking for a true digital OPK, it is important to look at the actual technology behind it. How does it digitize your test results? How does it depict them? How transparent does it show you your cycle data and how many days of your cycle does it include in its calculations?
We recommend OPKs with colorimetric digitization technology. Here the technology of the OPK reads the lines of your hormone test strips thoroughly through the lens of your smartphone camera and shows you the analyzed result right away on your phone, instead of merely showing you a blinking smiling face. Now that's what we call digital!
Check how many hormones they measure
Many OPKs only take your Luteinizing Hormone (LH) into account. This can lead to you missing essential fertile days though. Because even though your Luteinizing Hormone spikes around 24h before ovulation, you’re fertile for more days even before that surge. That whole fertile phase is also known as your fertile window.
We recommend OPKs which look at more than just LH: Ovulation tests that look at your Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH) as well, can actually help you identify more fertile days. Since FSH typically decreases a few days before ovulation, OPKs which measure this hormone can actually predict your ovulation up to 6 days in advance. This gives you the possibility to increase your chances to conceive or to be able to get an even clearer picture of your fertility.
Check how many days of your cycle they take into account
In order to have a full picture of your fertility and your cycle it is important to measure on more days than just your fertile ones. Many OPKs only want you to measure on days where it’s statistically likely that you’re fertile though. This actually decreases your cycle insight and your chances of conceiving drastically, since your individual cycle doesn’t get taken into account- even though every cycle and every woman is different.
We recommend OPKs with which you can start measuring your hormones as early as cycle day 2 so you can be sure to never miss your fertile days- and by that we mean all of your fertile days!
Tips for using ovulation tests correctly
No matter which method you choose, it is always important to measure your hormones in first morning urine or in the urine after your longest and deepest sleep. This is because the metabolites of the hormones you are testing accumulate during your deep sleep phases.
It’s also helpful to stick to one brand during your measuring cycle, since many tests work differently. If you for example start using Clearblue at the beginning of your cycle but then change to Cyclotest, your results might be confusing and could decrease your chances of accurately detecting your fertile window since these two brands have a different method of detecting your fertile days. What you can do of course is to use several brands simultaneously, compare their effectiveness and then choose for yourself which method works best for you.
If you don’t have a solution which tells and reminds you when to test and if you want to test more times per day, we recommend to do that at the same time each day. If you want to find out more about the best time to take an ovulation test you can read more about it here.
No matter which method you choose, Pearl Fertility is always here to help you make the most out of your cycle!
The Pearl Gazette
Hormones & Cycles