Fertility monitors are reliable devices that are mainly used to detect the fertile window in the female ovarian cycle with the help of changes in the concentration of hormone breakdown products in the urine. Various research studies and experiments suggested that these monitors are fairly helpful in increasing the chances of conception by detecting 3-6 days in the cycle when the female partner is ‘most fertile’. It is very important to understand the factors that may affect the credibility of results and probable outcome to maximize your chances of getting pregnant.
According to the latest statistics of CDC, approximately 10.9% of all the females under the age of 15 to 44 years report an inability to conceive (or able to carry pregnancy until term) regardless of their marital status. This corresponds to 7.4 million women in the reproductive age group. However, it has been observed that only 6.7% females are infertile (requiring medical or surgical help to conceive) while the remaining 4.2% women conceive without any pharmacological or medical help. Fertility specialists believe that the cause of this relative delay in conception (also known as involuntary infertility) is the lack of vital knowledge and awareness about the timing and normal variations of ovulation/ ovarian cycle in women.
Why Use A Fertility Monitor?
Research and data suggests that the chances of conception can be increased many folds if sperms are made available in the female genital tract at or around the time of ovulation. But isn’t it pretty hard to determine what time you are ovulating?
Although there are several physical signs that are suggestive of ovulation like:
- Thickening of cervical mucus
- A slight increase in the basal body temperature
- Firmness in the texture of cervix
- Other non-specific changes like mid-cycle pains, bloating, breast heaviness and mild spotting
Nonetheless, it is hard for an average female to detect these changes with precision. Most importantly the symptoms are highly variable in different females over the course of different cycles.
In order to minimize the psychological stress, healthcare providers now recommend fertility monitors to detect urinary hormonal changes in the females for the determination of ovulation with precision. It has been observed that a female is most fertile at or around the time of ovulation (i.e. 13th to 16th day of the 28-days menstrual cycle). Any device that can help in the determination of this fertility window can directly influence conception.
How Does It Maximize Your Chances For Conception?
Fertility monitor basically helps in determining your fertile period (a phase in your cycle when mature egg is released in the female genital tract to fuse with the sperm). Most monitors require the concerned females to carry out fertility tests throughout the cycle (instructions and requirements vary in different monitors). The monitor determines fertility by:
- Monitoring the changes in the urinary concentration of two primary hormones; estrogen and luteinizing hormone (LH)
- Based on the urinary concentration, the monitor suggests your fertility for the day (as high, low or peak)
Some brands also offer fertility monitors that utilize saliva samples to ascertain the fertility (due to changes in the electrolyte concentration that in turn reflect hormonal changes in the body).
Other benefits of using fertility monitors are:
- It is a cost-effective and convenient method that saves time and gives you fertility readings in the comfort of your home.
- It directly increases your chances of conception by suggesting days when sexual intercourse may result in conception.
- It is highly precise, practical and reliable as opposed to other physical signs of ovulation listed above.
- If you don’t want to conceive, the information from the monitor can be used to practice natural contraception to avoid pregnancy.
For best results, try baby making practice on days when fertility monitor indicates high or peak fertility.
Accuracy Of Fertility Monitors?
Most fertility monitors are pretty accurate (more than 95 to 99%) and reliable; hence approved by FDA for the monthly monitoring of fertility to enhance the chances of pregnancy in each cycle. According to the research report published in the scientific journal Neurology, the fertility monitors safely predicted ovulation in more than 90% of the cases during the study performed by E. Anne MacGregor and colleagues. The research team cross-checked the accuracy of ovulation results by the blood hormone concentration and other non-invasive methods. American Pregnancy Association (APA) also suggests that fertility monitors that utilize the concentration of LH in the urine are 99% accurate in the estimation of ovulation or fertility period.
Unlike conventional methods like monitoring of basal body temperature (that only detects the ovulation), the fertility monitors gives you 2 additional fertile days prior to ovulation; thereby increasing the chances of successful pregnancy.
Conditions/Medications That May Affect Test Results
There are several conditions or physiological situations in which the chances of ‘misleading’ test increases. For best results, it is always indicated to read all the label instructions of your fertility monitoring device before proceeding.
The conditions that may affect the credibility of most fertility monitors are:
- An active pregnancy
- A history of recent pregnancy or miscarriage
- If you have already reached menopause (or you are in peri-menopausal age group –marked by irregular cycles and other menopausal symptoms like hot flashes, flushing of face etc)
- Polycystic ovarian disease (PCOD) is one of the preventable causes of infertility and can also interfere with the reliability of your fertility monitor results
- A history of chronic liver disease or chronic kidney disease can significantly alter the quality of results by interfering with the normal metabolism of female hormones (LH and estrogen)
- Immediately after the cessation of contraceptives, the ovarian cycles tend to be irregular for some time increasing the risk of inaccurate results. For best results, you can wait until your cycles are stable/ regular
Similarly certain medications also affect the reliability of results. Always check with your healthcare provider prior to starting any medication. Few pharmacological agents that affect the quality of results are:
- Fertility treatment with hormones like hCG (human Chorionic Gonadotrophin) or LH (Luteinizing Hormone)
- Clomiphene citrate is a fertility aid often prescribed by healthcare providers to boost fertility by ovulation induction. Use of this drug can prolong the cycle and also increase estrogen concentration. You can usually start testing 3-5 days after finishing the Clomiphene course
- Drugs like danazol and menotropins injections may also influence the results
To optimize the accuracy of your fertility monitor, healthcare providers advise these simple tips:
- Limiting the water intake at least 4 hours prior to the pregnancy test
- Make sure to take the reading/ perform test at around the same time each day
- In case you want to repeat the test (due to any error), make sure to wait another 4 hours to allow LH levels to concentrate in the urine. It is best to test the next day at the designated time
The Best Time To Start Using Fertility Monitors?
Although, different fertility monitors have different instructions and recommendations, yet the fundamental guidelines are more or less same with all the monitors. Most electronic monitors are smart devices that study your cycle and give you set of days when test should be performed. Some monitors also recommend daily fertility recording.
Some devices like Clearblue fertility monitors require users to set the device manually by taking the test on the first day of menstrual cycle to record the information about ovarian cycle. This requires testing at Day 1 (when your period has started) and Day 6 (to detect the length of menstrual stage) and other days as indicated by the monitor after this initial assessment.
- Set one time during the day when you perform the test (in order to maintain uniformity). Ideally test your first morning urine to get a high concentration of hormone.
- Once you get a positive result, coordinate with your partner and perform intercourse more frequently for the next 3 days.
- During the course of each cycle, you may need 10-20 strips, depending on the length and rhythm of your cycle.
Fertility Monitor Vs. Ovulation Test Kit
Often time, women confuse fertility monitors with ovulation test kits. The two devices together help in increasing the chances of conception, but the methodology is different. Ovulation test kits give you two days of your cycle when you are most fertile (i.e. just before ovulation and the day you ovulate).
Fertility monitors on the other hand detect changes in LH as well as estrogen to pinpoint 4-7 fertile days when the chances of getting pregnant increases with sexual intercourse. This is mainly because the sperm can survive in the female genital tract for quite some time regardless of the time of ovulation).
Ovulation prediction kits detect LH surge (the peak rise in the serum concentration of LH or Luteinizing Hormone just prior to ovulation).
Fertility monitors are an excellent and reliable method of determining your fertility especially in following circumstances:
- If your cycle length is normal (21 to 42 days) but rhythm is irregular (that is making it hard for you to predict the time of ovulation)
- If you are not using any contraceptive device
- If you have recently stopped breastfeeding or gave birth to a baby
- In timing clinical visits for women who have recognized fertility issues
According to a study published in the peer reviewed medical journal Fertility and Sterility, the research team concluded that the women who use fertility monitors have a 33.3% higher chance of getting pregnant when compared to the control group (who employed physical signs of ovulation to monitor their fertility during the course of study). 653 patients were enrolled in the experiment for two cycles of which 22.7% females from the test group (who used fertility monitors get pregnant) as opposed to only 14.4% of the women in control group.
Besides monitoring the progress of your cycle with the help of fertility monitors, some other tips that also increase your chances of conception are:
- Healthy reduction in body weight if the cause of infertility is obesity or polycystic ovarian disease
- Optimal management of chronic health issues like diabetes, hypertension, high blood cholesterol concentration, endocrinological abnormalities as much
- Living a stress-free healthy lifestyle also increases the chances of conception