The ovulation test: the essentials to know
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The ovulation test: the essentials to know

An ovulation test is a tool that allows women to know the best time to conceive a child. Among the various methods to detect this key day of fertility, ovulation tests appear to be the most reliable.

Here’s everything you need to know about the reliability of the ovulation test and how to interpret the results.

What is ovulation testing?

The ovulation test is a test that detects its ovulation date. This is an important parameter to know to optimize your chances of pregnancy or when pregnancy is delayed.

In each cycle, the woman is fertile for only a few days, 3-4 days before ovulation and the day of ovulation. Determining its ovulation date, therefore, makes it possible to identify its maximum fertility period or fertilization window. Thus, it is possible to schedule sexual intercourse at the right time.

How does an ovulation test work?

Ovulation tests are available over the counter in pharmacies and on the internet. They come in the form of strips or sticks on which the woman deposits a few drops of urine, preferably at the same time of day.

If there has been no nighttime urination, avoid taking the morning urine test. Very concentrated, they could give a false positive.

The test will consist of detecting, in this urine sample, the luteinizing hormone (LH) and more precisely the LH peak. This hormone is produced in greater quantities 24 to 36 hours before ovulation: from less than 10 IU/ml at the beginning of the cycle to nearly 70 IU/ml at the time of the ovulatory peak. It is this rise in LH that will trigger ovulation.

When to do the ovulation test?

It is not necessary to perform an ovulation test every day of the cycle, it is useless and would be expensive.

To choose the start date of use of the test, doctors recommend subtracting 16 to 18 days from the duration of the cycle. For a 28-day cycle, we will start the tests on the 10th. day (28-18), 10 days after the start of menstruation.

If no ovulation has been detected after 10 days of testing, it is advisable to repeat the tests in the next cycle starting two days earlier.

Depending on your cycles, the ovulation test should be done at different times:

  • in the case of variable cycles, it is preferable to rely on the shorter one and start the tests earlier so as not to miss ovulation;
  • In case of cycles are very long (more than 40 days), very short (less than 22 days), or irregular: it is recommended to use another method, such as the temperature curve to check in the first place that there is ovulation.

Interpreting ovulation test results

Positive ovulation test

When the test is positive, that is to say when it has detected the rise of LH, a small colored bar or a smiley (on a digital screen) appears depending on the model. This means that ovulation will occur 24 to 48 hours later. This is the perfect time to schedule your sexual intercourse in order to get pregnant.

If after three months of ovulation tests, no ovulation has ever been detected, it is advisable to consult in order to make additional examinations. These examinations will diagnose and manage possible dysovulation (poor quality ovulation) or anovulation (absence of ovulation).

Is the ovulation test reliable?

Easy to use, ovulation tests have the advantage of being predictive.

Ovulation tests make it possible to know the date of ovulation 24 to 48 hours in advance, and therefore to schedule sexual intercourse accordingly. Unlike the method of temperature curves, which detects the ovulation period only a posteriori, that is to say, once ovulation has passed, and thus the fertile period ended.

The threshold of detection of urinary LH varies from one brand to another, with a sensitivity ranging from 25 to 40 mIU/ml depending on the model. The brands advertise a 98 to 99% confidence rate in detecting the LH peak, not in achieving pregnancy. Indeed, the technical reliability of the ovulation test does not guarantee the occurrence of a pregnancy.

A young couple, without fertility problems, nevertheless has a 15 to 20% chance of pregnancy even having had sex at the best time of the cycle.

False positive ovulation test

Some parameters can interfere with the results and give “false positives”:

  • hormonal treatment (ovulation inducer in particular);
  • ectopic pregnancy;
  • an ovarian cyst;
  • polycystic ovary syndrome
  • early ovarian failure
  • hypothyroidism

Ovulation tests are still the most reliable method compared to natural methods such as the temperature curve and the observation of cervical mucus.

Image Credit: Photo by Nataliya Vaitkevich from pexels.com

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