Ovulation tests might sound like an overly medicalised method of discerning the opportune moment to have sex, if a baby is on your agenda. But, real talk: when it comes to maximising your conception chances, they're worth having in your locker.
Of course, there are ovulation test-free ways to deduce when it's go time. Your discharge is a key – stretchy, and egg white-like indicates that you're in your fertile window; while a slight drop in temperature of just under a degree is normal at this time. Some women get a pain in their stomach as well. But these are tricky to measure will always require a degree of educated guessing – which is why ovulation tests can be useful.
If you've been trying to conceive for over a year and have had no luck, head to see your GP. If you're over 36 or are aware you might have issues with fertility, go after six months.
How do ovulation tests work?
At-home ovulation tests are available to buy in pharmacies and are usually found sharing a shelf with pregnancy tests. They work by detecting the sharp rise in the level of luteinising hormone (LH) in your urine, which occurs before ovulation. Ovulation tests are easy to use and, satisfyingly, give you results within minutes.
Are at-home ovulation tests accurate?
'Yes – I have always recommended them,' says Professor Joyce Harper, Head of the Reproductive Science and Society Group at UCL Institute. 'I think they are the most reliable way to measure ovulation. Women can also try monitoring cervical mucus and temperature changes, but these are difficult.'
When should I start testing for ovulation?
Ovulation usually happens about 14 days after the first day of your last period. But Prof Harper is keen to stress this is not an exact science. 'Every woman is very individual,' she says. 'It depends on a woman’s cycles. If she is using a good fertility app that can help her understand her cycle and learn about her ovulation – the app will suggest when she should start testing.
'But if she has a regular 28 day cycle, she should start off testing from day nine to 10 onwards. With each month she will get to learn about her cycle and can reduce this.' To manually work out how long your cycle is, note down 'day one' – this is the first day of your period (not just spotting) and record how long it lasts, right up to your new 'day one.'
How long after a positive ovulation test do you ovulate?
You will ovulate within 40 hours of a positive result on an ovulation test, according to Prof Harper. But that doesn’t mean you should wait 40 hours before having sex if you want to conceive – sperm can live inside your body for up to seven days, according to the NHS, so it’s not a bad idea to get down to it before you ovulate.
How long after ovulation can you take a pregnancy test?
Experts recommend waiting 7 days after ovulation to take a pregnancy test for the most accurate results. This is because hCG (a hormone produced by the placenta when an embryo implants in the uterus) may not be detectable by a pregnancy test so soon after conception.
Can I test my fertility at home?
An ovulation test will only tell you when you are likely to ovulate, it will not tell you anything else about your chances of getting pregnant, or how many more ‘fertile years’ you have ahead of you.
Prof Harper advises against trying at-home fertility tests. 'In my view – any [fertility] test at home is pointless,' she says 'They measure a few hormones but these hormones in isolation do not tell you anything.
'Even the tests that fertility clinics do are very controversial. They often also do a scan of the ovaries. I have been to many debates on this and the conclusion is that they pick up a problem in a very small number of women. For the vast majority – whether the test results are good or bad, the advice will normally be that you should try for a pregnancy sooner rather than later. I would be amazed if anyone [offering a test] said that a woman has good fertility and can wait more years to get pregnant.'
It can take time to conceive, even when using ovulation tests, so don’t be overly worried if you don’t get pregnant quickly. In most cases, you need only seek your GP’s advice if you have not conceived after a year of trying. But you should consult your GP sooner if you are aged 36 or over, or if you have another reason to be concerned about your fertility, for example, if you've had treatment for cancer.
What to look for in an ovulation test
There are a few things to consider when shopping for an ovulation test, including your budget, whether you'd favour a test that produces easy-to-read results or one that's more in-depth (and, therefore, complex) and how long you intend to use the ovulation test for.
If you opt for a budget-friendly test that has strips you're limited to how long you can use it (based on the number of strips provided). Whereas a digital ovulation test will, obviously, last much longer.
'I would always recommend going with a well-known brand,' advises Prof Harper. 'But I appreciate there are others that are much cheaper.'
Prices of ovulation tests start from around £5 for a basic set of test strips. These usually require you to dip the strip in a urine sample collected in a container. Coloured lines will then appear on the stick to tell you whether there is a high level of LH in your urine.
Moving up the price scale, you get kits that work more like a pregnancy test, in that they allow you to wee directly onto them, rather than having to collect your urine in a container. These often use graphics to make the results easier to read, for instance, a smiley face may appear if your LH hormone levels are raised.
At the top end of the market are tests that can be connected to an app on your phone via Bluetooth to record your results in a monthly calendar and comparison charts. These cost upwards of £45 and may be useful if you’re charting your cycle over many months.
8 of the best ovulation tests
1. Clearblue Easy Digital Ovulation Test
4.5 star-rated by Amazon shoppers, Clearblue's Easy Digital Ovulation Test does exactly what it says on the tin.
It takes three minutes for results – in the form of a smiley face to indicate that you're at your most fertile – to appear.
There are 20 ovulation tests included, and Clearblue assures 99% accuracy.
2. OvuSense Starter Pack with FREE 2 Months Subscription
OvuSense is a little different from traditional ovulation tests. It is a vaginal sensor, which you insert like a tampon, and which measures your body temperature overnight, to work out when you'll ovulate. You download the data to an app each morning.
The makers say that by doing this, you can predict when you'll ovulate to 99% accuracy.
3. Ava Fertility Tracker
Ava's Fertility Tracker allows you to test for ovulation sans peeing on strips.
Its impressive tech monitors your full fertile window (so, the five days leading up to ovulation), plus things like sleep quality, stress and symptoms.
4. Clearblue Fertility Monitor Advanced
If, as far as you're concerned, the more feedback the better, then Clearblue's Fertility Monitor might be up your alley.
As well as testing your LH levels for ovulation it also provides a fertility rating (low, high, or peak) based on your oestrogen levels.
The monitor walks you through the whole process of fertility and ovulation testing and produces results in around five minutes. You'll need to buy strips seperately.
5. Boots Ovulation Test Kit
Over 99% accurate, Boots' ovulation test is quick and faff-free to use, producing results in three minutes. You also don't need to pee into a container, which is considered a win in our book.
20 tests are included.
6. Femometer Ovulation Test Strips Kit
If we're talking value for money, then Femometer's ovulation test kit is a great choice.
Not only does it come with 50 tests for the modest price of £12.99, but it has a handy app too.
Results take five minutes, and are 99% accurate.
7. Fairhaven Health Fertil Focus Personal Ovulation Microscope
Unlike many other ovulation tests, this one uses saliva to determine ovulation.
Women praise it for its discreet nature (you can pop it in your bag and use it on the go without dashing off for a loo break) and its 98% accuracy.
8. One Step Ovulation Strips
For the budget-conscious, One Step ovulation strips work like a charm.
At under £5 a pop they offer 99% accuracy and a total of 30 tests. A down side is that it takes 10 minutes to get an accurate result.
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