Did you know that you can test for ovulation? But ovulation tests aren’t as simple as other health tests. Let’s talk about reading different results on ovulation tests and what a faint line on an ovulation test means.
You may know that a light line is all you need for a positive pregnancy test. Ovulation tests are a little different.
First, a brief review of what ovulation is and what ovulation tests are measuring.
Ovulation is when your ovary releases a mature egg into the fallopian tube. This happens in the 12-14 days before your next cycle.
The 4 days before ovulation, the day of ovulation, and the day after ovulation constitute your “fertile window.”
With an egg in the fallopian tube, it’s the easiest time for sperm to swim up and fertilize the egg. You will have high chances of conception during this window.
So knowing your fertile window and the day of your ovulation exactly, will be helpful if you’re planning to get pregnant. Can an ovulation test help you with that?
Here’s the kicker: positive ovulation tests are not actually telling you that you’re ovulating. They’re telling you your body is preparing to ovulate. Read on to know what we’re getting at.
Ovulation tests measure the level of luteinizing hormone, or LH, in your pee. This hormone rises about a day (24-36 hours) before ovulation, and tells the ovaries to release a mature egg, triggering ovulation.
Most ovulation tests have an average threshold for testing the LH levels. If you surpass that threshold, you will get a positive test result.
Ovulation tests are very accurate at detecting LH: with almost 99% accuracy. So, when you track your cycle with an ovulation test, it will indicate that your body is undergoing changes and you can accordingly plan conception.
But – and this is important to note – high LH doesn’t always mean that ovulation will happen.
Many women have low levels of LH in their pee at other times in their cycle, or they may have peaks of LH that aren’t followed by ovulation. A cycle during which ovulation doesn’t occur is called an anovulatory cycle.
Women with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) may have LH levels away from the baseline throughout the month. That doesn’t necessarily mean they’ve released an egg, though.
In fact, women with PCOS may have a positive ovulation test throughout the month, yet never ovulate within that cycle, due to a fluctuation in their hormones.
Since the LH levels in PCOS women are above the average threshold in the ovulation tests, you will get a false positive test result.
Even women without PCOS can have a surge in LH without ovulating. This happens when there is a condition called Luteinizing Unruptured Follicle Syndrome (LUFS).
This dysfunction in ovulation affects nearly one in four women, and often happens over several cycles without their knowledge.
Another factor that can throw off ovulation tests is if you are on certain fertility medication. These drugs cause an LH surge that tries to stimulate ovulation. If your body responds positively to these drugs, then your ovary will release an egg for fertilization.
Due to the fertility medication, your LH levels can surge over the average threshold and give you a false positive test result on these ovulation kits.
But again, standard ovulation tests can’t tell the difference between your body trying to ovulate and actually ovulating.
In anovulation, LH can rise and peak without ovulation actually happening. This frustrating occurrence of the failure to ovulate is the #1 cause of infertility.
The good news is that even if any of these processes are leaving you confused, advanced testing can tell you whether or not you’ve released an egg. More on this later.
When you use an ovulation test, the first thing you’ll see is a dark strip that appears after you’ve dipped it in urine.
This is your “control” line. It doesn’t measure anything. Instead, it gives you a line to compare the new line to. This new line only appears after LH has risen above the test threshold.
When reading an ovulation test, you’re not just looking for lines. You’re comparing the “control” on the test with the new line that represents your LH.
The ovulation test comes pre-marked with a dark line. You have to look for a new line that is the same intensity of the one that came with the test, or even darker.
This is considered a “positive” ovulation test. In the days leading up to ovulation, the new line should grow darker until it is the same color or darker than the “control” line.
But what if you’re not seeing two dark lines?
Low levels of LH can cause a light-coloured or faint line on an ovulation test. This may make you wonder whether or not you’re really ovulating. Let’s talk about what different results on ovulation tests mean.
A faint new line on an ovulation test indicates that your LH levels are high enough to trigger the test, but not high enough to stimulate ovulation.
Remember when we said ovulation tests are 99% accurate at detecting LH? That means that even at low levels, LH will show up on ovulation tests.
In a normal menstrual cycle, a faint line on an ovulation test could mean two things:
This is why it’s important to track your ovulation for several days, rather than testing on just one day. Testing twice a day for five days is ideal to avoid missing your peak LH levels.
Even better is tracking your ovulation for several cycles. Maintaining your own calendar for this purpose over a period of time will help you understand and be in sync with your body better.
The lighter line represents your LH, while the other is the comparison or control line. One lighter and one darker line means that your LH is high enough to show up on the test, but may not have peaked yet.
No second line on an ovulation test means that there is little to no LH in your urine. You’re not close to the beginning or end of ovulation. It may be that your LH surge has yet to happen, or has already occurred.
Tracking your menstrual cycle monthly can help you more accurately predict when you’ll ovulate.
Ovulation typically occurs 12-14 days before your next cycle and the exact cycle day for ovulation may be different for different cycle lengths.
Some women notice that they ovulate much earlier or later than the predicted window. Learn more about early ovulation.
If you’ve been tracking your cycle for several months and never see a positive ovulation test, it is best to consult your doctor for further steps.
If you see a faint line on an ovulation test for five days straight, it means LH is not peaking. We are used to seeing LH rise, then peak right before ovulation. But there are circumstances when LH may stagnate around the time when our bodies are trying to ovulate.
All the above conditions can alter your hormone levels causing you to have a not so dark line on the ovulation test.
If you’re noticing that lines on your ovulation test stay the same for days on end, see your primary care doctor or your gynecologist.
Ensure that you have taken care of the following before taking an ovulation test:
It is possible for your ovulation test to flash a negative result. Negative ovulation tests are not necessarily a bad thing. You may have had a negative ovulation test result due to the following:
Don’t worry! There are some ways to break through to a positive result:
A faint line on an ovulation test even when you are not ovulating means LH is present in your urine when it actually shouldn’t be.
This can be because of a hormonal imbalance that can have different reasons.
Here are a few examples of when LH may be high at different times in your cycle:
Nope. Pregnancy tests look for a totally different hormone called Human Chorionic Gonadotropin (hCG). Your ovulation test does not pick up on hCG, but on LH.
Lines on an ovulation test mean that LH is high, which is something that anyway doesn’t happen during pregnancy. Typical LH levels in pregnancy are too low to be detected on an ovulation test. This is because the pregnancy hormone hCG takes over.
So if you’re finding a positive ovulation test, you’re not pregnant. But you could still get pregnant in this cycle by taking advantage of your fertile window. Get to your bedroom and get busy!
You’ve taken the ovulation tests for several days. You’ve watched the line go from light to dark and back. But now that you know that ovulation tests aren’t really telling you you’ve ovulated, you want more answers.
The only way to definitively tell if you’ve ovulated is to track progesterone after your fertile window.
Progesterone is a hormone central to the menstrual cycle and your pregnancy. After an egg is released, progesterone rises for about 5 days, working to prepare the body in case fertilization occurs.
In your luteal phase (the last 12-14 days of your cycle before your next period), you can check for a rise in progesterone to tell if you really ovulated in this cycle.
Checking progesterone at about a week before your next period can help you know if you released an egg in this cycle.
This rise in progesterone is also sometimes associated with breast tenderness, bloating, food cravings, and other symptoms we associate with early pregnancy.
Inito’s Fertility Monitor reliably tracks progesterone (PdG) during the luteal phase so that you know for sure if you could be pregnant. We take the uncertainty out of that two-week window between ovulation and pregnancy testing.
Keep the confusion aside and track your fertile window through digital results given by the Inito Fertility Monitor.
Inito gives you results like ‘Peak Fertility’ for tracking your fertile window and ‘Ovulation Confirmed’ for confirming your ovulation day.
Looking for more about testing for ovulation? Check out our guide on positive ovulation tests.