In the past, women would track their fertile window (the days in their cycle that they were most likely to get pregnant, if they had unprotected sex) to both avoid and achieve a pregnancy. They could do this by monitoring changes in their temperature, their vaginal discharge and by using a calendar.

Being able to test for ovulation at home is a relatively new thing. Believe it or not, there was once a time when women didn’t use home testing kits to predict ovulation. Women became pregnant – or not – and that was that. Nowadays, things have changed, and today some couples prefer to take the guesswork out of the best time to have a baby.

So when is the best time to test ovulation to provide the best opportunity for successful conception?

When Does Ovulation Take Place?

Ovulation takes place around 14 days before a woman’s period. During ovulation, the ovaries release an egg which is then picked up by the fallopian tubes. Once in the tubes, if sex has occurred in the previous 2-3 days, it will meet healthy sperm and fertilisation may occur. Once fertilised, the fertilised egg (embryo) will then travel down the tube to the womb ready to implant. If implantation occurs, hormones are produced which maintains the lining of the womb and prevents a period. If pregnancy and implantation do not occur, the lining of the womb sheds along with the unfertilised egg as the menstrual period.

The most fertile days in a woman’s menstrual cycle (the best time to have sex!) are the days running up to and the day of ovulation. The reason for this is that the egg only survives around 24 hours after ovulation and so sperm (which can live for 3-5 days) need to be there in the tubes before or very soon after when ovulation occurs. The other issue is that after ovulation the cervical mucus becomes much thicker, meaning sperm can no longer penetrate through it into the womb and tubes.

Testing Ovulation

Testing for ovulation to know when your fertile window is, can be helpful if:

  • If you are unable to have sex every 2-3 days of the month (which will naturally ensure a healthy supply of sperm is always ready in the tubes at ovulation).
  • Are finding that trying to have regular sex is making the process mechanical and impacting your relationship.
  • Have an irregular cycle and would just like to know when or if you are even ovulating.
  • You are using the rhythm method for contraception (i.e. avoid having sex at the times of the month when you are fertile – be warned though, it is not always very effective!).

Because for a woman with a regular cycle ovulation generally occurs around 14 days before their expected period, you can count back and predict when ovulation may occur. For example, if a woman has a 28 day cycle, ovulation will be around day 14, and so your fertile window will be from around day 11 – 15.

It is easier to predict ovulation when you have a regular cycle, so what if your menstrual cycle is not regular?

If your cycle is irregular, you will need to test more often. The best time to test ovulation is a few days after your period starts (as some women do ovulate during their period), then continue once a week.

The established method of working out when to test ovulation, whether your cycle is regular or not, is to look for signs and symptoms. These include:

  • An increase in cervical mucus, which will feel smooth with something like an egg-white consistency.
  • Your temperature may fluctuate
  • You may notice light spotting
  • You may experience mild pelvic pain

Best Time of Day to Test Ovulation

The best time to test ovulation at home is first thing in the morning when your urine is most concentrated.

How do they work?

Ovulation kits are designed to detect levels of luteinising hormone (LH) in the urine. LH is a hormone that is at its highest level in the blood (and can be detected in the urine) around 36 hours before ovulation.  Because the peak in LH levels corresponds with when ovulation will occur it can be used to predict the best time to have sex, or peak fertility as it is often called.

To use an ovulation test kit you will need to urinate onto a test stick or into a cup before placing the test stick in the urine. Once you have done this you will then need to wait for the test results, often demonstrated by a smiley face or lines, depending on the kit you use. Please follow the instructions that come with the testing kit.

Home testing kits are advertised as being around 99% accurate and work for most people.

What if I am still not getting pregnant?

Despite home testing and regular or timed intercourse, some women still need further support to get pregnant. Examples include:

  • If you have a very irregular menstrual cycle and have been trying to get pregnant for more than 6 months with no success.
  • If you have not been getting positive tests on home ovulation kits.
  • If you want a more accurate way to test for ovulation (whilst the LH surge suggests ovulation is about to occur, it does not mean it will occur. Confirmation of ovulation is better demonstrated by taking a blood progesterone level 7 days before you expect to have your period. A raised blood progesterone then confirms ovulation did occur).
  • If you are wondering whether you need medication to help encourage ovulation.
  • If the home ovulation tests are positive but you are still not getting pregnant after one year of trying (it is worth getting other things check such as your fallopian tubes and your partners sperm).
  • You are unable to have intercourse.

If any of the above apply to you then, please get in touch.

Following a detailed medical history, Mr Dobson, a fertility sub specialist, will be able to discuss and offer relevant tests and treatments in order to boost your chances of success. If you think you may need his help, please contact us or ring Mandy, Mr Dobson’s PA on 0115 966 2111 or contact us via email.