If you're trying to concieve, OPKs are a great way to try to find your fertile window. Here's how to figure out which one is best for you.
Knowing when you’re ovulating is essential for those who are
trying to conceive (or TTC). That’s because if you know when your eggs are released, you can be strategic about when to engage in intercourse. By targeting your fertile window, you’ll be more likely to time it successfully so that you can conceive — so knowing when your ovulation falls in your cycle is critical.
One of the best tools available to people who are TTC without the aid of
assisted reproductive technologies is an ovulation predictor kit, or OPK, which helps you understand when you’re ovulating. Here’s the thing, though: not all OPKs are created equal, and some are going to do a better job at getting you to that positive pregnancy test. Understanding ovulation predictor kits
What does an ovulation predictor kit do, exactly?
Well, around the time when you ovulate, your hormones are thrown into a lurch. To prepare for ovulation, estrogen begins to peak within your body. This rise in estrogen causes a hormone called
luteinizing hormone to rise dramatically, which in turn triggers your ovaries to release an egg. As the egg is released, progesterone levels also begin to rise, and they remain high through the luteal phase.
OPKs are designed to measure the amount of hormones in your system. That means they can catch when your hormone levels start trending upwards, and infer that you’ve begun to ovulate. Usually, most OPKs track LH levels in order to individuate an
LH surge. Types of ovulation predictor kits
There are three types of ovulation predictor kits:
Traditional urine-based ovulation predictor kits: These are the most traditional form of OPKs. They can be used easily at home by collecting a urine sample and applying it to a test strip. These OPKs measure the levels of LH in your urine. They’re relatively low-cost, but there’s also a larger margin for error in their results, which we’ll discuss below. Saliva-based ovulation predictor kits: Saliva-based OPKS require you to test your spit. They measure the levels of LH in your saliva. They’re a bit more expensive than urine-based OPKs, but they are reusable, so you may end up saving money if you go this route. Digital ovulation predictor kits: These OPKs also use urine samples to measure LH levels. The key difference here is that digital OPKs have a digital interface, making them easier to understand and more reliable—and more expensive, of course. What’s the best ovulation predictor kit?
Choosing the best ovulation predictor kit comes down to what you’re looking for—do you want something with lab-quality accuracy? Something on the cheaper side? A kit that measures multiple hormones? Here’s the breakdown of traditional urine-based ovulation predictor kits versus digital ones, so you can figure out the best ovulation predictor kit for you.
Shortcomings of traditional ovulation predictor kits
Traditional urine-based ovulation predictor kits can have a few drawbacks, especially if your hormone levels and cycle don’t follow the “standard” levels or 28-day cycle.
They don’t confirm ovulation
Traditional urine-based OPKs only track the amount of LH present in the sample—which means they don’t actually have a way to measure whether or not you’ve ovulated.
It’s very possible to have an LH surge and not ovulate — in Luteinized Unruptured Follicle Syndrome, or LUFS, your body can go through all the motions indicating fertility with the egg still trapped in the ovary. In those cases, the traditional OPKS would still register that you had ovulated, which isn’t very helpful.
They may be unreliable if you don’t have “standard” hormone levels
Traditional ovulation predictor kits use “standard” hormone ranges to determine whether your hormone levels are surging. If your typical hormone ranges are higher or lower than standards, the results might be less reliable. For example, this can happen if you’re on fertility medications, or people over 40 who are nearing menopause who have more LH present in their bodies.
The reliability of OPKs is also thrown into question if you have a preexisting condition like
polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) that affects your resting hormone levels. For people with PCOS, LH levels can remain high throughout their cycle, which in turn often prevents them from ovulating at all, since the ovaries don’t sense a surge in LH. Traditional OPKs are known to send people with PCOS many false positives, because they can’t adjust for normal LH levels. >>RELATED: PCOS and Pregnancy: What to Know If You're TTC with PCOS They may be harder to use if you don’t follow a 28-day cycle
Traditional ovulation predictor kits don’t have much guidance on when to test if you don’t have a standard 28-day cycle (surprise: most women don’t!). While you try to predict when you might be ovulating and test for multiple days, this can get expensive and tedious.
Advantages of Digital Ovulation Predictor Kits
Digital OPKs, on the other hand, have a wider range of data available to them than traditional OPKs. They can track for additional hormones, keep logs of past data, and some technologies can even adjust for your specific hormonal levels.
Due to technological advancements, digital OPKs like
Oova are able to monitor for more than just the LH surge. Advantages of Oova include: Confirming ovulation: Oova is the first at-home ovulation predictor kit to be able to measure both LH levels and progesterone levels. That means that with Oova test strips, you’re able to double-check whether the LH surge is genuinely followed by a rise in progesterone. Detecting the rise of progesterone signifies that an egg truly has left the ovaries and your body is indeed moving on to the next stage of the menstrual cycle—confirming ovulation has definitely happened. Measuring your specific hormone levels: Instead of simply comparing your hormone levels against a standard, Oova uses your specific hormone level data to understand your unique hormone patterns and better predict ovulation. Learning from your cycle: Oova provides lab-quality results even (and especially!) for users with irregular cycles. The app uses cutting-edge AI technology to learn from the cycles you track and identify your fertile window. Ovulation predictor kits: the bottom line
Ovulation predictor kits are a great way to find your fertile window and get a better idea of when you’re ovulating. Not all OPKs are created the same. Traditional ovulation predictor kits are convenient, widely-available, and typically are low-cost; however, they may not be your best bet if you have irregular cycles, non-standard hormone levels, or reproductive health conditions. If you’re struggling to conceive using traditional OPKs, you might need more data about how your reproductive system is working. In that case, looking into more expensive, but more reliable, digital OPKs is a great first step.