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There are many techniques that women who are trying to get pregnant use to determine when they are fertile. Fertility charting, monitoring cervical mucus, and using ovulation calendars are all popular ways to figure the date of ovulation out.

Ovulation tests, also known as ovulation predictor kits, can easily be seen as the most reliable way to determine ovulation because they work by detecting a hormone that only appears during ovulation.  Ovulation disorders as a result of which a woman never or rarely ovulates are obvious causes of infertility.[1] It is easy to assume that you could be infertile after you have been using ovulation tests for a few months, without ever seeing a positive result. Before you panic, first check if you may be making one of these common mistakes.

Are you testing too early or too late in your cycle?

Ovulation predictor kits may be very reliable, but they are also quite expensive. I personally don't know anyone who has ever used ovulation tests throughout the whole month, from the time menstruation ends to until the ovulation predictor kit comes up positive. The vast majority of women roughly calculates when their ovulation is most likely going to take place, and then commences testing a couple of days before that date. Most ovulation calendars work by figuring out the date of the next expected menstrual period based on the average cycle length and then counting back 14 days. This is also what you may be doing yourself, manually, since it represents an average. It is entirely possible that you ovulate earlier or later in your cycle than you suspect, however, and you may like to consider taking ovulation tests every single day of your cycle after the end of your menstrual flow, for one month. You can stop once/if you do get a positive ovulation test, obviously.

You may be testing at the wrong time of the day

Every single pregnancy test mentions the ideal testing time on the package insert it is best to test first thing in the morning, when your urine contains the highest concentration of the hormone you are trying to detect. In the case of pregnancy tests, that hormone is hCG (human Chorionic gonadotropin). Ovulation tests look for another hormone, however: luteinizing hormone or LH. LH surgers during the early afternoon hours, and you should take an ovulation test at around noon. What's more, luteinizing hormone can be detected in the body for around 10 hours. You could, in other words, easily be missing that really short window. Are ovulation tests really as helpful as you though they were?

At the very least, you should keep in mind that you may be missing your window of opportunity. Don't let a negative ovulation test stop you from having sex. Remember that having intercourse every two or three days is just as productive as using ovulation tests, since sperm can live inside the female body for up to seven days. (Those couples who have a fertility problem will still not get pregnant, needless to say).

You could have an ovulation problem

Have you used ovulation predictor kits on every day of the month, and not had a single positive? Have you used them at the right time? Do you also use at least one other method to determine when you are fertile, such as fertility charting or listening to your body's natural ovulation symptoms? And, have you been trying to conceive for close to a year, or even longer? It is of course, possible that you suffer from an ovulation disorder.

Below you will find a list of possible causes that may cause your problem with ovulation [1]:

  • Your hypothalamus may not secrete gonadotropin-releasing hormone
  • Your pituitary gland may produce too little luteinizing hormone or follicle-stimulating hormone.
  • Your ovaries may produce too little estrogen.
  • Your pituitary gland may produce too much prolactin, a hormone that stimulates milk production and that may result in low levels of the hormones that trigger ovulation. 
  • Your adrenal glands may overproduce male hormones, testosterone, for example. 
  • Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), often signaled by excess weight and excess production of male hormones in the ovaries
  • Diabetes
  • Obesity or excessive weight loss  
  • Excessive exercise
  • Stress 
  • Drugs, from a group of estrogens and progestins and antidepressants

These days, a couple has to actively try to conceive for 12 months to come under the "infertility" header if they are under 35. If this applies to you, now may be a good time to make an appointment with your family doctor and to get a referral to a reproductive endocrinologist. Those women who are over 40 can see their family doctor about their fertility after only six months of trying. Not getting pregnant can be the result of any number of reasons, and they may have nothing to do with a lack of ovulation even if you did receive all negative ovulation tests. Fertility testing under the supervision of a competent medical professional will be your quickest way to find out what is going on.

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