Let's talk about ovulation, when and how to use an ovulation test, and what the results mean.
Ovulation tests. They may sound like they’d require at least three professionals in gloves, those horrible stirrups, and some discomfort. Happily, though, this is one part of the pregnancy process that’s easy to self-administer, and we’ll tell you how, when, and why.
Backing up—remember, ovulation is when your ovaries release an egg, which travels down your fallopian tubes, where it waits for sperm to come and fertilize it (not the most feminist narrative, but here we are). The Natalist Ovulation Test lets you know when you’re going to ovulate, so that you can make sure there it gets a welcoming (or fertilizing) committee.
Right before ovulation is the time to have lots of sex to optimize your chances of getting pregnant. Ovulation tests help you find that ideal fertile time.
What is an ovulation test?
Simply put, an ovulation test is a test that lets you predict when you are going to ovulate. This is important because eggs only live for a short time after they are released—24 hours max. If you’re trying to get pregnant, you want to make sure you have sex before you ovulate to optimize your chances of getting pregnant. Sperm are relatively hearty and can survive for 5-6 days inside the female reproductive tract so if you have sex before ovulation, they’ll stick around waiting for their moment to act.
There are many different types of ovulation tests—tests that you pee on directly, tests that are dipped into a cup of urine, tests that are digital—but they work by the same basic mechanism: by detecting Luteinizing Hormone (LH) in your urine, which your brain makes to tell your ovaries it’s time to release an egg. LH levels surge about 24-48 hours before ovulation—conveniently when you're most likely to get pregnant.
We make easy-to-use, plastic neutral ovulation tests in the form of midstream tests and test strips, so you can choose what feels right for you. And they cost less than what you’ll find at the drugstore.
Learn more about all the different types of ovulation tests out there in our ovulation test cheat sheet guide.
When should I take an ovulation test?
To start, you’ll need to know where you are in your menstrual cycle to figure out when to start testing. There are subtle changes in the body that you can use to detect ovulation, such as cervical mucus or basal body temperature changes. You can also figure out your cycle length exactly by counting the day your period starts (the first day of full menstrual flow) as day one, and continue counting until the day before your next period starts. The total number of days is your cycle length. For most women, this is around 28 days. If your cycle length varies each month by more than three days, choose the shortest cycle you’ve had in the last six months.
To find an exact date to start testing you can either:
- Start testing daily around day 10 to make sure you catch your ovulation, in case you ovulate earlier or later than day 14. We encourage you to use our ovulation tracker to stay on top of when to test.
- Or, you can use the table below to figure out which day of your cycle to start testing.
You’ll want to test for a few days in a row to find your usual LH surge timing. Some women have irregular cycles or ovulate on different days of their cycle each month. Everyone is different— luckily, ovulation tests can help familiarize you with your own body’s variations. Our midstream boxes include seven tests, and our test strips include 30, so you have plenty of tests per cycle.
Still have questions about ovulation, symptoms, or testing? Check out Dr. Naz’s article here.
How do I use an ovulation test?
Follow the instructions on the test. If it’s positive, you’ll ovulate in the next 12-24 hours, and, if you haven’t already, you should start having sex (i.e. the “baby dance”). Remember, the ideal time to have sex for baby-making is five days before ovulation and the day of ovulation (AKA your fertile window)., Testing for ovulation will help you determine the pattern for your typical ovulation day so you can take full advantage of your fertile window every cycle.
A few important things to know before testing:
- Make sure you haven’t urinated for at least two hours.
- Don’t drink a bunch of liquid in the few hours before testing. It can dilute your urine and cause a false-negative result—meaning you could be ovulating but the test will show you’re not.
- Don’t open the wrapper until you’re ready to start testing, and don’t use the test if the wrapper is damaged or torn.
- Don’t touch the test window.
- Don’t urinate on the test window.
Don't forget the fertility lube!
Sperm-friendly lubricants (also known as fertility friendly or TTC lube) are great for couples trying to conceive. Not only do lubricants help reduce friction and make sex more pleasurable, but the right lubricant can make sure that nothing is in the way of sperm meeting egg.
If I'm pregnant, will my ovulation test be positive?
You might’ve read online about women using ovulation tests to test for pregnancy. Ovulation tests detect LH, which is similar to the chemical that pregnancy tests look for, human Chorionic Gonadotropin (hGC). In fact, they bind to the same receptor. If you’re pregnant, you might get a faintly positive ovulation test that’s actually detecting hCG, not LH. This is more likely to be true the further along you are in pregnancy since your levels of hCG in urine will be higher.
Bottom line: use the ovulation tests to predict ovulation and pregnancy tests to detect pregnancy for better accuracy. To make this easier for you, we offer a test pack so you can find your fertile window, and test for pregnancy shortly after.
How accurate are ovulation tests?
When they’re used correctly, ovulation tests are up to 99% effective in detecting LH surges and finding the ideal time to try to conceive.
There are special cases where ovulation tests may not be the best choice for finding your fertile window. If you have polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), primary ovarian insufficiency, or other medical conditions where LH, you are more likely to get a false-positive result, which is when the test falsely detects an LH surge when one is not present. Some women with irregular periods don’t ovulate each cycle, so they won’t see an LH surge in those months. It can take up to 3 months to figure out your own cycle patterns, especially if your cycle is irregular, so hang in there. If you have questions, we urge you to reach out to us. If you’re concerned about your results, talk to your doctor.
- What does a positive midstream ovulation test look like? See actual results from women who have used Natalist Ovulation Tests to get pregnant.
- Want the full scoop? Check out The Ovulation Test Cheat Sheet.
- Learn more about our ovulation test strips here.