To boost the chance of fertilizing an egg, sperm should be present before and 2-3 days after ovulation. Knowing when ovulation occurs can increase those chances, or if preferred, help avoid getting pregnant.
Before ovulation begins, the pituitary gland within the brain first sends a signal to the ovaries indicating it is time to release an egg. This signal is the release of two hormones; follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) and luteinizing hormone (LH). When the follicle of the egg senses the presence of these two hormones, it responds by producing more estrogen.
The increase of estrogen is a returned signal to the pituitary gland that the follicle is ready to be released. The pituitary gland releases an increased amount, or surge, of LH. Ovulation will occur anywhere from12-48 hours after this surge. The egg is released (generally during days 12-16 of the woman’s menstrual cycle) and continues to find its way through the fallopian tube. If it is not fertilized within 24 hours of the release, it will not survive.
Ovulation can be detected through observing subtle changes in the woman’s body. One change includes an increase in basal body temperature. The woman’s body temperature will spike just before ovulation. It is ideal to take her temperature in the morning before she gets out of bed. The temperatures are then charted to recognize when the spike occurs. Another indication of ovulation is the change in texture and volume of the cervical mucus, which also increases before ovulation. Sonograms can also show the occurrence of ovulation.
A woman can now know when she is ovulating by using an ovulation predictor kit. This kit detects the rise of LH in the body that occurs just before ovulation. However, it is possible for LH to increase even when an egg is not released. This can cause a false positive on the test. When using a kit, it is important to follow the directions precisely.
One type of kit requires a sample of urine. The sample should be taken any time during the day after the first urination. This is because the first urination of the day is very concentrated, and there may appear to be a surge in LH when in actuality there isn’t. This could lead to a false positive.
The stick should be held in the urine stream for the designated amount of time (usually in seconds) and the result is available within a matter of minutes. There are two windows on the stick. One window will always show a dark, pink line in either a positive or negative result.
The second window will indicate ovulation by an additional pink line that needs to be the same shade of pink as in the first window. This second line can also be a darker shade of pink. A lighter shade will only show that LH is in the urine; it does not mean there has been a surge.
Most of the ovulation predictor kits accuracy is in the upper 90% range. The price is variable as they cost anywhere from $10 to over $100. The average price range is $20-$30.
Other ovulation predictor kits use saliva as a means to determine ovulation instead of urine. In 1969, Dr. Biel Cassals studied the components of saliva, specifically the crystallization that occurs during different parts of the menstrual cycle. This is known as salivary ferning because the crystals resemble the leaves of a fern plant. The crystallization of salivary ferning occurs immediately after the LH surge.
These saliva based ovulation predictor kits include a mini-microscope that is used to observe the woman’s saliva and can be completed any time of the day. The prediction test can be performed in minutes, and the results are available just a few minutes afterwards.
The amount of saliva needed differs between kits. The first step of the kit is to place saliva on the eyepiece. Once the saliva has dried, the eyepiece is screwed back into the small microscope, and the saliva is observed. A pattern of dots indicates no ovulation, and a fern-like pattern shows ovulation is occurring.
These kits also range in price, costing $20 to $70, and they are reusable. The accuracy of this type of ovulation predictor kit is from 91% to 99%.