Reasons for a False Positive Pregnancy Test

Is it possible to get a false positive pregnancy test?

I am writing this post as it is very common to get a positive pregnancy test only for your period to arrive a few days later. I have experienced this 3 times when trying to conceive and it is both disappointing and confusing. Why would a pregnancy test be positive if I was not pregnant? Todays pregnancy tests are usually accurate 99% of the time if used the day of a missed period and it is much more common to get a false negative pregnancy test than a false positive but it does occur and there are 5 main reasons for this to happen.

1: Evaporation lines.

Evaporation lines mainly happen with the cheap internet test strips. The test strip will appear blank with no test line appearing within the 5-10 minutes testing line (only the control line will be present). After a few hours however, when the test dries a slight shadow of a line may sometimes appear. It will be grey in colour (the test dye is usually pink or blue) and this is not a true test line. To avoid being confused and disappointed, it is important to read the test within 5-10 minutes and if it is negative throw it away and do not look at it again. I have to say I have never experienced an evaporation line before. When I have not been pregnant the test area is stark white and nothing appears even after a few hours.

2: Out of date Pregnancy Test.

When a pregnancy test is out-of-date it will not give an accurate result and may give either a false positive or false negative result. Always make sure your test is within date before using.

3: Fertility Drugs

Some fertility drugs that are given during IVF can raise levels of the pregnancy hormone HCG. This can result in a false positive pregnancy tests. You should be warned about this by your fertility doctor and may be told not to carry out a pregnancy test and to wait for an early ultra sound scan to confirm a pregnancy.

4: You have had a very early miscarriage known as a Chemical Pregnancy.

I have had 3 chemical pregnancies over the past few years and they are particularly heart breaking especially if you have been trying to conceive for a long time. A chemical pregnancy is a very early miscarriage and it occurs when an egg is fertilised and begins to attach but does not implant properly. If you take a pregnancy test before your period is due e.g. as early as 10/11dpo you may see a faint line appear within the testing time (5 minutes or so). You may get several days of faint positive tests only for them to go blank again and then for your period to arrive on time or a day or so late. A majority of the time this occurs when using a very sensitive pregnancy test e.g. First Response (which measures to a level of 6.3imu) or the internet cheap test strips (which measure to 10imu). You will see a faint line that does not progress over several days and then your period arrives.

Below are examples of tests I did on 10, 11 and 12dpo which ended in my period arriving on 13dpo. As you can see the lines are very faint and do not seem to progress very much despite having lots of pregnancy symptoms. I carried out a clear blue test on 12dpo and it was negative indicating my HCG levels were not  very high and were not increasing.

Should you test early? This is something to think about when trying to conceive. If you are like me and like to test as early as possible then you are probably going to buy the most sensitive pregnancy test you can buy (First Response or the cheap internet test strips). To save yourself heart break it is much safer to test the day you have missed your period (or 15dpo) and to use a less sensitive test such as clear blue or a test which is only sensitive at HCG levels of 25imu or higher. By testing later on and by using a less sensitive pregnancy test you are less likely to become aware of a chemical pregnancy and it can save you some heart break. If you do experience a chemical pregnancy it is important to grieve the loss but to also take the positives away. Your partners sperm reached your egg and fertilised it and it started to implant. This is a great sign that you will conceive again successfully in a subsequent cycle and does not mean anything is wrong. Chemical pregnancies are extremely common and most women do not even know they have had one unless they test early but it is important to speak with your Dr If you have 3 chemical pregnancies in a row just to be safe.

5: You have had a recent miscarriage.

If you have had a miscarriage in previous months, even if you have had a second period, you may still have residual pregnancy hormones left over. The pregnancy hormone HCG can stay within your system for many months and will prevent ovulation if levels are not close to zero. Once you have had a miscarriage your doctor should tell you to do a pregnancy test 2 weeks after bleeding had started. If the test is still positive then they will either tell you to wait another few weeks or offer you an ultra sound scan to check for any left over pregnancy material. Often there are small pieces of the placenta still present and this may be shed in a second period or get absorbed by your body (you do not need to ovulate for this to happen). If you have a second period and you are still getting positive pregnancy tests then it is important to speak to you Dr. You may need to have a D&C to manually remove left over material even if you have already had one. From speaking to many women who have had miscarriages, it is more common to get a positive pregnancy test weeks/months after a D&C than if they miscarry naturally or if you have had a medically managed miscarriage (tablets/suppository that cause you to miscarry).

I hope this article was helpful. Please feel free to comment below.



Cheap internet pregnancy test strips. Do they really work? A review and comparison to First Response and Clear Blue.

I have decided to write this post as a common question asked almost weekly on trying to conceive websites is ”are the cheap pregnancy test strips you can buy online any good?” and ”Do cheap pregnancy test strips work as well as the expensive brands such as First Response and Clear Blue?” The short answer is yes. They work in exactly the same way as the more expensive brands. They just come without the expensive plastic packaging.

How sensitive are cheap pregnancy test strips?

Most cheap internet tests are very sensitive at 10mlU/ml with only First Response being more sensitive at 6.3mlU/ml. Clear blue are around 25mlU/ml so are the less sensitive brand. There are obviously many other brands of pregnancy tests out there but none are cheaper than the ones you can buy in bulk online from ebay, Amazon or from this website – My Fertility (See product pages for more information). You can buy 40 test strips for just £5.27p meaning at My Fertility making it just 13p per test compared to £6-£12 per test when buying a First Response or Clear Blue. For this reason the cheap pregnancy test strips are extremely good value for money, especially if you want to test everyday to see the progression of darker lines. Because they are so cheap many woman believe they cannot possibly work as well as the most expensive brands despite the fact our NHS use such test strips in all of their clinics and hospitals to check for pregnancies.

Do the cheap internet pregnancy tests work?

I have recently taken the opportunity to conduct an experiment on a friend who was trying to conceive. I supplied her with dozens of pregnancy test strips as well as a few First Response and Clear blue tests to compare their performance. As you will see the results show that the cheap tests work very well and are very reliable.


How early can you test with the cheap pregnancy test strips?

This is a photo of a positive pregnancy test strip done at 11dpo (so 4 days before a missed period). As you can see there is a slight shadow of a second line above the control line but it is not 100% convincing. The clear blue test carried out with the same urine was negative however the First Response test carried out was clearly positive showing a faint line.



The test strip below was taken at 12dpo. As you can see it is clearly positive.



Below is a cheap pregnancy test strip compared to a clear blue test taken at 13dpo. As you can see both are clearly positive. The only difference is the plastic outer casing and the colour of the dye……oh yes and the price. The clear blue test cost £8 and the test strip cost 13p.






This is a comparison of a First Response tests taken at 15dpo compared to a cheap test strip. As you can see both the tests are very positive and it seems redundant to carry on paying out £5-10 per test for a First Response when you can reliably use a cheap test at a fraction of the price.



Finally this is a cheap pregnancy test strip at 18dpo. The test line is almost as dark as the control line just 4 days after a missed period.



How Quickly will the cheap pregnancy test strips get dark?

This photo below shows the progression of the darkening lines as each day passes. The lines get darker over several days from 11dpo to 18dpo, just like the more expensive brands do. The only thing to say really is if you want a clear answer very early on e.g. 10-11dpo then First Response are the best test as they are so sensitive. If you are willing to wait until 12-13dpo then the cheap internet tests work very well. This all depends on implantation of course and whether or not you know your exact ovulation date rather than an estimated date. You may ovulate on different cycle days from month to month so unless you a charting your ovulation you cannot be 100% sure how many days post ovulation you are (even if you use ovulation tests). A negative test does not necessarily mean you are not pregnant. Until your period arrives there is always a chance and with the cheap test strips you can test until your hearts is content without costing yourself a fortune.


I hope this post was helpful. Feel free to comment below. See products page if you would like to buy any cheap pregnancy test strips.


How to chart your ovulation – Part 7

Detecting Ovulation

By charting your fertility signs you can detect when you are most fertile, when ovulation may be occurring and when it has occurred. An increase in estrogen levels can infer ovulation is approaching and signs of this include the presence of thin, watery and stretchy cervical discharge.  Ovulation prediction kits (OPKs) and other fertility monitors (e.g. the clear blue fertility monitor – see my review here), can tell us that ovulation is about to take place. They do this by measuring the levels of Lutineizing hormone which increases dramatically 12-24 hours before ovulation.  By charting your BBT you can pinpoint the day of ovulation. Your body temperature will rise due to an increase in the hormone progesterone following ovulation.

Reading your chart.

A perfect chart will show all your fertile signs and OPK results line up with the predicted ovulation day on your chart. When your chart is perfectly lined up it is easy to interpret. For several days leading up to ovulation you should have recorded watery discharge or EWCM. The day before (and sometimes the day of) ovulation you should have a positive OPK if you use them. The day after ovulation you should see your temperature shift on your chart and following 3 days of higher temperatures your ovulation day can be confirmed – usually on phone apps this is indicated as a vertical line. Until you have 3 days of higher temperatures assume you are still fertile. Once ovulation has taken place your cervical mucus should change to the creamy, tacky infertile type.



Unfortunately, chart patterns are not always perfectly clear. If you are in any doubt that ovulation has taken place e.g. maybe your temperature has risen but your cervical mucus was creamy or your OPKS were negative, and you are trying to conceive then carry on having intercourse every other day until you are sure. If you need any help with your charts please feel free to email me a screen shot at and I will be happy to take a look for you.


Common issues you may come across:


Slow or Sloping Rise

Following ovulation your temperatures may be slow to increase giving a gentle curve rather than an abrupt shift. It is common for this to occur for several days after ovulation as progesterone levels start to rise following ovulation.


A Fallback Rise

This pattern is unusual but shows a distinct BBT rise after ovulation followed by a drop in BBT before the rise returns and is maintained. This can cause confusion on charts and make you question when ovulation has taken place. This is when your other fertile signs come into place to help you pinpoint when ovulation has taken place.


Zigzag Pattern

 This is when your BBT increases in a sort of zig zag pattern and is very common. BBt rises and drops each day but the overall pattern is an increase.


Steps pattern

 This pattern shows a rise which will remain steady for a day or two then another rise and so on until your peak BBT is reached. The chart ends up looking like it is increasing in steps.


Long Cycles

 This is a pattern that I am very familiar with having experienced very long cycles in the past. You may see several patches of fertile cervical mucus and several positive OPKs before you finally ovulate. You may even get the odd high temperature here and there which will make you question if ovulation has taken place. Ovulating late in your cycle can occur from time to time as a one off but if you are trying to conceive and it is a common occurrence it can become very frustrating and stressful. If you are concerned about long cycles then go and speak to your GP.


Erratic BBT

 Often erratic BBT can be down to the way you are taking your temperature. If you record your BBT orally and you are consistently getting erratic BBT recordings (up and down each day) then it may be useful to try temping vaginally. Remember to take care when inserting the thermometer and to wash it thoroughly after each use.


 Temperatures out of place

You may see the odd temperature here and there that does not fit in with your chart e.g. a high BBT during before ovulation or a low BBT after ovulation. As it is more the overall pattern that is important when charting and not the individual BBT that we are interested in you may disregard these temperatures.


High BBT during your period

It is normal to have BBT that are higher during your period as your lining is shed and progesterone levels decrease. Once your period is finished your BBT will drop to your normal pre ovulation temperatures.

Ovulation Dip

A sudden drop in BBT may occur the day before or day of ovulation which may be due to a rise in estrogen levels (which is a cooling hormone) before ovulation. This dip will be followed by a rise in BBT following ovulation.

Numerous patches of fertile cervical mucus

Often you may get several patches of fertile cervical discharge before you ovulate especially if your cycles are very long. Each patch of fertile mucus may indicate you are within your fertile window so if you are trying to conceive then have intercourse whenever you experience this until you get your thermal shift.

Several positive OPKs

Luteinizing Hormone (LH), is detected by OPKs and this hormone may rise several days before you are about to ovulate (although usually it peaks 12-24hrs before). This is why you should not solely rely on OPKs to indicate ovulation has occurred. Only a shift in BBT can confirm this. When you get a positive OPK assume you are about to ovulate and have intercourse until you see your BBT rise for 3 consecutive days. Woman with Endometriosis and other fertility issues may get false positive OPKs often. You may also get positive OPKs during an anovulatory cycle (a cycle when you do not ovulate). Some fertility treatments (drugs) may also affect the readings on OPKs giving false positives.


A lack of fertile cervical mucus during the fertile window.

If you do not get much fertile cervical mucus around the time of ovulation then it may affect your fertility. If this is a common occurrence then take a look at my sections on ‘How to increase your cervical mucus naturally’ and ‘sperm friendly lubricants’.


Fertile cervical mucus after ovulation.

Usually the fertile type of cervical mucus will be replaced by the creamy, tacky, non fertile type following ovulation. If you still see some fertile mucus during your luteal phase then it is nothing to be concerned about. As long as ovulation has been clearly confirmed on your chart you can be sure you are no longer fertile. If, however your chart is unclear you may not have ovulated yet and should treat yourself as still fertile.


Temperature shift may be ambiguous

If you have a chart that is unclear then you need to remember that the key thing is that you have intercourse at the correct time during your fertile window. If you are unsure when you have ovulated then take the last possible option on your chart to ensure you do not test too early.





How to chart your ovulation – Part 6

How to chart your Basal Body Temperature – BBT.

Main things to remember:

  • Record your basal body temperature (BBT) at the same time each morning (or as close to the same time as possible).
  • Record your BBT immediately on waking before getting up out of bed.
  • Use a digital thermometer which records to 2 decimal places (ovulation thermometer). One like the picture below is perfect.
  • Enter the recorded temperature into your fertility app or on your paper fertility chart.


What is an Ovulation Thermometer?

An ovulation thermometer is one that records to decimal places. This is important as the change in body temperature before and after ovulation is very small and may not be detected with a thermometer that reads to just 1 decimal place. A good digital ovulation thermometer will give you a quick reading and will beep when it has finished. It may also have a memory function and store your last body temperature. You can buy your ovulation thermometer for less than £5 on Amazon.


A complete guide to charting your BBT.

  • Record your BBT first thing in the morning before getting out of bed. Any movement can start to increase your BBT and affect the results.
  • Record your BBT at the same time each day ideally around 6-7am. As 8am approaches your BBT will naturally start to increase as your body is warming itself ready for the day.
  • You will need to have had at least 3-4 hours of sleep for an accurate reading.
  • Keep your ovulation thermometer next to your bed so you can locate it quickly.
  • f you are taking oral temperatures then keep your mouth closed for 3 minutes before placing the thermometer in the mouth. This will ensure that mouth breathing or a cold bedroom will not affect the results. Place the thermometer under the tongue to the back of the mouth and wait for the beep.
  • If you are taking vaginal or anal temperatures then ensure that the thermometer is thoroughly cleaned after each use to ensure no bacteria is introduced.
  • Stick to the same method of recording your temperature throughout your cycle (oral, vaginal or anal).
  • Input your recorded temperature into your phone app or on your paper chart straight away to avoid forgetting and missing a temperature.
  • Record the time you have taken your temperature if it is different than the time you usually take it. Recording a temperature at different times may affect the clarity of your chart.

Note on your chart if you are feeling unwell, had disturbed sleep or a late night or if you have drank alcohol the night before. All of these things can increase your BBT and will affect your chart. You can disregard any temperatures that are high for these reasons. More on this below.


Factors which can affect your temperatures and your chart:

  • A fever, an illness or infection, sore throat, cold, flu.
  • Waking later than usual
  • Drinking alcohol
  • Sleep disturbances – meaning you had less than 3-4 hours of solid sleep
  • Travel and jet lag or a sudden change in climate
  • Breast feeding
  • Certain drugs and medications.

How to chart your ovulation – Part 5

How to use Basal Body Temperature (BBT) to detect ovulation.

After a woman ovulates the empty egg sac (the corpus luteum) on the ovary produces progesterone which is a body warming hormone. We have already discussed the function of progesterone in preparing our body for a pregnancy, so now I will discuss how we can use it’s ‘’warming’’ property to detect ovulation.

The increase in progesterone which occurs after ovulation causes our resting body temperature (BBT) to rise in relation to what it was before ovulation. The temperature rise is only slight (0.2-0.4 degrees Celsius) but by plotting your morning temperatures on a graph daily throughout your cycle, you will be able to detect this rise. Once we see 3 days of higher temperatures, we can infer that ovulation has taken place the day BEFORE the temperature rise.  Here is an example of one of my own charts. Ovulation is shown by the vertical red line. The horizontal red line is my “coverline” – which represents my highest pre-ovulation temperatures and my lowest post ovulation temperatures.

The lower body temperatures are seen pre-ovulation and the higher body temperatures are seen following ovulation.


What is basal body temperature (BBT)?

Your basal body temperature (BBT for short), is your body temperature at rest and is measured first thing in the morning following at least 3-4 hours of solid sleep. You need to record your BBT before you get out of bed or do any activity using a digital ovulation thermometer. You can buy your ovulation thermometer here. Before a woman ovulates i.e. (during the follicular phase) her BBT is low (usually around 36-2 – 36.5 degrees Celsius. Following ovulation her BBT rises slightly (by half a degree). This rise can be detected and the difference between these lower and higher temperatures can be seen clearly when plotted on a graph. We call these graphs ‘fertility charts’ and we can infer that ovulation has occurred on the last day of the lower body temperatures.

Why is charting so helpful?

By observing your own fertile signs e.g. cervical fluid, on the lead up to ovulation and by doing ovulation tests it will help time intercourse correctly and you will hopefully have a fresh supply of sperm waiting in the fallopian tubes for the released egg. As the fertile window can last 4-6 days however it is also very useful to know when your fertile days are over so you know when your period is due. By charting your BBT can you pin point the day you have ovulated. Charting is also important if a woman has been trying to conceive for a while so she can predict on which day approximately, she ovulates each cycle. Of course, a woman can ovulate on different days each cycle so charting can also help woman with irregular and longer cycles know when ovulation has taken place. Most fertility issues faced by couples come down to bad timing and most woman can avoid unnecessary and often invasive tests if she knows her own pattern. Remember a majority of woman do not have a perfect 28 day cycle and do not ovulate on cycle day 14 each cycle. I for example  for the past 6 months have had a 28-34 day cycle and ovulate on cycle day 16-22. A woman’s cycles can change following giving birth as well, so it cannot be assumed that a if you have a 28 day cycle before having a baby you will return to this pattern after you have given birth.

Charting is also very useful in uncovering fertility issues such as annovulation (when a woman has periods but is not ovulating) – see more on this here.  Below is an example of a chart showing annovulation. There is no clear temperature shift confirming ovulation and I came on my period on cycle day 23.


When charting you BBT you can confirm ovulation has occurred following 3 day of higher temperatures and be sure that your fertile days are over. At this stage in your cycle you will say you are 3 days post ovulation (3dpo) and your other fertile signs e.g. fertile cervical mucus, should have subsided. If you see 3 high high temperatures and are still seeing egg white cervical mucus then there may be another reason for your higher temperatures and you should assume you may be still fertile. See here for more information that can cause higher body temperatures before ovulation (the main ones being disturbed sleep, taking your temperatures too late, having a hangover or being ill).

Once ovulation has occurred you BBT will remain above your pre ovulation temperatures for 12 to 16 days. A woman can also assume her period is due 12 to 16 days from the day of ovulation (depending on the length of her luteal phase). If you get your period sooner than 12dpo or see spotting then please see my other sections on a luteal phase defect and reasons for spotting before your period. If your temperatures stay high past the day your period is due or for 16 days it is time to do a pregnancy test. If you do not conceive you usually see a drop in your body temperatures on the day your period is going to arrive. This is due to the death of the corpus luteum and a dramatic drop in progesterone levels. It is important to remember that the days preceding ovulation are the days that you are fertile. By the time you confirm ovulation and get 3 high temperatures it is too late to conceive. Some woman can conceive the day following ovulation as the egg can stay viable for 24 hours, but the days leading up to ovulation are key when trying to conceive.

By charting your BBT along with your other fertile signs and when you have had sex, it can give you peace of mind that you have timed things correctly. You can then relax the rest of your cycle when you are in the so called ‘two week wait’ – the 14 days or so before your period is due. After you have confirmed ovulation you and your partner can stop having sex or can enjoy intercourse without the pressure of trying for a baby.

How to chart your ovulation – Part 4.

Your Hormones and Your Fertility Signs. 

When you begin to observe your fertility signs it is useful to know that these signs correspond to changes in your fertility hormone levels.

Estrogen is the hormone that is dominant during the follicular phase of your cycle (between your period and ovulation). The texture and appearance of your cervical mucus and the position of your cervix are altered by your estrogen levels. An ovulation (saliva) microscopes can also detect an increase in estrogen levels (see my review here).

Progesterone is the hormone that dominates the luteal phase of your cycle (between ovulation and the arrival of your period). Progesterone levels remain high if you conceive and stay high until you give birth. An increase in your Basal Body Temperature (BBT) corresponds with an increase in progesterone levels.

Luteinizing Hormone (LH) is the hormone that surges 12-24 hours before you ovulate and it is this hormone which is responsible for the release of the egg from the ovaries into the fallopian tube. LH tests AKA Ovulation tests/Ovulation Prediction Kits (OPKs) and fertility monitors such as the Clear blue fertility monitor (see review here) are used to pin point this surge and can help to predict impending ovulation.


More about Estrogen:

Estrogen helps to build up the lining of your uterus. This lining is essential as it is what feeds and supports a fertilised egg once it has attached. When talking about fertility, estrogen is often referred to as estradiol and it is produced by the follicles which develop on the ovaries at the start of the menstrual cycle.  As a woman gets closer to ovulation the levels of estrogen increase as the dominant follicle takes over production. An increase in estrogen levels can indicate that the follicle is mature and ready for release. This higher level of estrogen also stimulates a rise in LH (Luteinizing Hormone) which should lead to the release of the egg from the ovary. Estrogen also stimulates the cervix to produce more fertile cervical mucus which is watery and preferably stretchy (like egg white). This fertile cervical mucus is vital to ease the passage of the sperm to the fallopian tubes from the vagina. Higher levels of estrogen also results in the cervix becoming soft and more open to allow sperm to enter.

More about Luteinizing Hormone (LH):

Luteinizing Hormone (LH) peaks just before the egg is releases from the ovary. It is the hormone that stimulates the egg to rupture out of the ovarian sac. The surge in LH may be detected in your urine by using LH tests AKA ovulation tests or Ovulation Prediction Kits (OPKs). A positive LH test may indicate that a woman will ovulate within 12-24 hrs. LH levels rise and fall over a 24-48 hr period and may remain high the day of ovulation. A rise in LH occurs in the morning but cannot be detected for 4-6 hrs so doing an LH test in the morning is not ideal . It is recommended to test later on in the afternoon/early evening for this reason. If you are using a test strip then the test line needs to be as dark or darker than the control line. Below is an example of a positive test.


As a woman always has LH in her system in small amounts there will always be a test line on the test. It is how dark the line is that is important to detect a surge.  LH tests are very useful in warning a woman of impending ovulation. You should never totally rely on LH tests to predict ovulation however. You need to correlate test results with your fertile signs e.g. the appearance and texture of your cervical mucus. They may be particularly helpful if your temperature chart is confusing. If a woman has long and irregular cycles then the most well-known high street brands (e.g. clear blue) can prove very expensive. The cheaper ovulation test strips are just as effective and you may purchase as many as 50 here for around £7 – See product page here.

More about Progesterone:

Progesterone levels increase following the release of the egg from the ovary i.e. the luteal phase of the menstrual cycle. Before a woman ovulates, she will have progesterone in her system but levels are low.  Following ovulation, Progesterone is produced by the empty sac left behind on the ovary by the released egg (the corpus luteum). Progesterone levels increase quite dramatically and these higher levels are vital in maintaining and building the uterus lining in preparation for a fertilised egg. If a woman falls pregnant then progesterone levels remain high until she gives birth. Progesterone is a warming hormone and an increase in levels may be detected by recording your Basal Body Temperature (BBT) using a BBT ovulation thermometer (a digital thermometer).  Progesterone levels cause a woman’s BBT to remain high throughout her pregnancy.

How to chart your ovulation – Part 3

This part of the guide is more complicated than my other sections but it will be very useful if you can grasp the basics of what happens during your menstrual cycle. You will then be able to link your fertile signs with your temperature chart and your hormonal changes.

 The Menstrual Cycle Phases

The Menstrual cycle can be split into 4 main parts –

  1. Menses – When you are on your period.
  2. The follicular phase (time between your period and ovulation). During the follicular phase your ovaries develop several follicles (containing eggs) on their surface which start to mature in the run up to ovulation. As this phase progresses one of these follicles become dominant. The length of this phase varies from woman to woman and from cycle to cycle and the length of this phase will determine the length of a given cycle. The main hormone involved in the follicular phase is estrogen and a woman is most fertile at the end of this phase i.e. the days just preceding ovulation. During this phase, the lining of the uterus thickens in preparation for a fertilised egg. Estrogen levels peak a few days before ovulation causing a change to your cervical mucus to the fertile type.
  3. Ovulation – This is when the dominant follicle bursts and an egg is released from the ovary. Ovulation is stimulated by a surge in a hormone called luteinizing hormone (LH). This is the hormone which is detected by an ovulation test (LH test) – more on LH tests ‘here’. A woman usually ovulated within 12-24 hours of the LH surge. Estrogen levels plummet following ovulation and you will see your cervical mucus become more creamy and tacky a day or so after ovulation as you are no longer fertile. 
  4. The luteal phase (time between ovulation and your period). The luteal phase generally stays pretty consistent and only varies by a day or so cycle to cycle. The luteal phase usually lasts 12-16 days if you do not conceive. If you discover you have a luteal phase shorter than 12 days then see the section on ‘Luteal Phase Defect’. The hormone Progesterone dominates this phase of your cycle and helps to develop your uterus lining further in preparation for a fertilised egg. Progesterone warms the body and will cause a rise in your basal body temperature. This rise can be detected using a digital ovulation thermometer. If an egg is successfully fertilised by a sperm cell then the fertilised egg will implant into the lining of the uterus approximately 7-10 days into this phase and the development of the uterus lining continues. The pregnancy hormone, hCG is produced when the egg implants and as the pregnancy progresses the levels of this hCG increases and can be detected by a pregnancy test. If the egg is not fertilised then the lining of your uterus will shed (your period) and a new cycle will commence.

How to chart your ovulation – Part 2

All you need to start charting your ovulation is a digital thermometer (ideally a thermometer that records to 2 decimal places). You do not need to spend a lot of money on an ovulation thermometer and one like this is perfect are sell for less than £5 on Amazon.

Once you have your thermometer, you need a temperature chart to record your measurements. You can use a paper chart like shown below or you can download a charting app on your phone. I use ‘Fertility Friend’ which is free and has everything you need to get going. If you would prefer a paper chart then message me in the comment section below and I will email you a copy (in a Microsoft Word document which you can even edit before printing).



Where to start:

You should start charting your fertile signs and your temperatures from cycle day 3 which is the 3rd day of your period (CD3). This is to ensure your temperature is at base line level before you start recording.

You should try to record the following each day:

  • The texture of your cervical mucous – cervical mucus is simply your vaginal discharge. This discharge is produced by your cervix and as you approach ovulation this discharge should change in appearance and texture. You can record this sign when you go to the loo and wipe or you can use a clean finger to collect some to examine. When you are not fertile your discharge is likely to be creamy, thick and tacky. As you approach ovulation it becomes thinner and watery and even stretchy. This stretchy discharge is referred to as ‘egg white cervical mucus’ (egg white CM or EWCM for short) as it can resemble egg in appearance and texture. If you find that you are not producing much fertile cervical mucus  around your ovulation day then please see the sections on ‘sperm friendly lubricants’ and ‘how to increase your fertile cervical mucus naturally’.
  • You waking body temperature – Your body temperature as soon as you wake up in the morning. Readings should be taken at the same time each morning and preferably around 6am – 7am. Your body naturally starts to increase from 8-9am so may give you inaccurate readings.
  • When you have had unprotected sex.
  • When you experience any spotting or bleeding
  • The result of an ovulation test if you use them – more on these ‘here’. A positive ovulation test can indicate you are going to ovulate within 12-24 hrs.
  • You may also record the position of your cervix and texture (more on this ‘here’).
  • Ovulation pain – many women (including myself) experience pain in the abdomen during the preceding days or day of ovulation and this can also be a reliable sign that you are within the ‘fertile window’.

By recording the above fertility signs each day you will increase you chances of predicting when ovulation is about to take place each cycle and confirm when it has taken place. You may also discover if you have any issues which could affect your fertility e.g. delayed ovulation (see ‘here’) or a short luteal phase (see ‘here’).

How to chart your ovulation – Part 1

It is important to note that a vast number of couples who are struggling to conceive are simply having sex at the wrong time. By knowing your own fertile signs and by having intercourse within your ‘fertile window’ you will maximise your chances of conceiving. ‘Fertility charting’ or ‘charting your ovulation’ is based on the idea that if we know when we are fertile or within our ‘fertile window’ and have intercourse during this time we can get pregnant more easily. You can take some steps to discover if and when you are fertile by observing your natural fertility signs. You are only fertile for a few days each cycle and your body will give you subtle signs that you are within your fertile window which you can observe and record. This method is highly reliable and can increase your chances of conceiving greatly.

key information

  • Women can only get pregnant when they are fertile and they are only fertile for a few days each menstrual cycle (3-6 days). This is known as her ‘fertile window’ (more on this here).
  • Only when a woman has sex during the ‘fertile window’ can she conceive.
  • The ‘fertile window’’ lasts for around 3-6 days each cycle.
  • Woman are most likely to conceive if she has sex one or two days before she ovulates or on the day she is ovulating.
  • Every woman is unique and so are her cycles. You will have your own pattern of fertility.
  • By observing your fertile signs each cycle it will help you to have intercourse at the correct time in order to get pregnant.
  • By charting your ovulation, it will help you to predict your future ovulation date and confirm when ovulation has occurred.


What are the fertility signs you should look out for?

You can read all about the fertile window ‘here’ and how to make the most of each menstrual cycle to maximise the chance of conception. The main sign you are approaching ovulation however is a change in your cervical mucus or discharge. It should change from a creamy texture to a wet, thin, watery discharge as you approach ovulation. This can occur up to 4-5 days before ovulation is going to take place. Your discharge should hopefully become stretchy and clear like egg white for a day or two before you ovulate . There are many more signs you can look out for so please take a look at ‘the fertile window’ section for more information.


What determines the length of the fertile window?

A woman is most likely to conceive if she has intercourse in the 1 or 2 days before she ovulates or on the day of ovulation. This is because a woman’s egg is only viable for 1 day after it is released (after the woman has ovulated). A sperm cell however, can last for up to 5 days if conditions are ideal. A woman can therefore potentially conceive if she has sex up to 5 days before she ovulates. The optimum time frame to have sex is within 2 days of ovulation or on the day of ovulation. This ensures that a fresh supply of sperm is present in the fallopian tubes waiting for egg to be released.  This leaves just 3 days per cycle when a woman is most likely to conceive. By charting your fertile signs, you can time intercourse correctly. and couples who focus on having sex during the ‘fertile window’ greatly increase their chances of conceiving.


Do woman ovulate on the same day each cycle?

Some women are very fortunate and will have a text book cycle, the average being a 28 day cycle with ovulation taking place on cycle day 14/15 giving a 14 day luteal phase. The reality is that every woman is different. Many women have cycles that are shorter or longer than 28 days and many women ovulate at different times in their cycle even if they have a normal cycle of 28 days in length. As an example, my cycles at the moment are 30 days long and I ovulate on around cycle day 18. This means my luteal phase is 12 days which is shorter than the average 14 days. It is important then to keep in mind that not only do woman have cycles of different lengths but we also have luteal phases of different lengths too (the number of days between ovulation and period) – (more on the luteal phase here). The luteal phase usually stays pretty consistent each cycle for each woman so if her periods are different lengths each cycle it is more than likely the time between her period and ovulation that is altering (the follicular phase) i.e. she is ovulating on different cycle days each menstrual cycle. By charting your fertile signs and basal body temperature each morning you can discover your own personal pattern including your luteal phase length and the cycle day you are ovulating on. This will help you to predict when your ‘fertile window’ is likely to be in future cycles. It is advised to have intercourse every day or every other day from the start of your fertile window until ovulation has taken place to have the greatest chance of conceiving. This is where charting your temperatures comes into play.


How to confirm ovulation?

Once you have ovulated, your ovaries will release a hormone called progesterone. This hormone helps to build up the uterine lining and keep it in place for a fertilised egg to implant. This hormone causes your body temperature to rise by half a degree or so. By recording your waking temperature on a daily basis (your temperature as soon as you wake in the morning), you can record this change in body temperature and pin point when ovulation has taken place. Once you have recorded 3 consecutive days of high temperatures you can be confident that ovulation has taken place and your fertile window is over.

In the proceeding sections of this guide I will discuss how to begin charting your fertile signs and body temperatures.

Causes of spotting before period – the most common causes.

What causes a woman to spot before her period arrives?

This is a question I asked myself when I came off the contraceptive pill to try for a baby in 2013. I found that after I ovulated I would spot on random days during the run up to the day my period was due. Sometimes it was brown and sometimes it was pink and even red. Many times I was convinced it was my period arriving early but then when the spotting would stop for a few days I found it quite confusing and frustrating.  I never had cramps with the spotting and sometimes it was as soon as 2-3 days after ovulation. I did lots of research on this and I will share with you my findings.


Ovulation spotting

Spotting after you have ovulated or ‘Mid cycle spotting’ is very common and I have experienced this several times, especially when my ovulation pain has been particularly bad. It occurs within a few days of ovulation so spotting at this time in your cycle can be quite surprising for many woman. Ovulation spotting is nothing to worry about and up to 10% of women experience this at some point during their fertile years. Spotting occurs because of a brief drop in estrogen levels following the release of an egg from the ovaries.

The spotting usually happens around 10-14 days before your period is due. I have read on many trying to conceive forums that ovulation spotting corresponds with a ‘strong ovulation’ but what this means I’m not sure. Many woman seem to think it is a positive occurrence and can be linked with a good ‘strong’ egg being released.


Implantation bleeding

If your menstrual cycles and luteal phase length is normal and you never usually have spotting between ovulation and your period, then you could be experiencing implantation bleeding. Light spotting of brown or pink (and sometimes even red) discharge around 6-12 days after ovulation could indicate implantation of a fertilised egg into the walls of the uterus. This could be a very early sign of pregnancy. Implantation bleeding is usually very light and occurs when the egg attaches to the lining of uterus i.e. implantation. When the egg attaches, a small amount of blood may be shed. This blood may then pass through the cervix and out of the vagina.

You may notice this small amount of blood after you wipe. Implantation bleeding usually stops as quickly as it starts but if you carry on spotting and you find out that you are pregnant then speak to your GP.  Likewise if you have unusual bleeding at any point during your cycle and you are not pregnant, then you should consult your doctors advice. There are many photos of implantation bleeding on google images and you can look up some images to get an idea of what it may look like.


Vascular cervix

This reason is not so well known and I haven’t found much about a vascular cervix online but when I went to see my doctor about my spotting she examined my cervix and told me it was very vascular. I had ovulated a few days prior to my doctors visit and I had light spotting so went in for some tests. She said that the blood vessels are often more visible, prominent, swollen and more dense during the luteal phase of a woman’s menstrual cycle. This is due to the effects of progesterone levels being higher during this phase. Pregnant women may also have a vascular cervix for the same reason i.e. they have high progesterone levels and their cervix becomes engorged with blood. If you have a vascular cervix during your luteal phase then any light trauma e.g. through sex, could cause you to have some spotting.

If you experience spotting after sex during the luteal phase then this could be your problem. You should however have yourself checked out by your doctor if you ever experience any abnormal spotting throughout your cycle or after intercourse just to be safe. When I was on the contraceptive pill called ‘Cilest’, which is a progesterone only pill, I would spot now and then after sex which makes sense to me now. I was young and so I didn’t go to my GP although I did have several smears over the years which were all normal. It is usually nothing to worry about but it is better to get checked anyway.


A Luteal Phase Defect

This issue is very common and is a problem I have suffered from since coming off the contraceptive pill in 2013. My cycles have always been on the longer side and I would spot for up to 5-7 days before my period was due every cycle. After much research and a few cycles charting my temperatures I discovered my luteal phase was short at 10-11 days, meaning I had a ‘luteal phase defect’. What this means is that your progesterone level peaks as it should around 5 days after ovulation but then levels starts do drop sooner than they should. With a slight drop in progesterone your lining may begin to shed early and you may see spotting for several days before your period arrives.  The day your period arrives is when levels of progesterone plummet.

If you have a luteal phase defect and you are trying for a baby you may have some issues conceiving. Your lining may start to shed before the fertilised egg has time to attach. There are several ways you can help with this issue naturally or you can try progesterone after ovulation. You may only be able to obtain progesterone suppositories from a gynaecologist as your GP usually will not prescribe it. I have a separate post titled ‘What is a luteal phase defect‘ and ‘Progesterone and Fertility‘ if you would like to know more and I also described how I overcome my issue to conceive successfully.


Cervical erosion (cervical ectropion)

Cervical erosion is now more commonly referred to as cervical ectropion or cervical eversion. It is quite a common condition and is harmless.  There is no evidence to suggest it is associated with cervical cancer or other cancer causing conditions. The condition occurs when cells from the inside of the cervix appear on the outside of the cervix.  Cervical ectropion may be diagnosed during an examination of the inside of the vagina e.g. during a smear test, as the cervix will appear redder than normal. The condition is often caused by hormonal changes and is more commonly seen in young girls going through adolescence, pregnant woman or woman on the contraceptive pill . Many woman can be born with the condition also. Cervical ectropion often causes no issues and may disappear without any treatment. The cells on the outside of the cervix may however cause spotting and pain during or after intercourse. If you are taking the contraceptive pill then switching to a different pill may help or if you are not on the pill and are not trying for a baby, then taking the contraceptive pill may also help. Speak to your GP if you are experiencing any symptoms and they can examine you and confirm if this is your issue. If you are suffering considerably from the condition then the cells may be cauterised to prevent any further bleeding.


Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)

If you have PCOS then you will probably experience irregular bleeding from time to time. PCOS is caused by a hormonal imbalance which may prevent ovulation. If a woman is not ovulating then the lining of the uterus is not shed on a regular basis and may become thickened.

Other symptoms of PCOS is high testosterone levels, obesity, excess hair (hirsutism) on the face, back, arms and legs and chest and balding of hair on the head. Your doctor can undertake a simple blood test and even an ultra sound examination to confirm if you have PCOS and can prescribe you treatment and give advice which should help.


Cervicitis – Inflammation or infection of the cervix 

Cervicitis is a condition where the cervix becomes inflamed and a woman may suffer from bleeding at unusual times during her menstrual cycle as a result. The condition is also linked to painful sex and abnormal vaginal mucus. Cervicitis is most commonly caused through a sexually transmitted infection such as gonorrhea or chlamydia. Many woman see no signs or suffer no symptoms of the condition and have no idea they have an STI for a long period of time. A woman with no symptoms may be diagnosed during a routine vaginal exam such as a smear test. If you are suffering from vaginal bleeding that is not associated with your period or if you experience painful sex or abnormal vaginal discharge then see your GP straightaway. Cervicitis may also be caused by an allergic reaction to latex condoms or spermicides or woman who regularly perform douching can suffer (cleaning of the inside of the vagina).

The cervix may also become inflamed if there is an overgrowth of the normal, natural occurring bacteria inside the vagina. This condition is called bacterial vaginosis. If is important to treat the underlying cause of cervicitis as the cervix is key in preventing bacteria and viruses from entering the uterus. If the cervix is infected and inflamed then this barrier is compromised and may lead to an infection of the reproductive organs which may lead to fertility issues later on.


Sexually Transmitted Infections/Diseases (STIs, STDs)

I have mentioned this briefly above as STIs such as gonorrhea or chlamydia may lead to cervicitis and abnormal vaginal bleeding.


Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID) 

Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) is when the uterus, ovaries and/or fallopian tubes become inflamed. PID is commonly caused by sexually transmitted infections  such as chlamydia or gonorrhoea. Treatment is usually successful and involves one or two courses of antibiotics. If a woman has a severe infection or if a  she has had PID for a long time and has not been treated, she could develop fertility issues e.g. blocked fallopian tubes and risk of an ectopic pregnancy. Symptoms include bleeding between periods, pain in the abdomen, pain during sex, unusual discharge and often heavy periods.

An ovarian cyst

An ovarian cyst is a fluid-filled sac which grows on a woman’s ovary. They are extremely common, usually do not cause any symptoms and often disappear in a few months without treatment. If the cyst ruptures however it may cause a woman to experience pain in the pelvis area, pain during sex and abnormal periods (irregular, heavy or lighter than normal).

Uterine Fibroids

Uterine Fibroids  are abnormal growths of muscle tissue that develop within or around the uterus. They are non cancerous  growths (often referred to as uterine myomas or leiomyomas) and often do not cause a woman any symptoms. When symptoms occur they can include abnormal vaginal bleeding bleeding between periods, lower back and abdomen pain and pain during intercourse.

Uterine Polyps

Uterine polyps are growths which appear within the inner lining of the uterus. They are often attached by a thin stalk and extend into the uterus. They are usually noncancerous.


Stress can cause changes in to a woman menstrual cycle and some women may suffer from vaginal spotting due to fluctuations in stress hormones, Stress may also delay ovulation or even prevent it altogether.

An Early Miscarriage – Chemical Pregnancy

Early miscarriages or chemical pregnancies are extremely common accounting for 50 to 75 % of all miscarriages experienced. They usually occurs shortly after a fertilised egg has implanted and often following a very faint positive pregnancy test. I experienced a chemical pregnancy myself and it was shocking to get a positive pregnancy test only to have spotting and then my period arrive a few days later. Often woman find they have spotting and the pregnancy tests from one day to the next do not get any stronger. If you think you are pregnant and experience any spotting then it is always better to contact your GP for advise. If you do have an early miscarriage then inform your GP also as they need to put it on your medical records. Some woman experience several chemical pregnancies one after the other and as you only get help after 3 miscarriages it is best to keep your GP informed. Often it is nothing to worry about but there are tests your GP can perform to see for what reason the implantation process is unsuccessful.

Approaching menopause

When a woman is approaching the menopause she can begin to experience pink or brown spotting and even light bleeding before her period is due.


Low thyroid levels.

A woman might start to produce too much estrogen if she has a thyroid problem. An underactive thyroid may lead to over production of estrogen and spotting between periods.



Adenomyosis occurs when cells lining the inside of the uterus are found within the uterine wall. This can cause the uterus to become enlarged which may be very painful and cause spotting between periods and also heavier periods. This condition usually occurs after the menopause has begun.


Ectopic pregnancy 

An ectopic pregnancy is when a fertilised egg has implanted outside of the uterus, usually in one of the fallopian tubes. If you know you are pregnant and experience the following symptoms then contact your GP immediately – Abdomen pain which is low down and focused on one side, bleeding or spotting pr brown watery discharge , shoulder pain and discomfort when weeing or pooing.


Malignant cancer

If you have been experiencing any unusual spotting or bleeding in between your periods it is extremely important to see your GP. It is usually something that can be treated but if the worst case scenario occurs it is better to get a diagnosis sooner rather than later.  Your doctor will have heard and seen it all before and it is always best to get peace of mind or to get treatment as soon as possible. Don’t put it off and always make sure you  have a smear test performed when advised to and when they are due.