When you can get pregnant all depends on when you ovulate – so if you’re trying to conceive, ovulation tests can be a real help. But what exactly does it mean if you get a “positive” on an ovulation test? Let’s break down the facts on ovulation tests, and when you should have sex if you get a positive result.
Positive ovulation test: Am I ovulating right now?
Ovulation tests are designed to predict when you’re about to ovulate: not the precise moment you release an egg. If you get a positive result, it’s a good indication that you’re probably going to ovulate within the next 24 to 48 hours.
Ovulation tests work by measuring the levels of luteinizing hormone (LH) in your urine. At the midway point of your menstrual cycle, the pituitary gland releases a spike of this hormone. Over the course of 24 to 30 hours, LH levels rise up from 2 to 4 times over the baseline levels.
When it acts on the ovaries, LH tells this cycle’s developing egg follicle that it’s time to get ready to ovulate. Between 28 to 36 hours after LH levels start to rise, the ovary releases a mature egg cell.
How should I use an ovulation test?
A home ovulation test may look a little like a pregnancy test at first, but there are some big differences in terms of how they work and how to use them.
It’s important to follow the instructions on the package insert carefully. Depending on the brand, you will usually have to urinate on the reaction area of the test strip, or use a dipstick in a urine sample. It will take around 5 minutes to get a result.
But unlike a pregnancy test, you will need to take this test again, every day, for 5 to 7 days in a row. This will help you see the LH peak as you approach ovulation. If you miss a day of testing, you could miss your LH surge, and it’s back to the drawing board.
How to interpret a positive ovulation test
Some of the higher-end ovulation tests come with digital displays, but here’s how to avoid confusion if yours doesn’t. Most ovulation tests come with two lines for you to look at: the control line and the test line.
- If you see two clear lines, it’s a positive.
- If you see only control line, it’s a negative.
- If you see a control line and a faint test line, it’s a negative. Unlike a pregnancy test, a faint test line on an ovulation test is not a positive result.
- If you don’t see a control line, there was an error with the test and you need to start over.
Can I get a false positive ovulation test?
The accuracy of an ovulation test depends whether or not you follow the instructions: taking the tests at the same time of day; keeping the box in a cool, dry place; not reusing the same test, and so forth. Nine times out of ten, a positive ovulation test is a reliable indicator of the LH surge, and therefore of impending ovulation.
However, there are some exceptions where you might get a “false positive”. If you’re sick or under a lot of stress, your body may not release an egg on time even if you have an LH surge.
In polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), it’s also possible to have a high LH level, even if your ovary fails to release an egg at all. In addition, taking Clomid which is a fertility drug can also raise your LH levels. If any of these apply to you, take the results of an ovulation test with a grain of salt.
When to have sex after a positive ovulation test
An ovulation test indicates that you’re about to release an egg within the next 1 to 2 days. If you have unprotected sex on either of these two days leading up to ovulation, you have about a 25% to 30% chance of getting pregnant.1
A positive ovulation test indicates you’re right in the fertile window. This is the period of time that you can get pregnant during the menstrual cycle . If you’re trying to get pregnant, having sex on the day you get a positive ovulation test and/or the day after is a good idea.
What if I can’t get a positive ovulation test at all?
Apart from the tests being faulty or expired, there are a few reasons you may not be able to get a positive test over the course of your cycle.
Your timing is off
If you happen to skip a day of testing, it’s possible that you will miss the LH surge when it occurs. Even if you do test every day, so it’s also possible to miss the surge if yours occurs at a time when you happen to have very dilute urine. You may want to consider testing twice a day for better luck.
You’re not ovulating
There are a number of conditions that can lead to anovulatory cycles, ranging from emotional stress to irregular lifestyle. If there’s no egg being released, you may not be able to get a positive result and you can’t get pregnant. If you’re concerned that you’re not ovulating, speak to a gynecologist to help you work out what’s going on.
Positive ovulation test is one method of fertility awareness
Using ovulation tests to detect your LH surge can be a great way to get a handle on your fertility cycle. As long as you’re using them correctly, a positive ovulation test is an indicator that you’re in a good point of your cycle to try to conceive.
However, they’re not the only one part of the puzzle: combining ovulation tests with other indicators of ovulation like basal body temperature and cervical mucus can help you pinpoint your fertile window even more effectively.
- Timing of sex fact file ↩