How and When Should You Start Testing For Ovulation
Originally published 01/29/2020. Updated for accuracy and relevancy on 08/18/2023.
Here’s a complete guide on how to use an ovulation test, when to take an ovulation test, and how to optimize your chances of getting pregnant.
When should you start testing for ovulation? The process may sound like it’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). Ovulation Test Kits let you know when you’re ovulating so that you can make sure your egg 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 predictor tests help you find that peak fertility time. If you need help narrowing down when your fertile window is, try using the Natalist ovulation calculator.
What’s 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 intercourse 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.
When Should You Start Testing For Ovulation?
When you start tracking ovulation, 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 to determine your most fertile day.  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. If you use our Ovulation Test Kit, it even comes with an ovulation tracker to track results.
- 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. Keep reading to learn more about normal vs. abnormal ovulation.
What Time of Day Is Best To Use an Ovulation Test?
You can test any time of day, but make sure not to test after drinking a lot of fluid because it can dilute your urine. This is why many women prefer to test first thing in the morning when the urine is more concentrated.
How To Take an Ovulation Test
To ensure your fertile window testing goes correctly, 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 ovulation test strip if the wrapper is damaged or torn.
- Don’t touch the test window.
- Don’t urinate on the test window.
Can I Use An Ovulation Test If I Have An Irregular Cycle?
If your cycle length is different month to month by more than three days, choose the shortest cycle you’ve had in the last six months to figure out when to start testing. Another option is to start testing the day after the last day of your period in order to guarantee that you do not miss your LH surge.
Will An Ovulation Test Detect Pregnancy?
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 (hCG). 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.
- Su HW, Yi YC, Wei TY, Chang TC, Cheng CM. Detection of ovulation, a review of currently available methods. Bioeng Transl Med. 2017;2(3):238-246. Published 2017 May 16. doi:10.1002/btm2.10058
- Owen M. Physiological signs of ovulation and fertility readily observable by women. Linacre Q. 2013;80(1):17-23. doi:10.1179/0024363912Z.0000000005
- Casarini L, Lispi M, Longobardi S, et al. LH and hCG action on the same receptor results in quantitatively and qualitatively different intracellular signaling. PLoS One. 2012;7(10):e46682. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0046682