When it comes to pregnancy, many people want the news as soon as possible, and a trip to the doctor’s office isn’t always practical. This is where a home pregnancy test comes into the picture. And for couples trying for “perfect timing” to increase the odds of becoming pregnant, a fertility monitoring kit to track ovulation can be helpful. Our guide to home pregnancy and ovulation tests will help you pick the best product to meet your needs. Keep the following in mind as you consider which and fertility tracking products:
If you’re trying to become pregnant for the first time, a visit with your doctor to ensure you’re in good health and getting the proper nutrition needed to support a healthy pregnancy is a good idea.
Home pregnancy tests work by detecting the presence of hCG in the urine of a pregnant woman. Human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) is a hormone produced by the developing embryo just after a sperm fertilizes an egg. It is later produced by the placenta—the tissue that develops to nourish a growing baby. Urine hCG levels begin to increase quickly following implantation, which is when the embryo secures itself to the lining of the uterus. Urine hCG levels double about every two to three days after implantation for about ten weeks.
Different brands of pregnancy tests have different levels of sensitivity. For example, a pregnancy test that can detect 20 units of hCG per milliliter (ml) of urine will detect a pregnancy sooner than a test that can detect the hormone only after the concentration has reached 100 units of hCG per ml of urine. This is why women can get a “false negative”—a pregnancy test indicating she isn’t pregnant when she is. It also explains why some pregnancy tests cost more than others. The more sensitive tests tend to be more expensive. Because urine hCG levels increase over time, the longer you wait to take a pregnancy test after a missed period, the more likely the test will detect hCG if you are pregnant.
Many pregnancy tests suggest testing urine first thing in the morning, when urine is most concentrated. This can improve the odds of detecting a pregnancy.
Urine pregnancy tests at the doctor’s office are similar to tests found in the pharmacy. If you must know whether you are pregnant as early as possible, a blood test at the doctor’s office is the best option.
Urine Stick Tests
What they are: Pregnancy urine stick tests include a stick that is placed into a stream of urine. After a few minutes, the test will display lines, dots, or colors to indicate whether you are pregnant or not pregnant. If the test detects hCG in your urine, it will indicate you are pregnant.
Why to buy: These tests are easy to use and relatively inexpensive. To get the most sensitive test, pick the one that detects the lowest level of hCG in urine.
Things to consider: Some people do not want to “interpret” the test. They may question whether they are seeing the lines, dots, or colors on the stick that indicate pregnancy.
Digital Urine Stick Tests
What they are: Digital urine stick tests are similar to regular urine sticks, except the stick displays the words “pregnant” or “not pregnant,” rather than other symbolization.
Why to buy: These tests are easy to use and, unlike regular urine stick tests, there is no guessing when you read the results. The digital display clearly indicates whether you are pregnant or not.
Things to consider: Digital urine stick tests are more expensive than other urine stick tests. As with regular urine sticks, the lower the level of hCG the test can detect, the more sensitive it will be.
Ovulation Tracking Tests
What they are: Ovulation kits include either several strips, which are placed into a container of urine, or several sticks, which are placed into the urine stream. You can read the tests after five minutes. Strips and sticks provide similar accuracy, so use whichever test you prefer.
Why to buy: Ovulation kits can help you increase the chances of becoming pregnant. By letting you know exactly when you are ovulating, the test lets you know your most fertile time in your menstrual cycle; this is the time you are most likely to become pregnant.
Things to consider: Ovulation kits can be pricey, so you may want to try charting your ovulation for a few months using other methods first. Ask your doctor or nurse how to use an ovulation calendar, track your daily temperatures (with a special thermometer), and/or examine your vaginal discharge to approximately track ovulation. Once you do this, you’ll have an idea of how best to use an ovulation kit once you purchase it. Ovulation kits work by detecting luteinizing hormone (LH) in the urine. Urine will be tested for several days around the time a woman believes she is ovulating. Just before ovulation, LH levels surge, so if you detect a higher-than-average level of LH on a particular day, you know that you are about to ovulate. For most women, a positive ovulation test result means she is fertile—more likely to become pregnant—over the next three days. Peak fertility is usually around 36 hours after the LH surge. Most ovulation kits suggest testing urine mid-afternoon. This can improve the odds of detecting the surge in LH which indicates you are about to ovulate. Ovulation kits may not work well if a woman has a health condition that affects levels of reproductive hormones, such as polycystic ovarian syndrome. It may be more difficult to use an ovulation kit to accurately predict ovulation if your periods are very irregular. To understand how to track ovulation, remember that “day 1” of a woman’s cycle is the first day of her period. So if a woman ovulates on “day 14,” this means she is ovulating 14 days after she first starts her period.
Combination Ovulation & Pregnancy Test Kits
What they are: Combination kits offer both ovulation tests and pregnancy tests all in one. This allows you to make one purchase and have what you need for one complete menstrual cycle when you are trying to get pregnant.
Why to buy: You’ll only need one trip to the drug store and one purchase to get both portions of the pregnancy picture—how best to become pregnant (the ovulation test) and whether you’ve been successful (the pregnancy test).
Things to consider: Complete kits can be expensive, so read all instructions carefully so that you maximize your chances of getting good results from each test. If you have any questions, call the manufacturer’s number or visit their website. These companies want you to have success with their products, so they are more than happy to help!