Find out whether an ovulation test strip, (or ovulation predictor kit,) might be able to help when you’re trying to get pregnant. Learn more about how they work, including why they can help you narrow down the days where it’s best to have sex for getting pregnant.
What are ovulation test strips?
An ovulation test can help you identify the most fertile days during your monthly cycle – including the 2 days before ovulation when sex is more likely to lead to pregnancy.
You don’t have to schedule sex to get pregnant, though it will likely take longer this way. If you go to your doctor for a fertility test, they’ll be able to tell you the days that are most likely to end in a pregnancy.
One of the reasons for this is because you and your partner have busy schedules or already have children, which puts a strain on your ability to do this.
You want to become pregnant, and you and your doctor have decided to try artificial insemination.
An ovulation predictor kit can help you predict when you’re about to ovulate. Visit any drugstore or grocery store for over-the-counter access, as well as online, where they’re usually sold.
How do ovulation kits work?
There are two types of ovulation kits.
These tests look for an increase in Luteinizing Hormone (LH) which usually happens soon before ovulation. It’s natural to have a small amount of LH hormone in all bodily fluids, but the level will go up about 2-5x as much before you ovulate. A test stick usually shows a positive result about 24 to 36 hours before your egg is released, so plan to have sex (or be inseminated) during that window if you want to maximize your chances of getting pregnant.
Salivary ferning kits
Salivary ferning kits show you when ovulation is imminent by showing changes in your saliva. The salt content of your saliva will increase in the days before ovulation starts because of estrogen-related hormonal changes. If you put a drop of spit on the slide, the salt may dry and crystallize into a fern-like pattern. This pattern should be visible with a pocket-sized microscope. It is safe to say that ovulation will happen within the next few days (though you may see a pattern like this for up to two days after ovulation).
How do I use ovulation test strips?
Check that you have read and followed the instructions when installing or using your kit.
With either type of OPK, you’ll need to figure out which day of your cycle to start testing. Some kits suggest that you count back 18 days from the day you expect your next period. If you have a 28-day cycle, you should start testing on day 10 of your menstrual cycle, 10 days after the period started. Keep testing until you get an accurate result.
Using a urine-based OPK
Urine-based OPKs produce five to 20 days’ worth of test sticks. A one-time application of the test is done by holding the stick in your urine stream or dipping it into a cup full of urine. The pink or purple band on a pregnancy test indicates a positive result. The farther the pink/purple band is from the test lines, the greater chance of being pregnant.
Try to collect your urine at the exact same time every day for best results, but follow the instructions as written by your kit for this as well.
Drink less fluids in the 2 hours before a drug test. Too much fluid dilutes your urine, which will make it harder for the lab to detect a new intake of drugs.
Wait at least 10 minutes to read your results. A positive result will stay as such, but a negative result may later produce a faint second line that is usually inconspicuous.
Using a salivary ferning OPK
Before you eat or drink anything, please use a finger or lick the slide and coat it with some saliva. Run your finger along the length of the slide coating it with your saliva and make sure there are no air bubbles in the sample.
These instructions describe the steps to identify the presence of ferning. To start this process, wait until saliva on your microscope slide is dry and then use the microscope to view whether there are any crystals present. If you see ferning, compare it against examples in these instructions to figure out what you see.
How accurate are ovulation kits?
Urine-based luteinizing hormone (LH) tests are more accurate than salivary ferning kits, but they’re not always 100% reliable. Follow the instructions on your kit carefully for the most accurate results. We recommend using the test at the time of day specified. It’s important to also read results within the timing window specified.
And as LH can be released without an egg, these tests cannot confirm that you have ovulated.
Most importantly, make sure you don’t use a sperm sample from a previous cycle to avoid pregnancy. You won’t know when you ovulate or when your fertile window is closed for that cycle.
Salivary ferning tests are less accurate than urine tests. They may detect ovulation 6 days before it happens. If you’re taking Clomid (Clomiphene), the ferning stage may happen at any time in the menstruation cycle.
If you have poor eyesight, it might be difficult to know if the ferning has happened on the test slide. If this is the case, salivary devices might not be for you.
If you’re taking Clomid or other LH/HCG drugs, salivary and urine testing may not be accurate. Be sure to ask your provider before using these tests.
This is less of a concern for women who are nearing menopause or have PCOS.
How much do ovulation predictor kits cost?
Urine-based OPKs cost between $20 and $50 and contain between 5 and 20 test sticks. Most brands offer the same level of reliability, so pick the one that offers you the most (test sticks) for your money.
Once you’ve detected your surge, you can stop testing during that cycle and save any unused pregnancy test sticks for the following month (unless you have another positive result).
Saliva-based ovulation tests might be a better choice. After the initial investment of about $30 for a microscope, you should be able to use them each time you need to take a test. If conception takes a long time or you plan to get pregnant more than once, we advise replacing the kit after about two cycles using it.