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Key points on menstrual cycle and ovulation
From puberty to menopause, every month, the female body prepares for a possible pregnancy. If this is not the case, a new menstruation appears. The menstrual cycle lasts between 21 and 35 days (on average 28 days). The follicles leading to maturation of the egg cell are reactivated to ovulation and to synthesize hormones (estrogen and progesterone) necessary for the production of follicles. Reconstitute the endometrium.
On the 14th day, however, ovulation occurs, at which fertilization can take place. After the mature egg cell is released, the follicle is transformed into the lutheal body, which produces progesterone, to predispose the inner wall of the uterus (endometrium) to the implant if the conception occurs (lutheal phase).
Ovulation test: what is it for?
On the market, there are easy-to-use kits that allow a woman to know whether she is fertile and to date the probable date of ovulation, even in the case of an irregular menstrual cycle. Known simply as ovulation testing, these kits consist of stratified impregnated by an indicator, which highlights the presence of LH (or luteinizing hormone) hormone in urine. The interest in LH is due to the fact that it is this hormone, increasing quantitatively, to stimulate the release of the mature egg cell. Currently, ovulation tests can be either digital or sticky and their reliability index is generally equal to or slightly above 90%.
The ovulation test detects the presence of luteinizing hormone (LH) in urine, whose secretion increases suddenly and rapidly about 24-36 hours before the ovulation phase. Thus, this device helps predict the time when the mature egg cell may be released and determines the period of the menstrual cycle in which conception is most likely. In every menstrual cycle, in fact, there are only a few days when the woman is fertile, and it is not always easy to spot them correctly. The test is particularly useful in predicting and demonstrating the occurrence of ovulation, so it can serve to concentrate sexual intercourse on fertile days, if you want to take a pregnancy (few days before ovulation or within the next 48 hours). In general, therefore, the ovulation test is suitable for all couples who want to maximize the chances of conceiving a child.
The period when the egg is fertilized starts 4-5 days before ovulation and ends 1-2 days later. This is possible considering that the egg cell matures when it is expelled from the ovary, survives for about 24 hours, while the spermatozoa can remain vital in the female genital system up to 72-96 hours. Therefore, sexual intercourse that occurred 3 or 4 days before ovulation can lead to fertilization.
The ovulation test is based on the response of the luteinizing hormone levels (LH), produced by the adenoipophysis and fundamental to fertility, in the woman’s urine. This hormone is secreted throughout the menstrual cycle, but increases 24-36 hours before the ovulation phase, to induce the final maturation of the female egg cell. The test therefore detects a woman’s urine analysis, the hormonal variation that announces the beginning of ovulation.
In particular, LH increase triggers the production of certain enzymes at the ovaries level, which in turn cause the dominant follicle to break and release the mature egg cell, ready to be fertilized by male spermatozoa in case of unprotected sex. A positive test result then indicates the occurrence of an ovulatory peak within 24-48 hours.
The ideal thing is to repeat the measurements at the same time, preferably in the morning just awake, or at least after 3-4 hours after the last urination. In the early hours it is important to drink a little, so as not to distract reading. According to the manufacturers, the reliability of these tests is approximately 90%. In addition to helping to understand when the peak of luteinizing hormone (LH) occurs, some tests also measure estrogen levels, particularly estradiol, hormones that favor conception. Even in this case, the chances of getting pregnant increase as their concentration increases in the urine.
Ovulation tests are available mainly in two variants:
- Ovulation test sticks: It facilitates reading, as it is sufficient to interpret the positive or negative result at the window for the luteinizing hormone (or for LH and estrogens), to see if it is in the fertile period. However, they are quite expensive.
- Stick to the computer / fertility monitors: identify the fertile window and cost less than half the previous (they are available in the pharmacy in the form of recharges for the actual device). The result is positive or negative: in the first case, women who wish to have a baby should have sexual intercourse within 24-48 hours, while those who are not looking for a pregnancy should abstain or use the condom.
Most ovulation tests contain five to seven strips or pads in a disposable format that detects the presence of luteinizing hormone (LH) in the urine. To maximize conception possibilities, it is necessary to carry out the test two to four days before the supposed ovulation date, which varies according to the cycle duration.
To test, the absorbent tip of the device should be positioned downward, exposing it to the urine flow for 5-7 seconds. Alternatively, you can collect a sample of urine in a clean, dry container, then immerse the test absorbent tip for 15 seconds. Within 3-10 minutes, the window or digital display of the device will show the result. If the ovulation test is negative it means that LH (and possibly estradiol) levels are still low. Otherwise, it means you are in the fertile phase. Since a test is positive and if you want a baby, you can start having unprotected sexual intercourse so you can optimize the chances of getting pregnant.
When to do the ovulation test
Ovulation tests should be used daily from two to four days before the presumed ovulation date. Before starting, therefore, it is crucial to know the habitual life of your menstrual cycle in order to perform the test at the appropriate time for the detection of the Luteinizing Hormone (LH) peak.
The duration of your menstrual cycle is calculated from the day on which menstruation begins (day 1) until the day before the start of the subsequent menstrual cycle. The calculated number corresponds to the total duration of your cycle. If the duration of your menstrual cycle is not yet known, you should wait for at least one cycle before you begin using the ovulation test.
In a regular 28-day cycle, usually the day of maximum fertility corresponds to the fourteenth. To be sure, you can use it already on the eleventh day of the ovulation test, which will be repeated until the result is positive. However, you should know that not all women have a regular cycle: in many cases, the first part of the cycle lasts more or less, so it becomes difficult to understand when you are going through the fertile phase. For this reason, those who have an irregular cycle will need to use the stickers for a longer period of time.
Ovulation tests should be carried out for an average of three days. If the test is positive in the morning you can calculate that ovulation will occur during the day or the next day. When the peak of luteinizing hormone is detected, it is possible to interrupt the execution of the test.
Tips for using ovulation test
To avoid mistakes in performing the ovulation test, always read and follow the manufacturer’s instructions in the package leaflet and on the packaging. For more reliable results, test execution is indicated every day, always at the same time. The first successful outcome indicates that ovulation is occurring. For this reason, you should start testing before the period of ovulation, as the peak of luteinizing hormone may not be otherwise apparent. It should be noted, however, that LH increase is a necessary condition, but not sufficient for ovulation to occur. In fact, it may happen that the tests are positive, but the cycle is anovulatory.
Before carrying out the ovulation test, avoid excessive amounts of liquids: if the urine is too diluted, the hormones are not well detectable and false positives may occur. To facilitate the operation, it is advisable to use the first urine in the morning. Nothing prevents you from testing even at other times of the day, but the outcome may not be reliable.
Some medications and medical conditions may affect the test result. For example, a recent pregnancy, menopause or polycystic ovary syndrome may produce misleading outcomes. False positives may also occur if the patient is given ovulation-stimulating drugs containing the luteinizing hormone (LH) or human chorionic gonadotrophin (hCG). If contraceptives have been suspended, it is advisable to wait two or three cycles before using ovulation tests.