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How Long Does the LH Surge Last for You?
When you first started thinking about having a baby, the phrase “LH surge” probably didn’t cross your mind. But if you’re trying to get pregnant, you’ve probably developed a sudden new interest in monitoring the level of luteinizing hormone (LH) in your urine.
What is luteinizing hormone?
LH is a hormone produced by your pituitary gland that triggers ovulation.
Throughout most of the month, your LH levels are low. But once the egg in your ovaries reaches a certain stage of development, LH levels increase rapidly. This rapid increase is called the LH surge.
Ovulation usually occurs 24 – 36 hours after the LH surge first begins. But keep in mind that having an LH surge does not guarantee that you will ovulate, and the exact timing from LH surge to ovulation can vary from woman to woman .
Why is LH important for getting pregnant?
Since levels of LH spike about 24 hours before ovulation, tracking your LH surge can help you determine when your chances for pregnancy are highest.
The fertile window is 6 days: the 5 days leading up to ovulation, and the day of ovulation itself. If you are trying to get pregnant, you must have sex during that 6-day fertile window.
Your chances of getting pregnant peak during the 2 – 3 days before ovulation. Since LH surges about 1 day before ovulation, monitoring your LH levels can help you identify some of the most fertile days of your cycle.
Keep in mind, however, that the LH surge occurs toward the end of your fertile window. If you wait for your LH surge to start having sex, you could be missing out on some of the best days of your cycle to conceive.
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How do you detect your LH surge?
You can detect levels of LH in your urine by using ovulation tests (also called LH tests). These tests read a positive result when the level of LH in your urine is above a certain threshold.
Since the LH surge typically occurs 24 hours before ovulation, you can use these tests to predict when you will ovulate.
If you start taking LH tests several days before you expect to ovulate, the idea is that you will “catch” your surge with enough time to have sex during your peak level of fertility. This is why it’s important to know when to take an ovulation test.
How long do you ovulate after the LH surge?
On average, women ovulate 24 hours after the onset of the LH surge. But this number varies considerably from woman to woman. In fact, this variability is so significant that for some women, LH tests might not be the best way to estimate peak fertility.
A 2018 paper called into question the practice of using LH tests to predict peak fertility. The paper argued that the duration of the LH surge varies substantially both within and between women. Additionally, ovulation can occur at the beginning of, during, or after the LH surge.
This means that a single positive LH test doesn’t tell you that you are going to ovulate in 24 hours. Depending on the length of your personal LH surge, as well as how long it takes your ovaries to respond to the LH signal, a positive LH test might mean that you will ovulate soon, are ovulating right now, or even that you ovulated yesterday and are no longer fertile.
How long after the LH surge are you fertile?
On average, ovulation occurs 24 hours after the first positive ovulation test. That means that you could have several days of positive tests in a row, but already ovulate after the first day.
What’s more, by the time you get a positive ovulation test, your most fertile days may already be behind you. That’s because your best chances to get pregnant are the three days before ovulation. The LH surge only occurs about 24 hours before ovulation.
And not all women ovulate 24 hours after the LH surge. Up to 70 percent of women have cycles that don’t match up to clinical guidelines. Some women ovulate sooner than that, and others ovulate later.
Some women continue to test positive for three days after a positive ovulation test. If you’re one of these women, a positive ovulation test doesn’t necessarily mean that you are fertile at all.
How long does the LH surge last?
The length of the LH surge is highly variable from woman to woman. And the actual length of the LH surge does not determine your fertile window.
Think of the LH surge as the kick-start to ovulation: once the LH surge begins, it doesn’t matter how long it lasts.
The Role Of Luteinizing Hormone
Luteinizing hormone, or LH, is a reproductive hormone that plays an important role in regulating your menstrual cycle and triggering ovulation. It can also be used to predict the time of ovulation.
The gradual rise of LH triggers the start of your most fertile days. Before the release of an egg, a.k.a. ovulation, LH surges dramatically. OPKs and digital fertility trackers detect this LH surge to let you know when your body is going to release an egg so you can plan to have sex (if TTC) or avoid sex (if tracking hormones to prevent pregnancy).
How OPKS Test For LH
Ovulation predictor kits, or OPKs, predict ovulation by detecting this LH surge. Like home pregnancy tests, OPKs use your urine stream to gather information about your hormone levels. They test the LH level in your urine and compare it to a threshold LH level. If your LH level is higher than the threshold, it shows a positive result, indicating that you are most likely going to ovulate soon (usually 24-36 hours after the LH surge). If your LH level is lower than this threshold, you are probably not ovulating; however, rarely, you may have a low baseline LH level, meaning your LH surge is too low for the OPK to detect. This can produce a false-negative result.
What If There’s No LH Surge?
Sometimes, your OPK may not detect an LH surge, producing a negative result. If you expected to see a positive result (see what a positive ovulation test looks like here), you might be surprised or concerned if your OPK comes up negative. So, what does no LH surge mean on an ovulation predictor kit?
What Does No LH Surge Mean?
Most of the time, a negative OPK result simply means that you are not ovulating. If you expected a positive result, this can mean that you took the test too early or too late, that you took the test incorrectly, or that you are experiencing an anovulatory cycle (menstrual cycle without ovulation) for whatever reason.
However, as we mentioned previously, it is possible to get a false-negative result if you have a low baseline LH level. Certain medical conditions, such as polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), can alter your baseline hormone levels, making traditional OPKs unreliable. Digital fertility trackers like Mira can detect more subtle surges in LH, so they may be helpful for women in these circumstances.
Can You Ovulate Without An LH Surge?
For most women, the answer is no. LH rises to tell the body that it is time to ovulate and surges 24-36 hours before the release of an egg. If you don’t see this surge, you probably took the test at the wrong time, ovulated early or late, or are experiencing an anovulatory cycle.
Rarely, however, your baseline LH level may be high or low, making OPK test results unreliable. Your baseline LH level may be higher than the threshold for ovulation, causing a false positive, or may be too subtle for the OPK to detect, causing a false negative. Most often, this occurs due to hormonal health conditions, such as PCOS. If this describes you, you might be able to experience ovulation without seeing an LH surge.
Can You Get Pregnant Without An LH Surge?
Again, most of the time, the answer is no. Most women only do not see an LH surge when they are not ovulating. If you do not ovulate during your menstrual cycle — i.e. experience an anovulatory cycle — your body does not release an egg, so it cannot be fertilized. In other words, conception cannot occur without a surge in LH.
But, as we mentioned previously, there are certain circumstances where OPKs may fail to show an LH surge, even though it has actually happened. Or, you may be using an OPK incorrectly, meaning that you are missing your LH surge even though it has actually occurred. In these cases, you may want to try more sophisticated testing, either using a digital fertility tracker or at your fertility doctor’s office.
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