I see lots of pictures on social media of Ovulation Predictor Kits (OPK) and women asking for advice about whether or not they have ovulated.
I’m here to let you in on a little secret: The OPK’s do not tell you if you have ovulated, only that your hormones are surging in anticipation of ovulation.
Let’s take a step back and talk about what the OPK is testing and why it does not tell you that you have ovulated that month.
A little biology
You are a wonderful cyclical being, you are never the same each day, and your hormones are never the same each day. This cyclical hormone dance that takes place each month in our bodies (when we are not on hormonal birth control), is responsible for the maturation of a follicle into an egg that can be released and then fertilized to create your baby!
What the OPK is measuring is part of that hormonal cycle, specifically a hormone called Luteinizing Hormone which rises and peaks before ovulation and signals the ovaries to release the mature egg. The OPKs help you predict when you may ovulate and help you to time intercourse around the time of ovulation, which can be extremely helpful if you have irregular cycles. But, relying solely on the information from OPKs is not the full picture because you can have a positive OPK and not ovulate.
Did you actually ovulate?
Since OPKs only predict when you may ovulate, they do not actually tell you if you did ovulate. There are two ways to determine IF you ovulated:
Get a blood test. Your doctor can order a blood test to check your progesterone levels in the second half of you cycle. After the egg is released, the covering around the developing egg, the corpus luteum, produces progesterone which will help maintain the lining in the uterus so the egg can implant. If you did not ovulate, you will have no corpus luteum, and low progesterone.
Track your basal body temperature (BBT) Your basal body temperature is taken first thing upon waking with a sensitive basal body thermometer which can detect small shifts in your temperature. Your body temperature will rise in response to progesterone released by the corpus luteum. One thing to note, this temperature shift occurs after ovulation so it will confirm that you did release an egg, BUT to track when you are about to ovulate, you need to be aware of your other fertility signs.
In addition to using your BBT to determine if you have ovulated, you can track 2 other fertility signs that will help you predict when you are about to ovulate. Those two signs are cervical mucus and the height of your cervix.
Cervical mucus Before ovulation, the cervix produces a specific type of fluid that helps the sperm travel to the fallopian tube to fertilize the egg. In the 3-5 days leading up to ovulation, your cervical mucus will become an egg white consistency, clear and stretchy. This is your fertile mucus and keeping track of it will help you to determine your fertile window.
Height of cervix In the days before ovulation, your cervix will change position and shape to help the sperm travel to the fallopian tubes. By feeling the tip of your cervix, you will notice is change position from low and closed to a high and open position
Tracking your fertility signs is something anyone can learn, but each of us is unique and we each need to learn our own signs and get to know our own cycles.
OPKs are a useful tool to help you learn, but gaining more knowledge about your own body is powerful and liberating so that you do not have to seek answers outside yourself, but can become a partner with your body.
Giving yourself time to get to know your cycle before you start trying is a valuable gift. You can determine any underlying difficulties which may make it harder to get pregnant, and work to heal them. If you want support is taking your next step, schedule a strategy session with me here.