Why ovulation strips can be misleading
[Image from Canva.com]
One thing most women rush out to get when trying to conceive or learning how to track their cycle is ovulation test strips.
Ovulation test strips can be purchased in the fertility aisle of most drugstores. They’re little strips that you pee on that test luteinizing hormone, or LH, levels.
They’re inexpensive, easy to get, and seem like the obvious first step when trying to figure out when you ovulate.
Ovulation test strips can be misleading. And, when you’re trying to get pregnant or trying NOT to get pregnant, you want your cycle tracking to be straight-forward and accurate. There’s a lot riding on it.
That’s why today I’m going to break down why ovulation test strips can be misleading, how to use them effectively, and what to do instead if peeing on a stick every day is not your idea of a good time. Let’s get to it!
Why ovulation test strips can be misleading…
You can have multiple positive ovulation strips or spikes in one cycle.
I see this happening quite often with clients who choose to use ovulation strips. Inevitably, they come to me and ask, “What am I supposed to do? I still don’t know when I ovulated even with ovulation tests.” Sometimes ovulation strips leave us feeling more confused than before.
Here’s why this can happen - There’s a type of cycle that we call a “multi-peak cycle” as fertility awareness educators. In these cycles we see signs of ovulation two or more times in one cycle. This isn’t because someone is ovulating twice in a cycle. It’s because their body tried to ovulate earlier in the cycle, but it wasn’t able to achieve ovulation with that attempt and so ovulation was achieved later in the cycle with a second or third attempt. That later ovulatory attempt would also be accompanied by fertile cervical fluid signs and another LH rise, therefore giving them multiple LH spikes and multiple positive ovulation tests in one cycle.
So, what’s the trick for telling if a positive ovulation strip actually corresponds with ovulation?
Make sure it lines up with a sustained temperature rise, or what we call a “thermal shift.” How do you do that? You learn how to track, chart, & interpret basal body temperature using the sympto-thermal method of cycle tracking that I use and teach here at Sauvage Wellness.
It’s really common to use ovulation strips at the wrong time in the cycle.
Many obgyn’s will recommend that women use ovulation test strips during a specific window of time in their cycle. Oftentimes this window is for about a week or so around cycle day 14. You can even find these instructions on some ovulation test boxes. For many women, this may be too early in their cycle for ovulation.
For folks with longer menstrual cycles (35+ days between periods), ovulation will not occur on or near cycle day 14. This is because ovulation occurs 10 to 16 days prior to the start of menstruation in each cycle. Occasionally it occurs less than 10 days prior to the start of menstruation, however it almost never occurs more than 16 days prior to menstruation because the luteal phase following ovulation has a fixed length. This means that in a 35 day cycle ovulation will almost never occur prior to cycle day 19 (35 days minus 16 days = cycle day 19).
Can you see now why only using ovulation test strips around cycle day 14 doesn’t work for longer menstrual cycles? If an ovulation test strip isn’t used around cycle day 17 to 22 in 35 day cycle we likely wouldn’t even see a positive ovulation strip and might get concerned that we didn’t ovulate when really we just ovulated later in that cycle.
So, what’s the trick for using ovulation test strips with longer menstrual cycles?
Use them from the end of your period until you confirm ovulation with both an ovulation strip AND temperature tracking, cervical fluid tracking, or both. Yes, you’ll use more ovulation test strips than someone with a shorter cycle, but you’ll get a more accurate look at your cycle and ovulation.
They don’t tell you when your ENTIRE fertile window is.
Ovulation test strips identify when we’re super close to ovulation because LH rises right before we ovulate. Ovulation test strips, however, don’t always identify the days leading up to our LH rise that are also within our fertile window and can lead to pregnancy if we have unprotected sex on those days.
For pregnancy achievement, this can be an issue because we could be missing out on extra days that we could be trying to conceive. This means we wouldn’t have to rush around one or 2 days per cycle trying frantically to conceive. Realistically, many of us have nearly a week each cycle that intercourse can lead to pregnancy.
For birth control, this is a HUGE issue because we are often fertile for days before LH spikes on ovulation test strips. This means if we’re having unprotected sex until we see a positive ovulation test strip, then we’re having unprotected sex on days that could lead to pregnancy. Yikes!
So, what’s the trick for using ovulation test strips to identify your fertile window?
Don’t. At least, not on their own. Use them in combination with ideally both cervical fluid and temperature tracking so that you can identify your ENTIRE fertile window.
How do I use ovulation test strips with my clients here at Sauvage Wellness?
Honestly, I don’t recommend them very often. Most people don’t need them once they learn how to track basal body temperature and cervical fluid, which together tend to give most people a more accurate and in-depth look at their menstrual cycle and ovulation. When we know how to use the sympto-thermal method, we don’t need to rely on external tests & devices to tell us when we’re ovulating and when we’re not.
Here’s when I recommend ovulation test strips to my clients…
When cervical fluid or temperature signs are difficult to read. This is most commonly seen in folks with irregular cycles and those who have newly transitioned off of hormonal birth control. When fertility signs are difficult to read we use food, supplements, & lifestyle shifts to support the cycle and make the signs more obvious, only using ovulation strips until the cycle normalizes.
That’s pretty much it.
We use ovulation test strips as a confirmation tool to confirm or make sense of what we’re seeing with cervical fluid and temperature tracking. Once the cycle is better nourished, supported, and normalizes we tend to discontinue use of ovulation strips.
What if I don’t want to use ovulation test strips at all?
I don’t think you have to. I’ve never used one and I’ve used cycle tracking methods of natural birth control for a decade. 99% of my natural birth control clients don’t use them either. And, almost none of my fertility and pregnancy achievement clients have needed them to conceive. Cervical fluid and temperature tracking with the sympto-thermal method is so effective that most of us don’t need any additional support from ovulation strips.
Curious about getting started with using the sympto-thermal method as natural birth control or to help you get pregnant naturally? Let’s chat! You can schedule a free Cycle Wisdom Consult Call with me here!
You can also learn all about working with me here.
Disclaimer: Brandy Oswald, Sauvage Wellness LLC, and her employees are not doctors, nurses, physicians, psychotherapists, or in anyway licensed medical practitioners and information presented here is to serve as an educational resource and not to be interpreted as: (1) medical advice; (2) a 100% effective birth control or pregnancy achievement options or (3) nutrition or health guidelines. By reading this you acknowledge that you understand that as a specialized form of consulting, fertility awareness education is not the same as professional or licensed therapy or medical advice and intervention; and recognize that it is your responsibility to seek such services from a licensed professional. Brandy Oswald is not a medical provider and cannot give medical advice. All information provided by Sauvage Wellness LLC and Brandy Oswald is of a general nature and is intended only for educational purposes to help with your personal health improvement goals and should not be relied on as medical advice. Always consult a physician with any health concerns and prior to changing your diet, lifestyle, supplements, birth control, fitness, or prescription medicine routine. Should you choose to use the information provided by Brandy Oswald it is of your own volition and you recognize that neither Brandy nor Sauvage Wellness LLC is not held liable for any intended or unintended outcomes.
All viewers hereby WAIVE AND RELEASE Brandy Oswald and Sauvage Wellness LLC from any claim, demand, cause of action of any kind resulting from or related to my participation in classes, workshops, and all service offerings provided by Brandy and Sauvage Wellness. As a view you hereby acknowledge that you are fully responsible for any and all risks, injuries, or damages, known or unknown, which might occur as a result of your participation.