When Should You Not Take an Ovulation Test?
Ovulation tests are an excellent way to find out your fertile window so you can increase your chances of getting pregnant. But taking tests and never getting positive results can be disheartening, so is there a wrong time to take an ovulation test?
They’re not physically harmful, but if you’re taking your ovulation test at the wrong time, you might be missing your LH surges and your fertile window altogether.
Find out everything you need to know about how ovulation tests work, how else you can tell you’re ovulating and why it’s important to take your ovulation test at the right time.
What Is an Ovulation Test?
An ovulation test is a small strip of paper, something with a plastic covering, like a pregnancy test, that you urinate on; two strong lines then appear on the paper if it has detected a high level of Luteinizing Hormone (LH). LH is released by the body to instigate the release of the egg from the ovary, so an LH surge shown by two clear lines shows that you’re ovulating.
Women are only fertile for a few days during their menstrual cycles which is why it’s so important to know when you’re ovulating to be aware of when your fertile window has opened and you can start having unprotected sex to increase your chances of conception.
Since sperm can live in women’s reproductive systems for up to 5 days, your fertile window begins approximately 5 days before your ovulation date. When the egg is released, it only has 24 hours to be fertilised.
How Do You Know You’re Ovulating?
The best way to find out if you’re ovulating or not is by taking an instant ovulation test. With results in minutes, it’s the quickest and easiest way to find out for certain if you’re ovulating.
There are usually signals, however, that you’re ovulating, as your body needs to prepare itself for a pregnancy. That’s why women usually have symptoms such as:
- An increased sex drive to increase chances of pregnancy
- Higher Basal Body Temperature (BBT) as our glands are working hard
- Mild pelvic pain due to the changes taking place
- Egg-white-like vaginal discharge to make it easier for sperm to travel to the uterus
We don’t all experience all of these symptoms so it can be more difficult to spot ovulation for some women than others, especially for those with irregular periods. Moreover, even if you have regular periods, it doesn’t always mean you’re ovulating.
Can You Have A Period and Not Ovulate?
The menstrual cycle is made up of three phases:
If you have regular periods then your body has successfully completed the follicular phase, however, it is possible to have a period and not ovulate as the ovulatory phase follows the period and has to be initiated by various hormones.
Taking contraception such as the pill, will normally still give you a period, but blocks the release of the egg by releasing and blocking other fertility hormones. Even if you’re not taking any contraception, it is possible to have a period and not ovulate, although if you have regular periods, it is less likely. If you’re having periods and not ovulating, you should visit your doctor for advice as there may be another factor affecting your fertility.
When Should You Use an Ovulation Test?
You don’t need to be trying for a baby to take an ovulation test, but that is why most women want to record their ovulation times. If you take an ovulation test and work out your fertile window from your positive result, then you can have intercourse during this window to increase your chances of getting pregnant.
Your ovulation day will occur midway through your cycle, so for women with regular menstrual cycles, you should start to take ovulation tests a few days before the midpoint of your cycle to keep a lookout for LH surges to know when your fertile window opens.
You’ll usually experience LH surges and positive ovulation tests for around 3 days before and including your ovulation date to show you your fertile window so you can have unprotected intercourse or simply keep track of the timings for future reference.
What If I Have an Irregular Period?
For women with irregular periods, this is more difficult, but not impossible. Regardless of how many days your menstrual cycle lasts, if each cycle lasts approximately the same number of days, you can still work out a rough midpoint, from which you can then start taking ovulation tests a few days before to be confident you’re timing intercourse with your fertile window.
However, if your period or your menstrual cycle can be shorter or longer than the average 28-day cycle, and the length of time changes regularly, it’s difficult to accurately estimate a midpoint for you to start taking ovulation tests. That’s why it’s vital to keep track of your ovulation symptoms, as well as any other mental or physical changes that take place throughout your cycle so you can identify patterns in your mood or the appearance of any pain.
Period tracking apps and calendars are very useful tools for women with irregular periods to stay on top of their cycles, especially when trying to get pregnant. But ultimately, an instant ovulation test is the easiest guarantee of ovulation if you know when to take it.
What Time of Day Should You Take an Ovulation Test?
Research shows that most women experience an LH surge between midnight and 8 am at the height of their ovulatory phase, which is why timing your ovulation test properly is so crucial. If you miss your LH surge, you may also miss your fertile window and ovulation day, so you’ll have to wait another month for your next few fertile days.
So, you should take your ovulation test in the morning to see the LH surge in your urine, so you know you’re ovulating. However, you can also take multiple ovulation tests a day to make sure you don’t miss your LH surge, and some women find it useful to take a second in the early afternoon or just before bed.
Essentially, there is no wrong way to take an ovulation test, however, to get the most accurate results, it’s best to take your ovulation test in the morning.
Things to Avoid Before Taking an Ovulation Test
If you’re ovulating, then the ovulation test will pick up on some LH presence in your urine regardless, however, if you can’t get a positive result or very strong lines on your ovulation test strip to denote an LH surge, there are certain things to be aware of when testing ovulation.
- Drink lots of water before taking the test
- Drink lots of alcohol
- Take an ovulation test every 10 minutes
The more liquid you have in your system, the more dilute your urine is, therefore the less clearly you’ll be able to identify an LH surge. To get clearer results, limit your fluid intake before taking the ovulation test, and ideally take it with the second urine of the morning.
While alcohol can dehydrate you more, it’s generally good advice to limit alcohol intake when trying to conceive as it can affect your menstrual cycle. You should also try to quit smoking altogether as it damages your reproductive system and reduces fertility, as well as causing problems for the baby when you’ve achieved conception.
Lastly, don’t take an ovulation test every ten minutes. It can be frustrating to not receive a positive ovulation result and tempting to keep testing your urine throughout your whole cycle to ensure you never miss your fertile window, but, constant negative results will have a negative impact on your mental health. Try not to obsess over your ovulation as it will only lead to more stress - which can impact your ovulation.
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