Timing is essential when you’re trying to start a family. Since you can only conceive during a narrow window of time after you ovulate, correctly identifying your ovulation date should be at the top of your trying-to-conceive “to do” list. But with so many ovulation tracking methods available, how do you know which one you should use?

Some women who are trying for a baby like to use Natural Family Planning methods (NFP methods), which let them monitor their natural fertility cycle by tracking their body’s natural signs of ovulation. However, NFP methods aren’t for everyone. This is especially true for women who have irregular, extremely short or lengthy cycles.

Fortunately, NFP methods aren’t the only tracking options available for hopeful mothers-to-be. In fact there are a number of for-purchase and over the counter fertility tracking tools that can also help optimize your chances of getting pregnant sooner. These tools can help women who aren’t 100% comfortable using a NFP method, as well as women who want to enhance the methods they’re already using. If you’re one of these women, and you’re looking for a little help in your natural conception efforts, consider adding one of these tools to your baby-making arsenal.

1) Ovulation Predictor Kits

Ovulation predictor kits (OPKs) are “pee-on-a-stick” tests that resemble pregnancy tests in their design. Unlike pregnancy tests, which search for the hCG hormone, OPKs react to certain levels of luteinizing hormone (LH). While this hormone is always present in women to some degree, LH levels increase sharply just several days before ovulation. By testing for LH, women can get a “positive result” a day or two before they ovulate, and will know that one of their ovaries will soon release an egg.

OPKs can help women who are having trouble with, or who are uncomfortable using, NFP methods. However, while they are quick and easy to use, the cost of OPKs can add up quickly with repeated use. And if you do use these kits, you’ll need to determine the best day to start testing based on your monthly cycle. If you have a regular cycle, daily testing is not necessary with OPKs, and you should only test near the middle of your cycle to try to pinpoint your ovulation date. If you have an irregular cycle, however, you may need to test daily for these kits to work efficiently. If you do choose to use OPKs, know that they are readily available online, as well as at most chemists and supermarkets, such as Walgreens and Rite Aid. You can usually find them in the same section as pregnancy tests.

2) Ovulation Strips

Ovulation strips, like OPKs, are readily available over the counter fertility tools that you can buy in convenience and drug stores. They also allow you to identify and track your ovulation date from month to month. And like OPKs, they look for rising levels of luteinizing hormone in a urine sample. But unlike OPKs, a single set of strips will allow you to track your cycle for an entire month. This allows women to remove most of the guesswork and to narrow down their fertile days more accurately.

Since a month’s supply of strips is available for around $20 online or in stores, many women find strips to be cost effective and beneficial in detecting their LH level surge. But while strips are probably the cheapest way to accurately detect an LH surge, they’re not always the most accurate. This is because failing to follow the directions for using the strips can easily compromise a test’s findings for the day.

3) Fertility Monitors

A fertility monitor can help you speed up the process tracking both LH and oestrogen levels. These non-invasive devices have two key parts: disposable urine test sticks, and a hand-held monitor that reads the tests and compiles data based on their results. Since monitors track two types of hormone levels and store data for multiple months in one place, regular monitor use allows you to identify changes in the hormones that control and impact your fertility.

Fertility monitors have generally been hugely helpful for women who want to learn more about their cycle and fertility patterns. Some people find fertility monitors to be more convenient and easier than tracking things such as their body temperature and cervical mucus. Others like to use fertility monitors and fertility awareness techniques together to confirm their ovulation date more precisely. If you do decide to use a fertility monitor, you’re not limited to just one option. Fertility monitors come in a variety of shapes and sizes (and price ranges). They’re highly accurate, and they provide unambiguous results. They are, however, expensive, ranging from just over $100 to over $300.

4) Apps

There are several apps available that can help women track their cycles and predict their most fertile dates. Different apps can be used to track different things during the monthly cycle. Depending on what app you use, you’ll be able to:

  • Record your likely dates of ovulation, your dates of menstruation, and your basal body temperature.
  • Track the days you engage in sexual activity.
  • Monitor symptoms that you have throughout the month, including the soreness of your breasts, your mood and your weight.
  • Create graphs and charts with the data, which can be printed out and emailed for personal use or for your doctor’s.

A few months of using an app and analyzing the data you collect may help you to know your most fertile days, therefore increasing the chances of conception. While not necessarily as accurate as other methods, they do offer a convenient supplementary tool for parents-to-be that want to keep their planning and health information in one place. Not sure which app to use? Try one of the ones recommended by MedicalDaily.com, Babble.com, or Parents.com. A favorite of ours is OVIA.

Our Thoughts

These four tools are all great for aiding in ovulation tracking and conception efforts, and can each help women who would prefer to naturally conceive track their cycles. As is often the case when it comes to starting a family, the best tool and method to use when trying for a baby is the one you’re the most comfortable using. Our advice? Do some homework and budgeting, and decide from there which method will benefit you and allow you to continue to try and start your family in a comfortable, low-stress way. This will ensure that you’ve given yourself the best chance possible of conceiving.