An ovulation test can be a helpful tool for any woman who's trying to conceive. Most ovulation tests work by detecting LH, or luteinizing hormone, in a woman's urine. LH typically surges one to two days before an egg is released. Women can significantly boost their chances of conception by having sexual intercourse in that window of time. These tests typically work much like pregnancy tests, returning results within a few minutes. They're generally quite reliable, though sometimes results are hard to read.
Yet another category of ovulation kits, the ovulation microscope, analyzes saliva instead of urine, looking for a distinctive "ferning" pattern that appears because of a rise in estrogen before ovulation. Unlike most urine-based tests, ovulation microscopes are reusable, and likely much cheaper over time. Some women aren't sold on their reliability, though.
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The Clearblue Digital Ovulation Test (Est. $35 for 20 tests) is a bit pricey, but reviewers say that you get what you pay for: In this case, a reliable urine-based ovulation kit that requires little guesswork to interpret results. Clearblue says the test is 99 percent accurate in detecting your LH surge. Most reviewers are pleased with accuracy, though a minority say the test never detected their surge.
Reviewers say the Clearblue test is among the easiest-to-use ovulation kits on the market, because you can test any time of day. The test strip clicks into the included reusable test holder, and a digital display shows "test ready." Then you point the test stick downward in your urine stream for five to seven seconds. Within three minutes, the display will show a blank circle or a smiley face. If you see a smiley face, the test has detected your LH surge. If not, you use another test at the same time next day, continuing until you see the smiley. Tests are packaged individually, so they can be used in subsequent months as long as they aren't expired.
Some users say the test's digital display gives them error messages. Clearblue actively responds to reviewer complaints on Amazon, offering to send new tests even when errors result from user error.
The First Response Ovulation Test (Est. $17 for seven tests) is a more basic urine test than the Clearblue Digital Ovulation Test, but it's a bit easier on the wallet. It also comes with a pregnancy test, which reviewers say is a nice bonus. Like Clearblue, First Response says this ovulation kit is more than 99 percent accurate in detecting your LH surge, and most reviewers are happy with accuracy.
Like the Clearblue test, you can test any time of day; however, unlike the Clearblue test, this First Response test does not have a digital display. (Note that First Response does sell a Daily Digital Ovulation Test kit that is not well-reviewed.) After pointing the absorbent tip downward in your urine stream for five seconds, you must wait five minutes to read the two-line results. For a positive result, the test line has to be similar to or darker than the reference line. If it's lighter or there is no test line, the test is negative, and you should continue with daily testing. Tests are packaged individually, so they can be used in subsequent months as long as they aren't expired.
While most users say the First Response test is easier to interpret than cheaper ovulation strips, some reviewers still say it's still tricky to tell when the test line is as dark or darker than the reference line. Those who've used the tests for awhile say this does get easier with time.
If you don't want to pay for disposable ovulation tests month in and month out, the Fertile Focus Personal Ovulation Microscope (Est. $35) could be a cost-effective alternative. Housed in a metal tube roughly the size of a lipstick, it detects a "ferning" pattern in women's saliva that appears three to five days before ovulation. The test is supposed to be 98 percent accurate, but reviewers are clearly divided on whether it worked for them -- some like it better than urine-based tests, while others say it's not reliable.
Fertile Focus recommends testing each day after waking and before eating, drinking or brushing teeth. You put a drop of saliva on the microscope lens, let it dry for five minutes, and place the lens back in the microscope. You then push a light button on the microscope as you look into the lens, rotating it to focus. A lot of crystalline-like "ferning" indicates ovulation in the next five days; dots and lines or no discernable pattern mean no ovulation.
Reviewers like that the test is portable and reusable, and some like that they are notified of impending ovulation sooner than with urine tests (up to five days compared with two days). However, many say they never saw the ferning, even when urine tests indicated impending ovulation. Several also say the microscope is flimsy and hard to focus.
If you're willing to invest a little more money to track your fertility, the touchscreen Clearblue Fertility Monitor (Est. $110) helps identify a longer fertile window (two peak days plus up to four high-fertility days) than most urine-based ovulation kits, which users appreciate. It tracks both estrogen and LH, storing up to six cycles' worth of data. The company says it increases your chances of pregnancy by 82 percent in the first cycle of use and detects ovulation 97 percent of the time compared to ultrasound. Most reviewers are happy with the monitor's accuracy, though some say other tracking methods were better, especially for women with very long menstrual cycles (Clearblue only recommends the monitor for women with cycles between 21 and 42 days).
To use the monitor, you'll also need disposable Clearblue Fertility Monitor Test Sticks (Est. $40 for 30). Clearblue recommends testing with first morning urine. Like other urine-based tests, you hold the test stick downward in your urine stream for three seconds. After capping it, you insert it into the monitor, which takes up to five minutes to return a result: low fertility, high fertility or peak fertility. Most women need to use 10 test sticks per month, but those with cycles over 35 days may need 20. Test sticks are packaged individually, so they can be used in subsequent months as long as they aren't expired.
Reviewers say the Clearblue Fertility Monitor can be a good choice for those who have less predictable cycles since it learns from past data. However, as many note, it's pricey, and some reviewers say they had problems with error messages. Clearblue responds actively to user complaints on Amazon to help with troubleshooting.
Ovulation test strips detect LH, just like most other ovulation kits. There are some differences, however: They are smaller and flimsier than more expensive tests that typically have a plastic holder. For that reason, you must dip ovulation test strips into a urine sample instead of using them midstream.
Many women prefer ovulation strips because they are far cheaper than other ovulation tests. This can be critical for women who have irregular menstrual cycles and may need to test more often. However, most users caution that it can be hard to interpret the results on an ovulation test strip, which requires a test line to be as dark or darker than a control line.
Wondfo One Step Ovulation Test Strips (Est. $18 for 50 tests) have earned a reputation as one of the most trusted ovulation test strips on the market. Reviewers love the value for their money, and the 99 percent accuracy rate is the same as pricier ovulation tests. Most women who've used Wondfo test strips are happy with the accuracy, saying they stack up to more well-known brands.
Wondfo test strips work a bit differently than ovulation kits with a plastic holder that can be held under your urine stream. They still test for the same LH hormone, but you must collect a urine sample in a cup, then dip one of the strips in the sample for three seconds. Results should be read after five minutes. Like all ovulation test strips, reviewers caution that there is a learning curve to interpreting the results. The test line must be as dark or darker than the control line to indicate impending ovulation, and some women say it takes practice to confidently spot a positive test. Many women save multiple days of test strips in order to compare results. Tests are individually packaged, so they can be used from month to month as long as they aren't expired.
Other than being tricky to use, one of the biggest complaints about Wondfos is that knock-offs are common. Several Amazon reviewers say they received faulty test strips with green tips that were packaged without the Wondfo logo. Wondfo cautions that authentic tests come in blue packaging with the Wondfo logo, and the strips themselves always have blue tips.
Women who would be comfortable with a more recognizable name might want to check out the Answer Daily Ovulation Tracker (Est. $20 for 20 tests) test strips. Reviewers like that the kit comes with a reusable cup for collecting a urine sample. Answer says the test strips are more than 99 percent accurate at detecting an LH surge.
Answer's ovulation test strips work similarly to the Wondfo brand. After collecting a urine sample, you'll dip the strip in and wait a certain time for two lines to appear. The test line has to be as dark or darker than the control line for the test to be positive, indicating ovulation within the next two days. Again, reviewers say interpreting the lines can be hard for unpracticed eyes.
Ease of use aside, reviewers' other main complaint with the Answer strips is that they aren't packaged individually like Wondfo strips, instead coming in one canister. Once you open the canister, you must use all of the tests within a month. For women who ovulate early in their cycle and don't need to continue testing every day, this can be a big waste.
Fertility charting makes it possible to track ovulation without spending money on ovulation tests. Charting involves recording your basal body temperature, or BBT, each morning immediately after waking, and as close to the same time as possible each day. BBT spikes up to 1 degree after ovulation, remaining high until your period, when it falls again. When you chart, you also need to pay attention to changes in cervical mucus: When it becomes thick and stretchy like egg whites, it's a strong sign of impending ovulation. Many women chart these fertility signs in order to speed conception, but others use them to avoid pregnancy, too.
Ovulation or fertility tracking apps give you a convenient place to record this information, detect patterns in your menstrual cycle and predict future cycles with greater confidence. Most of these apps are free, and many have community forums where you can talk to other women who are hoping to conceive. While some apps may guess a window of time when you may ovulate, they can only do this based on the data you provide and may not be accurate. For this reason, some women use apps in combination with ovulation kits.
Despite an influx of slick new apps, many reviewers say they're sticking with the tried-and-true Fertility Friend, which claims to have helped more than 650,000 women conceive. Available for iOS and Android, this app was one of the first to take fertility charting mobile, and it remains one of the most detailed ways for women to record fertility signs.
Fertility Friend allows you to record several fertility signs, including BBT, cervical fluid and cervical position. You can also note your mood, input information from ovulation tests, record days you had intercourse, and so on. The data combines to show a visual chart of your cycle that helps confirm ovulation. While entering data is easy, women who are unfamiliar with fertility charting might need to study up before beginning (Fertility Friend does offer a free charting course upon sign-up). Users can also search for charts of women who may have similar fertility issues -- for instance, a recent miscarriage or long, annovulatory cycles.
Fertility Friend is free, but you can sign up for a VIP membership (Est. $45 for one year) that allows access to premium features such as detailed chart interpretation and a daily fertility analyzer. While some reviewers say the app looks dated (Danielle Stratford of Appleseed Fertility calls it "just plain ugly"), most agree it's one of the most detailed ways to chart fertility signs.
Women who want a more modern spin on charting can record fertility signs with Kindara (free). Available for iOS and Android, Kindara also takes charting into the wireless age by syncing via Bluetooth with the Kindara Wink App-Integrated Fertility Thermometer (Est. $140) for easier recording.
With Kindara, you record information similar to the data logged in Fertility Friend: BBT, cervical fluid and position, ovulation test results, your period and so on. It also combines this information into a visual chart, though Stratford says the way it's presented may throw off some veteran charters. As with Fertility Friend, you can search others' charts. You can also follow other users.
Unlike Fertility Friend, Kindara does not have a premium version. It gets rave reviews for accuracy, and many say its interface is much more modern-looking and simple to use than Fertility Friend's. However, when it comes to "features, data, and analytics options for diehard charters," it falls short of its rival, Stratford says.
Reviewers say Ovia (free) is a more beginner-friendly introduction to fertility tracking. The app, available for iOS and Android, analyzes your fertility data and spits out personalized recommendations based on what has worked for other users in similar situations. It assigns a daily fertility score that helps give users a quick snapshot of their chances of success.
Just like Fertility Friend and Kindara, Ovia tracks BBT, cervical fluid and position, ovulation tests and other data such as mood. It even integrates with popular fitness trackers and apps such as Fitbit and MyFitnessPal to record health data. The resulting chart, however, is not as detailed as Fertility Friend's or Kindara's, trading some data for the "fertility score" instead.
Ovia also lacks a premium version, but there is a companion pregnancy-tracking app for expectant mothers, and a parenting app for once baby is here. Overall, reviewers like the app's bright, modern interface, but some say it might oversimplify things for women who are experienced at fertility charting. The fertility score in particular could be "very patronizing" for these women, Stratford says.
There are few expert reviews of ovulation tests, fertility monitors, ovulation test strips and apps, and those we found tend to be limited in scope and don't involve hands-on testing. Still, roundups from sources such as TheBump.com, PregPrep.com, FitPregnancy.com, Parents.com and Babble.com were helpful in narrowing the field. Detailed reviews of ovulation apps from AppleseedFertility.com were also extremely helpful in that category. Most useful, however, were user reviews of ovulation kits that came from sources such as Amazon.com and Walmart.com.