If you've been trying to conceive for a few months, you might be wondering how you can improve your chances of getting pregnant. Tracking basal body temperature and cervical mucus can help, but often, ovulation predictor kits (OPKs), can be an accurate and easy way to tell if you are ovulating. If you know how to read an ovulation test, you can use OPKs to help you conceive.
Ovulation tests are used to determine the days you are most fertile and knowing these days can greatly improve your chances of getting pregnant. According to the American Pregnancy Association, OPKs work by detecting a surge of the luteinizing hormone (LH), which occurs roughly 24 to 48 hours before ovulation. Though LH is always present in your urine, it increases in the hours before ovulation, and this surge actually triggers ovulation to begin. By knowing when exactly you are ovulating, you can predict your most fertile days.
Ovulation tests work similarly to pregnancy tests, in that they work by testing your urine. Once the allotted time has passed, you can read the test result on the strip in order to know if your urine is presenting an LH surge, which indicates your body is preparing for ovulation.
In an interview with Romper, Debra Gerson, board-certified fertility specialist and founder of Botanica Wellness Sanctuary, notes that each OPK comes with individualized instructions. "Some of these tests will flash a 'positive' indicating current ovulation or LH surge (ovulation)," she says, "while others will show steady to flashing smiling faces indicating low, high, and peak fertility." Be sure to consult the instructions on your particular OPK in order to know what you are looking for.
Since LH surges can be short-lived, Gerson recommends women start testing about five days before suspected ovulation to get best results on these tests.
It's also important to remember that OPKs are not foolproof. As Dr. Eric Levens of Shady Grove Fertility mentions to Romper, "the problem with over-the-counter kits is that some women, especially those with irregular cycles, have baseline levels of LH that can trigger a positive result, which may not reflect a true LH surge. This is particularly notable amongst those with PCOS."
Using OPKs to track your fertile days can greatly improve your chances of conceiving. It's always best to keep your doctor up-to-date regarding your conception plans. Because they know your health and history, they can guide you towards best practices to help you conceive.