Friday, October 30, 2015

How to Read Your OPKs

One of the first suggestions doctors make to any couple that is trying to conceive is to use ovulation predictor kits, commonly called OPKs. These inexpensive tests are used in the same way as a pregnancy test. They are dipped in urine for a short amount of time, usually about 5-10 seconds, and the result is ready in roughly 10 minutes. But the results of these tests are interpreted in a totally different way than a pregnancy test, which often creates some confusion!



To better understand how these tests work, I'll explain what they are actually detecting in your urine. OPKs pick up the Luteinizing Hormone, or LH, that is always present in your urine in varying amounts. The amount circulating in your body changes throughout your cycle, but you will almost always have at least a very faint line on OPKs. This is where the confusion comes in. With pregnancy tests, any line within the time limit means a positive result. But since you always have LH in your system, you will always have a line on your OPK tests.

As ovulation approaches, your body begins to "surge" and suddenly releases large amounts of LH. This is a signal to your body that it's time to ovulate! Usually you will ovulate between 12 and 48 hours after you get a positive test, with most people ovulating the day after they get a positive result. If you are temping and charting, you should see your temperature rise the day after ovulation.

A positive OPK does not mean you have already ovulated, and it also does not guarantee that you will ovulate. Your LH surge occurs prior to ovulation and the only way to be sure ovulation occurred is to chart your temperatures, have a progesterone blood test, or confirm ovulation with an ultrasound (for those of us who have our cycles monitored). It's possible to have an LH surge and positive OPK, but not ovulate. This can commonly happen to women who have PCOS.

With an OPK, the test line has to be equal in darkness to the control line. You may have your test line darken gradually until you get a positive, or you might surge suddenly and go from a faint line to a dark line in no time. Everyone has a different pattern and it may take a couple of months to figure yours out.

The photo below shows a negative OPK on top, and a positive result on the bottom. If your test line is not as dark or darker than the control line, the OPK is considered negative.



My two favorite brands are Wondfo and Babi. Both are reliable and inexpensive! I usually buy them in packs of 50, which last me for awhile. Click the photos below for more information and to check out the reviews from others who have used them.
       

If interpretting lines isn't your thing, some of the digital tests might be a better fit for you. They give you a clear yes or no answer each time, which is really nice! But the only downside is they are significantly more expensive than the strip tests. I have found that both my strip OPK tests and digital OPKs are positive at the same time, so I prefer the cheaper tests. The most reliable digital test is made by ClearBlue and comes with multiple test sticks.

OPKs are a really helpful tool that can help to ensure you time intercourse properly to give yourself the best chance of conception. If you haven't tried using them yet, I highly recommend them! The cheaper tests work just as well as the expensive ones, so there truly is no need to break the bank.

Do you use OPKs? What is your "go to" brand?

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