Most of us spend the majority of our young womanhood avoiding our monthly cycle. But everything we’ve ever known about Aunt Flo and her monthly visit totally changes the second we start trying to conceive. All of a sudden, knowing when she’s due to arrive is paramount for predicting just when we’re most fertile. That’s because ovulation occurs approximately 12-14 days after your last period and before your next. This window of time that you can technically get pregnant, known as the ovulation window, is surprisingly short — lasting around 3-5 days on average.
While most women with regular cycles (a period occurring every 28 days, plus or minus seven days) can ballpark when they’re going to ovulate, it’s possible to miss the window, given its short, not always timely nature. That’s where ovulation tests and predictor kits really come in handy. Often through a urine sample, they detect a hormone called LH, or luteinizing hormone, which surges at the peak of ovulation.
How do ovulation tests work?
“Every month, at the start of your cycle (counted as cycle day 1 from the first day of full flow), you have a group of resting ‘follicles’ in the ovaries, or tiny sacks of fluid that house a resting egg,” explains Anate Brauer, MD, a reproductive endocrinologist at the Greenwich Fertility and IVF Centers and assistant professor of OB/GYN at NYU School of Medicine. “If you have regular cycles, your brain kicks into gear and makes a hormone called FSH, Follicle Stimulating Hormone, which then stimulates one of these follicles to grow and the egg inside to mature.” As this follicle grows and the egg matures, it produces the hormone estrogen, which tells the brain to stop making FSH and start making a different hormone called LH, luteinizing hormone, AKA the marker ovulation kits look for in the urine.
What types of ovulation tests are available?
Tina Koopersmith, MD, REI, reproductive endocrinologist, gynecologist, fertility specialist and the founder of the West Coast Women’s Reproductive Center in Southern California, prefers the kits that show two lines rather than the newer more digitized versions. “The lines help us be more aware of the changes as they are happening,” she explains. “With these kits, a woman sees the subtle changes, while with digitized kits, she would just have days and days of high and no peak and the cycle might be missed or wasted.” Some women prefer the digital kits, which track and chart more information and can provide a more thorough and accurate picture of their cycle and ovulation trends.
Whether you’re trying for baby #1, #2, or #5, here are the best of the best ovulation kits to help you get pregnant ASAP.
BEST FOR TYPE-A PERSONALITIES
While some old-school ovulation tests will have you simply pee on a stick and call it a day, Clearblue Connected Ovulation Test System goes the extra mile by showing instant results on their Clearblue® Connected app, which also reminds users of when they should test and keeps a record of all their results (last period, last time they had sex, etc.). It even sends a reminder for when they should take their pregnancy test. Talk about making life simple.
MOST STRAIGHT-FORWARD RESULTS
First Response Ovulation Tests predicts your two most fertile days each month, helping you pinpoint exactly when you should be trying to conceive. It does this by detecting the luteinizing hormone (LH) surge in your urine and translating the results into an easy-to-read format — either “YES+” or “NO+” — in just minutes. Naturally, if you’re using an ovulation kit, you’re likely following it up with a pregnancy test in two weeks, First Response includes one!
BEST FOR CONFIRMING OVULATION
Utilizing urine progesterone test strips, Proov rapid response gives women the 411 on their monthly cycles. While other ovulation tests only measure hormones in the first half of the menstrual cycle that are predictive of ovulation (LH, FSH, and estrogen), Proov tests provide a more complete picture by including the measurement of progesterone, a hormone critical to conception and pregnancy. It’s also the only hormone used by fertility docs to confirm that ovulation has, in fact, occurred.
BEST FOR LONG-TERM TRACKING
If you’re hoping to track your ovulation for several months, this is the kit for you. It contains 40 ovulation test strips along with 10 early-detection pregnancy test strips. These FDA-approved test strip duo (includes both ovulation and pregnancy tests) are the same ones used in most clinics and doctors’ offices made by fertility market giant Fairhaven Health. The tests are pretty self-explanatory — simply dip the strip into the urine (be it a cup or stream) for 5 seconds, lay the test on a flat surface and check the results in as little as 10 minutes.
BEST FOR IRREGULAR CYCLES
Unlike other ovulation predictor kits, OvuSense monitors fertility by observing your body temperature while you’re fast asleep. It’s a vaginal sensor (worn like a tampon) that syncs right to your smartphone, taking multiple readings throughout the night. While it’s great for women with normal cycles, it can be particularly beneficial for women with PCOS who may find it challenging to determine their ovulation window through traditional tests.
BEST SALIVA TEST
This ovulation test is unique in that it uses saliva instead of urine to determine your most fertile days. It features a special telescope with an LED light that tracks ovulation via a fern-like pattern. Saliva testing is relatively new to the U.S. but has proved to be promising and relatively easy compared to other types of testing. A big plug is its reusability: Users have the freedom to test multiple times, and countless days in a row, giving them a clearer picture of their cycle’s progression.
BEST BUDGET-SAVVY TEST
There are no hidden tricks involved when it comes to how this ovulation test works. It’s the same paper strip that you pee on, but it reveals your results in 5 minutes compared to the 10 it takes for some competitors. The test line simply has to be darker than the control line and, if so, it signals that you’re ovulating in the next 24 to 48 hours. Pretty simple! The kit comes with 50 strips, so it’s great for testing over the course of several months.
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