Taking a urine test to detect ovulation (and then having sexual intercourse when you are most fertile) may be successful for some couples looking to conceive, according to recent updates on a Cochrane analysis.
The research showed that the chance of pregnancy using timely intercourse after an ovulation test was between 20% and 28% (compared to 18% in couples who had spontaneous intercourse). But lead author Tatjana Gibbons, a student at Oxford University, said more evidence was needed to know for sure whether there was a correlation between using the tests and a greater likelihood of getting pregnant.
The over-the-counter urine tests predict which days a woman is most likely to release an egg. These fertility tests detect increases in your urine’s luteinizing hormone (LH) and E3G, which are high around the time you ovulate. Based on that, people know when to have intercourse.
The technology is in a series of over-the-counter tests. Dr Gibbons Tells Motherly that the study focused on clearblue ovulation predictor tests. Clearblue did not fund the study.
Some urine tests use the strips in combination with data via an app, so you can track everything on your smartphone and then know when your best fertility window is. Other period-tracking applications simply help you track your menstrual cycle along with other factors and guess when you are most likely to get pregnant. There are also portable devices (and even an in-ear temperature monitor) that can measure a variety of physiological parameters to determine the best times to try to conceive. (Here are our favorites.)
While the urine tests showed some promise in Gibbons’ research, there was not as much evidence on fertility outcomes for other fertility awareness-based contraceptive (FABM) methods such as the use of period tracking applications, calendars, cervical mucus analysis or body temperature devices, Drs. Gibbons noted in a statement.
Dr. Gibbons presented the information in early July at the latest meeting of the European Society for Human Reproduction and Embryology.
Urine-based ovulation tests: What we know
Previous research has found some advantages of using urine-based ovulation tests compared to other methods. There is not much out there in peer-reviewed journals about the effectiveness of other FABM methods, although we do know that some markers may indicate ovulation, such as basal body temperature and hormone fluctuations. By testing your urine, ovulation predictor tests offer something a little more concrete.
A 2019 study found that evaluating your level of urinary progesterone (pregnanediol-3-glucuronide, PDG), after a surge in LH, perfectly predicted ovulation. Urine tests that measure PDG are also already on the market.
Behind the results
The Cochrane analysis involves evaluating the effectiveness of timely intercourse used in conjunction with ovulation detection methods. Researchers looked at digital applications linked to urine monitors, urine ovulation tests and other FABM.
Dr Gibbons’ team reviewed six studies on 2,374 women trying to conceive.
The big find: Taking a urine test to track your best time to ovulate – then having sex during that optimal fertility window – was linked to higher pregnancy rates compared to rates in couples who did not plan when to have intercourse have not. (Kill the spontaneity factor, we know.)
Here is where the data becomes difficult (or in scientific terms, “unconvincing”): It was not clear whether timely association with FABM led to a difference in live birth or pregnancy rates, as those data were only available from two studies which involved only 160. women. The evidence was not exactly solid.
There was an advantage in couples trying to get pregnant for less than 12 months. But there was “insufficient evidence” that the results may be the same for couples who have been trying for more than 12 months.
Data were also insufficient in terms of finding studies that reported on factors such as how long it took to conceive using the ovulation detection and timely coping methods, as well as data on live birth, quality of life and adverse events such as stress.
Just this year, a study was published on the Clearblue Connected Ovulation Test System correlated test use with live birth rate. (Full disclosure: This was funded by the test manufacturer.)
Prediction of fertility
Specifically, Dr Gibbons said she would like to learn more about any adverse effects of timely intercourse and its effectiveness in different groups, such as people with unexplained infertility. It must be in place before doctors promote the practice. She would also like to see more research on the use of fertility awareness-based methods (FABM), she said in a statement.
To sum it up, ovulation predictor tests can be a great way to track down your optimal fertility window. Of course, there are no guarantees that it will lead to fertilization. Still, for those who use the tests and hope to get pregnant, it may offer a glimmer of hope with at least some data to back it up.
Bouchard, T., Fehring, R., Schneider, M. Pilot evaluation of a new urine progesterone test to confirm ovulation in women using a fertility monitor. Boundaries in Public Health. 2019. 7: 184. doi: 10.3389 / fpubh.2019.00184
Johnson, S., Bond, S., Grace, B., et al. Increased chance of live birth after using coupled ovulation test system: Outcome results of a randomized controlled trial. Women’s health reports. 2022.60-66. doi: 10.1089 / whr.2021.0102
Manders M, McLindon L, Schulze B, Beckmann MM, Kremer JA, Farquhar C. Timely intercourse for couples trying to conceive. Cochrane Database Syst Ds. 2015; (3): CD011345. Published March 17, 2015. doi: 10.1002 / 14651858.CD011345.pub2
Su HW, Yi YC, Wei TY, Chang TC, Cheng CM, et al. Detection of ovulation, an overview of currently available methods. Bioeng Transl Med. 16 May 2017; 2 (3): 238-246. doi: 10.1002 / btm2.10058
Yeh PT, Kennedy CE, Van der Poel S, et al. Should home-based ovulation predictor kits be offered as an additional fertility management approach for women and couples seeking pregnancy? A systematic review and meta-analysis. BMJ Global Health 2019; 4: e001403. doi: 10.1136 / bmjgh-2019-001403