Written by: Dr. Amy Beckley, PhD, Founder and Inventor of the Proov test — the first and only FDA-cleared test to confirm successful ovulation at home.
Written on 1/17/21
There are plenty of at-home tools to help us track ovulation, one of the most common being the ovulation test.
For anyone trying to conceive, knowing when and if you ovulated is a key piece of the pregnancy puzzle. After all, we need an egg to get present and that only comes once — you guessed it — you’ve ovulated.
Luckily, there are plenty of at-home tools to help us track ovulation, one of the most common being the ovulation test. As one of many at-home hormone tests, you may be wondering which hormone ovulation tests measure. Is it LH, FSH, or maybe even progesterone?
Keep reading to learn more about ovulation tests, progesterone, and how both can help you reach your fertility goals faster.
What are ovulation tests and why should I use them?
Ovulation tests are at-home hormone tests most commonly used by those trying to conceive. Contrary to their name, ovulation tests actually help us predict when ovulation should occur, rather than tell us whether or not it happened. But don’t be fooled — predicting ovulation correctly does increase your chances at pregnancy.
As we mentioned above, an egg needs to be present (along with sperm) in order for conception to occur. But, eggs are only viable for about 12-24 hours after ovulation, meaning sperm only has a limited amount of time to fertilize the egg.
The good news, however, is that sperm can actually live in the female reproductive tract for up to 5 days. This means having intercourse before ovulation occurs ensures the sperm are waiting for the egg once it’s released. In fact, studies show the chances of getting pregnant are highest on the 2 days leading up to ovulation.
This is where ovulation tests come in! Ovulation tests like Proov Predict provide insight into your 2 most fertile days each cycle, so that you can time intercourse accurately and better your chances at conception.
Do ovulation tests measure progesterone?
The short answer is no, ovulation tests do not measure progesterone. However, we understand why this can be a misconception. We’ll explain, but first a quick cycle recap!
Each cycle, our hormones work to regulate ovulation. First, follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) increases to stimulate your ovaries to produce eggs. As an egg becomes mature enough for ovulation, it produces estrogen.
Once estrogen reaches a sufficient level, this signals to your brain that it’s time for ovulation. In turn, your brain sends a surge of (luteinizing hormone) LH to the ovary to trigger it to rupture and release the egg.
After ovulation occurs, the empty follicle from which the egg was released starts producing progesterone. This hormone is responsible for preparing your uterus for pregnancy, basically making it “sticky” enough so that a fertility embryo can successfully implant into the uterine lining.
Now, we know that ovulation tests predict when ovulation should occur so you can accurately time intercourse. We also know that progesterone is released after ovulation occurs. Therefore, ovulation tests do not measure progesterone.
Ovulation tests do not measure progesterone.
So, what hormone do ovulation tests detect?
You are probably still wondering, what hormone is detected in ovulation tests? In order to predict your 2 most fertile days each cycle, most ovulation tests measure LH — the hormone that surges to trigger ovulation.
Studies show that ovulation typically occurs about 12-36 hours after an LH surge. This is why a positive ovulation test, indicating an LH surge, identifies your 2 most fertile days each cycle.
It’s important to note, however, that not all tests that predict ovulation measure only LH. Some tests, like Proov Complete, also measure E1G — a urine marker of estrogen.
As we mentioned, estrogen rises as our follicles grow, before our ovaries choose a dominant follicle. Tracking estrogen levels during the first half of our cycle can help you identify the longest possible fertile window — up to 6 days — so that you can start having intercourse earlier and further maximize your chances at conception.
How can I measure progesterone?
Even though ovulation tests don’t measure progesterone, this doesn’t mean progesterone isn’t an important hormone when TTC! In fact, ensuring healthy progesterone levels during the second half of your cycle is a key piece of the pregnancy puzzle.
You’ll remember that progesterone is the hormone produced by the empty follicle after ovulation, to ensure the uterine lining is “sticky” enough to receive a newly formed embryo. Without enough progesterone present, it can be more difficult for successful implantation to occur.
Specifically, progesterone needs to remain elevated during the entire “implantation window.” This refers to the 4 days each cycle (roughly days 7-10 past peak fertility) when the uterus is actually receptive to an embryo.
If not enough progesterone is present or it doesn’t remain elevated for the entire implantation window, the embryo’s ability to implant may be impacted. This can also impact the chances of getting pregnant.
If not enough progesterone is present or it doesn’t remain elevated for the entire implantation window, the embryo’s ability to implant may be impacted.
Progesterone can be directly measured via a blood test from your doctor or a lab. A concern with progesterone blood tests — besides the fact that you have to be pricked with a needle — is that blood tests only show levels at one point in time.
Since we know that progesterone needs to remain elevated through the entire implantation window, a single blood test offers incomplete information. You could have a good level on day 9 past peak fertility but it could drop on day 10 past peak, which can impact your chances at pregnancy.
This is why we typically recommend PdG testing over progesterone blood tests. PdG is a urine marker of progesterone that is only present in urine when progesterone is also present in blood. Studies show PdG levels in first morning urine correlate to an average of all progesterone blood levels from the previous day.
Proov Confirm is the first and only FDA cleared PdG test to check for successful ovulation at home. We recommend testing PdG levels on days 7, 8, 9, and 10 past peak fertility (your first positive ovulation test) to check for successful ovulation. This means PdG levels remained elevated for long enough to allow for a higher chance at pregnancy.
While ovulation tests do not detect progesterone, they still offer valuable information into when you should ovulate so you can time intercourse accurately.