The definitive guide to ovulation tests

The definitive guide to ovulation tests

Molly Soloff
11 minute read

From TV commercials to sex ed to personal stories, everyone is aware of pregnancy tests. However, not everyone knows what an ovulation test is or that it can be helpful to anyone, whether they are trying to conceive or not.  

Ovulation tests can tell you a lot about your body, fertility, and menstrual cycle. Like did you know that we tend to feel more energetic and experience a higher sex drive during ovulation?

This is a guide for all things about ovulation tests, including when, how, and why you should use them. 

What IS ovulation? 

Ovulation is the release of an egg from one of your ovaries that is then available to be fertilized. You’re most fertile during this window of our cycle. If you are trying to get pregnant, ovulation would be the point in your cycle to have sex that gives you the highest likelihood of conceiving. Alternately, it is the best time to abstain from sex if you are not ready to get pregnant or use a form of contraception like a condom. Ovulation usually occurs in the middle of the menstrual cycle, but ovulation can vary from month to month depending on your cycle. You may even have the odd cycle where you don’t ovulate at all. It can take a few cycles to understand your body and cycle to know exactly when you ovulate. 

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What is an ovulation test?

If you’re not sure what an ovulation test is or why you should take one, you’re not alone! Many people don’t know a lot about these tests and why they are so helpful. 

Ovulation tests tell you, well, when you are ovulating. They let you know when you are in your fertile window, and therefore most likely to get pregnant. Just like a pregnancy test, ovulation tests detect a hormone in your pee. The hormone that ovulation tests detect is called LH, or the luteinizing hormone. The test measures for high levels of LH, which surges 24-48 hours before you ovulate. When the ovulation test detects a surge, it will display a positive result. This means that ovulation will likely happen in the next 24-48 hours, and you will be most fertile in that window. 

Why should you take an ovulation test?

There are only a few days in each menstrual cycle when you can get pregnant, which is why it’s important to understand when you are ovulating and know your most fertile days. If you are trying to get pregnant, ovulation tests can increase your chances of conception by telling you when you are most fertile. On the flip side, if you are not trying to get pregnant, knowing when you’re most fertile can help you cycle track or let you know if you need to use a secondary form of birth control. 

If you’re anything like us, you hate being caught off guard by your period. While predicting your period has been made possible by menstruation tracking apps, taking an ovulation test can help you predict even further into the future. Ovulation happens when an egg is released from your ovaries, and menstruation is the bleeding that comes after. So, no better way to prepare for your period than by finding out when you’re ovulating. 

Along with taking ovulation tests, we recommend using an ovulation calendar to help you keep track of your ovulation.

What do ovulation tests measure?

Estrogen levels rise in your body the days before a surge of LH (luteinizing hormone) and help you prepare for ovulation. This rise of estrogen indicates that you are entering your high fertility window, which normally lasts four or more days. Your peak fertile days coincide with a surge of LH, as your LH signals to the ovary to release an egg. Ovulation tests measure for high levels of LH in your urine. 

How soon after ovulation can you take a pregnancy test?

If you’re one of those people who just can’t wait, technically the earliest you can take a pregnancy test is seven to ten days after ovulation — traces of hCG start showing up in your pee about 10 days after the egg is fertilized. That means a woman could get a positive result on a pregnancy test several days before she expects her period to start. 

Is ovulation unpredictable after stopping hormonal birth control?

Ovulation typically resumes two to three weeks after you stop taking the pill. It may take longer if you are older or have been on the pill for a very long time, and, in some cases, ovulation may not become predictable again for a few months. Like everything related to the menstrual cycle, returning to predictable ovulation after quitting birth control varies from person-to-person.

How do you take an ovulation test?

Taking an ovulation test is easy! All you have to do is pee on the stick and wait 10 minutes for the result to appear(it’s just like taking a pregnancy test). It’s best to take an ovulation test mid-day and around the same time each day. 

We made clear, jargon-free instructions with easy-to-read line tests so you can test without a doubt.

How do you read an ovulation test?

There are three possible results you can get when you take an ovulation test. If your ovulation test result is negative ( no LH surge is detected), only the control line will appear on the test or the test line will appear lighter than the control line. If your ovulation test result is positive ( ovulation will likely occur in the next 24-48 hours), both the test line and the control line will be visible and the test line will be darker than or equal to the control line. Finally, your result could be invalid, meaning there is no distinct pink-purple line visible both in the TEST area and the CONTROL area. Take another test if this happens!

Will an ovulation test be positive if you're pregnant?

Ovulation tests detect LH, which is similar to hCG (human Chorionic Gonadotropin) that pregnancy tests detect. If you’re pregnant, you might get a faintly positive result on an 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 rise throughout your pregnancy. Because of this, it is best to just use an ovulation test to predict ovulation, and a pregnancy test to detect pregnancy. 

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What should you do if you don't get a positive ovulation test result for a while?

If you keep getting a negative result from your ovulation tests, it is best to consult your primary care provider. There are many factors that can affect your menstrual cycle and when you ovulate. Try your best to stay positive and hopeful! 

When should you take an ovulation test?

Ovulation is not like clockwork, so figuring out how to track it can be difficult. While predicting your period has been made possible by menstruation tracking apps, taking an ovulation test can help you predict even further into the future. 

Ovulation happens once a month and only for a 12-24 hour window, sometime in the middle of your menstrual cycle. Think of your usual cycle length, AKA the number of days from the first day of your last period to the start of your next period (period tracking apps are a great way to get this info). Based on this number, refer to the chart to determine your best day to test. For example, if your cycle is usually 28 days and the first day of your last period started on the 7th, you should start testing on the 18th.  In other words, if you have a 28-day cycle, you should start testing around day 10 or 11 to make sure you’re catching ovulation. If your cycle is irregular, use the midway point of your shortest cycle within the last 6 months and start testing there. 

Like pregnancy tests, ovulation tests should be taken in the morning. Ovulation tests work by detecting a surge in the luteinizing hormone, LH, which has the highest concentration levels in the morning before you drink any water. LH is important here as it helps control the menstrual cycle and triggers ovulation. This being said, sometimes it takes a few hours for ovulation tests to be able to detect LH, so take another test later in the day if you suspect you might be ovulating. This LH surge usually happens 12-36 hours before ovulation, so once your test is positive you should ovulate within that window. What’s most important is that you’re testing around the same time every day. The more you test, the more likely you are to accurately predict ovulation. 

Can there be false ovulation test results?

Ovulation test results show if your hormones are at the right level for ovulation. These results are generally 97% accurate, but can be less reliable if you have irregular periods, health conditions like PCOS, or take certain medications. 

An ovulation test has a “false result” when it indicates you are ovulating even though you are not or you are ovulating even though you are not. If you never get a positive result from an ovulation test, you could be testing too early or too late in your cycle. Testing more frequently can help you better understand your cycle and fertility window. Ovulation is a very short window of your menstrual cycle, so understanding your cycle holistically makes it easier to know when you are most fertile.

You may be worried that the results of your pregnancy or ovulation test are unreliable. While inaccurate results happen, understanding how the test works and using them properly make them more reliable. Stix helps our community avoid false results by providing simple instructions and clear results without evaporation lines. 

What affects ovulation?

Many factors can affect if and when you are ovulating. Stress, for example, can affect your whole menstrual cycle, making your fertility window irregular. Additionally, negative sleeping habits can take a toll on your ovulation cycle. 

How does ovulation affect your mood?

Have you ever had to miss out on something because your cramps were so bad? Or break out with acne at the most inconvenient time thanks to your period? This can be due to what phase of your menstrual cycle you are in.  The menstrual cycle has four phases: menstrual, follicular, ovulation, and luteal. Each phase affects your mental and emotional state due to your changing hormones. 

"[During ovulation], you feel more energy, more sex-drive, and often notice more cervical mucus," explains Dr. Hal Danzer, M.D., a reproductive endocrinologist and co-founder of Southern California Reproductive Center. "The chemistry of your body is preparing for reproduction, so it makes sense that chemically you start feeling more inclined to have sex."

How does hormonal birth control affect ovulation?

Many people rely on hormonal birth control and it can have a huge impact on your body because it is changing your hormones. These effects include changing your metabolism, altering your sex drive, or impacting your emotions. 

Hormonal birth control includes two hormones, estrogen and/or progestin. These two hormones play an essential role in the regulation of your ovulation cycle and reproductive system. With estrogen and progestin combined birth control, no ovulation occurs. Ovulation is still likely to occur with progestin-only birth control options. 

You can read more about how hormonal birth control works here

At Stix, we believe you deserve a better experience buying pregnancy and ovulation tests. If you want to give ovulation tests a try, check out Stix ovulation tests. They are over 99% accurate with FDA-cleared technology, coming in a pack of seven for a one-month supply. We made clear, jargon-free instructions and easy-to-read line tests with quick results so you can test without a doubt. 

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