An ovulation test can tell you when you’re most likely to conceive & help you understand your cycle
When you're trying to get pregnant, understanding the stages of your monthly cycle can help you identify the days when you're most likely to conceive. You're at your most fertile around the time of ovulation. If your cycle is regular, it's possible to estimate when ovulation occurs. You can also use an ovulation test to help point out your most fertile days.
What is ovulation?
Ovulation is a short window of time when a surge of certain hormones triggers the release of an egg from the ovaries.
Each ovary contains thousands of eggs. At the beginning of your monthly cycle, some eggs start ripening.
Around 24 to 36 hours before ovulation occurs, your luteinising hormone (LH) quickly reaches high levels, causing the most mature of the eggs to leave the ovary and travel down to the uterus. If the egg doesn't meet a sperm during its journey, you should get your menstrual period within two weeks of ovulation.
How often does ovulation occur during a regular cycle?
Ovulation usually occurs once in each monthly cycle.
A woman's cycle tends to range anywhere from 23 days to 35 but the average is 28 days. Many women who have a regular cycle can predict the first day of their period within a few days of accuracy. Others have irregular periods, with cycles varying in length by a number of days or a few weeks.
If you have a regular cycle, you can identify the days when you're likely to ovulate by counting back 12 to 16 days from when your next period is due. For women with irregular cycles, pinpointing ovulation this way can be more difficult.
Can you ovulate more than once in a monthly cycle?
In short, no you can’t. Although more than one egg can be released, most women will ovulate once during their monthly cycle. An egg can be fertilised for 12 to 24 hours after it's released, so it needs to meet a sperm during this time.
How many days before ovulation can you get pregnant?
You can increase your chances of getting pregnant if you have unprotected sex during your fertile window. This usually includes the five days leading up to ovulation as well as the day of ovulation – it’s still possible to fall pregnant at any time during your menstrual cycle if you're having sex without contraception.
Sperm can survive for up to five days in the uterus and fallopian tubes. This means that you don't have to have sex on the exact day of ovulation to increase your chances of getting pregnant. Having sex every two to three days as well as around the time of ovulation can also help increase your chances of getting pregnant.
Can I get pregnant in a monthly cycle without ovulation?
No, it’s not possible to get pregnant in a monthly cycle without ovulation. This is because there is no egg available to be fertilised by sperm.
What are ovulation test kits?
Ovulation test kits are tests that let you know the days when you're most fertile and likely to conceive. They're particularly useful for women who have erratic cycles.
The most common type of ovulation tests measure certain hormone levels in your urine. You can buy these from pharmacies and some supermarkets. Your pharmacy team can offer advice if you’re unsure how to use them.
How do I use ovulation tests?
You can choose from a range of different ovulation test kits. They include a stick or card that needs to be moistened with urine. Tests that include ovulation test strips have bands that change colour to give your results. Others are digital ovulation predictor kits and use symbols or a smiley face to show that you'll be ovulating.
Tips for taking a urine test
To make sure you get an accurate result when taking a urine test, you should follow the manufacturer's instructions carefully. These will also give you guidance on when to start testing. Normally, the steps you'll follow when collecting a urine sample are:
• Take the test around the same time of the day. You may find it convenient to test first thing in the morning
• Wash your hands and your genitals if possible
• Collect your urine in a cup and put the tip of the stick in the sample or hold the stick in your urine stream
• Wash your hands thoroughly
• Results are ready to read after a few minutes
What if my urine test keeps giving negative results?
If your test repeatedly gives a negative result, you should:
• Make sure you're taking the test consistently, at the same time
• Speak to your pharmacy team to check that you're using the test correctly
• When taking a urine test, don't drink too much water for four hours before the test as your urine may be too diluted
• Carry out the tests for a few cycles. You may have either missed your time of ovulation, or you may have had a cycle without ovulation (which can sometimes happen)
Some women get a monthly menstrual period but don't ovulate, which makes it difficult to conceive. If you think you're not ovulating, speak to your GP.
Next steps to take when using ovulation tests
If you’re new to taking an ovulation test, there are a few steps you can follow to help you feel at ease:
• Understand how your regular cycle works and when you're most likely to be ovulating
• If you use ovulation predictor kits, follow the instructions carefully
• If you keep getting negative results, check with your pharmacy team that you're carrying out the test correctly
• Speak to your GP if you think you're not ovulating
These tips for using ovulation predictor kits and taking a urine test are here to help you on your journey to better understand your regular cycle. If you’re regularly experiencing negative results when you take a test, try not to worry. Speak to your pharmacist or GP who will be able to recommend a different approach.
Have more questions about ovulation? Head to the Boots fertility and conception page for more advice and support.
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