Can They Help You Get Pregnant?

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Designed by Viviana Quevedo; Photography by Ekaterina Mutigullina/Getty Images

Does just seeing a baby make you light? Is it hard to walk past a stroller without peeking in to see the little one? If you’re ready to expand your family and want to get pregnant, it can feel like there’s not a month to miss!

Even if you’ve just decided to start trying, every month that goes by without a positive pregnancy test can seem like an eternity as you wonder if and when your family might expand.

If you want to maximize the likelihood of pregnancy, you may be willing to try just about anything! Well, starting with ovulation test strips can help you take control of your fertility.

Ovulation test strips are similar in design to the pregnancy tests found in many convenience and grocery stores. But instead of indicating when you’re pregnant, ovulation test strips indicate your fertile window, so you’ll know when intercourse is most likely to lead to pregnancy.

Like store bought pregnancy tests that detect human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) levels in your urine, ovulation test strips detect luteinizing hormone (LH) in your urine to tell you when you are most likely to conceive. How is this possible? It’s all thanks to an LH surge…

Luteinizing hormone is secreted at low levels throughout your menstrual cycle. However, once a developing egg follicle reaches a certain size, levels increase and an LH surge causes ovulation to occur 24 to 36 hours later. (If you’re wondering about the timeline involved, this surge usually occurs around the midpoint in your cycle.)

So what does it all mean? If you are trying to conceive, ovulation is important as it marks the peak of your fertile window. Once an egg is released from the ovary, it is only viable for 24 hours.

Your best chance of getting pregnant involves unprotected intercourse from 5 days before to 1 day after ovulation. This means by the time you see the LH surge, you are already in the middle of your fertile window.

It is important to note that using ovulation test strips does not guarantee that you will become pregnant. For one, they don’t work for everyone. There are cases (some of which are described below) in which the body has an elevated LH level due to other reasons, and an LH surge will not indicate ovulation.

In addition, ovulation test strips do not test the viability of eggs or sperm, and they do not affect conception. As such, there is no guarantee that if you have sex during an LH surge, you will conceive a healthy baby.

If you’re concerned about whether you’re ovulating—or any other factors affecting your ability to get pregnant—you can talk to your healthcare provider about further testing options.

The different brands of ovulation test strips come with slightly different directions, so it’s important to check the instructions on your particular kit!

In general, you will want to use the ovulation test strips at the same time every day for a few days until you get a positive result. The process is typically a very simple one that involves dipping the test strips in urine and waiting to read the results.

Timing of your cycle

Knowing which days to use your ovulation test strips can be complicated. Because of the cost of test strips, most people don’t want to test every day of the month, so it’s helpful to limit testing to a window of a few days.

If you use test strips and want to skip the math, one option is to use an ovulation calculator app. Just insert some information about your average period and the dates of your last cycle, and please, you will have an estimated ovulation date.

Simply start using your strips a few days before your estimated ovulation date to make sure you don’t miss the LH surge if you have a shorter than usual cycle. With any luck, you’ll be looking at a positive pregnancy test in a few weeks.

Are you curious about the math and want to try to figure it out on your own? Well, in a 28-day cycle, ovulation usually occurs about 14 days after the first day of your last period, and your LH surge usually occurs 1 or 2 days before that. In this case you will start testing around day 10.

If your cycle is shorter or longer, you will need to adjust the center point. You should start testing at least 3 to 4 days before your estimated ovulation date to catch the surge.

Read the test

If you use basic test strips, you will see two lines. One line is the control line. This is just to let you know that the test is working properly. The other line is the test line. You can tell that LH is rising when this second line is as dark or darker than the control line.

If you use an ovulation test with a digital display, a design will appear on the screen indicating whether you have entered your fertile window.

When your test looks positive, you’ll know that your LH surge is happening and that your fertile window is in the next 24 to 48 hours.

Keep in mind that you can get a positive result on your test for a few days, so if your first day of testing is positive, you may want to test a day or two earlier next month to ensure you get the start of your LH surge. As mentioned earlier, your fertile window starts a few days before the surge, so knowing when it happens can help pinpoint your timing.

There are many different types of ovulation test strips – and a range of prices to go with them!

More expensive options offer a digital display, and some detect both estrogen and LH. This allows them to detect more fertile days than some of the basic tests.

You’ll spend more money for this information and ease of readability, but the extra information may be worth it if you’ve had trouble conceiving. (You’ll also need to start testing with these digital display options at a different time, so be sure to read the directions carefully!)

At the other end of the cost spectrum, you can buy ovulation test strips online in bulk that will come with limited directions for use. Whether these test strips will work for you depends on your comfort with reading them.

Unlike pregnancy tests, which either show a line or not, you will need to be able to compare the color of the test line to the control line on a basic ovulation test strip. To make it easier, some brands offer an app to track your tests and compare the lines over time.

Read more about the best ovulation tests here.

Ovulation test strips are not suitable for everyone, so it is important to know that you may not want to use them if:

  • You have extremely irregular cycles (Trying to figure out when to use them can be frustrating and can add up.)
  • You have polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) (Many women with PCOS have persistently elevated levels of LH, so ovulation tests will register false positives.)
  • You are entering menopause (like PCOS, this can lead to consistently elevated levels of LH.)

Once baby fever hits, it can be hard to wait! If you don’t want to waste any time getting pregnant, current medical technology can certainly increase the likelihood of your wish coming true. However, before moving on to more invasive procedures, you may want to consider trying ovulation test strips.

Ovulation test strips cannot guarantee pregnancy, but they can help you know what your fertile days are. If you are not a good candidate for ovulation strips or if you need additional help, talk to your medical provider. They may use blood tests to determine your fertile period, or may even do a transvaginal ultrasound to check your uterus and ovaries.

Also, don’t be afraid to talk to your provider if you notice that you are unable to conceive after 6 months of trying (if you are 35 or older), or for more than 1 year (if you are under 35 years old). Your doctor can offer further help or refer you to a fertility specialist.

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