If you’re trying to conceive, ovulation trackers (also called fertility trackers) are devices and apps that help you determine when exactly you’re ovulating and, thereby, most fertile.
Knowing when you ovulate can also help you avoid getting pregnant or help you learn more about your menstrual cycle patterns, Aaron Styer, MD, a reproductive endocrinologist, OB-GYN, and founding partner, and co-medical director of fertility and IVR clinic, CCRM Boston, told Insider.
You’re most fertile in the days leading up to and immediately after ovulation, which is the period of the menstrual cycle where a female releases an egg that can then be fertilized by sperm. Although sperm can survive for up to 5 days inside the uterus and fallopian tubes, the egg is only viable for 12 to 24 hours after it’s released, Dr. Styer said.
The window to conceive is narrow but tracking ovulation helps estimate the best timing for intercourse. If you’re already confused, we get it. At the end of this guide is added detail into how ovulation trackers work, what to look for in a tracker, and other FAQs about the devices.
As someone trying to get pregnant myself, I’ve tracked my ovulation for a while. For this guide, I tested a variety of ovulation tracking devices and apps over the course of at least one menstrual cycle — and I’ve provided how I tested these below.
As someone trying to get pregnant myself, I’ve been tracking my ovulation for a while. For this guide, I tested all the ovulation tracking devices and apps for at least one menstrual cycle. Here’s what I looked for as I tried each option:
Ease of use: Considering how complicated the concept of ovulation tracking can feel, I looked at how simple or complicated it was to collect the data needed to predict and track ovulation. I considered how often I had to use each device or app, along with how long the process of using it took and how much effort was required.
Depth and quality of information provided: I considered how many metrics that tracker or app used to predict ovulation, as well as how well-validated those metrics are for predicting and tracking ovulation.
Ease of understanding results/cycle tracking: I weighed how the ovulation predictions and tracking were displayed on the tracker or app, and how easy they were to understand.
Relative accuracy: The only way to truly confirm ovulation is with an ultrasound, but at home, I evaluated the accuracy of each test using standard ovulation test kits and by comparing each of the app’s results to one another. This helped confirm accuracy as best as possible without access to an ultrasound, and I did feel reasonably confident about the results.
The Clearblue fertility monitor uses the most reliable method of detecting ovulation and tracks ovulation in a clear, easy to visualize way.
Pros: All-in-one tracking, more warning before ovulation, quick results
Cons: Have to purchase wands separately
Clearblue has been in the ovulation detection business for a long time, and in my opinion, it shows.
Here’s how it works: When you get your period, you open up the handheld monitor, which has a touch screen, and use the calendar section to start a new cycle. (The day you get your period is Cycle Day 1 in most tracking platforms.)
From there, the calendar shows you which days you need to collect your urine, dip one of the test wands in it, and insert the test wand into the monitor. After five minutes, the monitor will tell you whether your result for the day is low, high, or peak, referring to your LH or estrogen rise and surge.
The device is definitely geared towards people who want to get pregnant rather than those interested in contraception. The instructions advise having intercourse on high and peak days. On average, people get a total of 6 high and peak days using the device — exactly the number I got when I tested it out.
There are some particulars when it comes to how you use the monitor. You have to test within the same 5-hour window on test days (I did 7 am to 12 pm), and you have to use your first-morning urine, which has the highest hormone concentration. Because the testing window was wide, I didn’t find this hard to stick to.
The device itself isn’t as sleek or stylish as some of its competitors, and I wasn’t as excited to try it as some of the other devices on this list. But the Clearblue Fertility Monitor does what it’s supposed to do, and it does it better than the other comparable devices I tested.
It has its upsides in addition to ease and accuracy: All your results are contained in the monitor versus having to transfer them to your phone, which is nice for simplicity. If you wanted to have your cycle information on your phone, though, this could be considered a downside.
Also, the device and wands, while pricey in the scheme of things, are less expensive than competing products that measure LH and estrogen. I also liked that it only takes five minutes to get your results. The two comparable devices I tested took 15 and 10 minutes to deliver results.
If you want something cheaper, check out the Femometer Ivy in what else we recommend.
The Natural Cycles app and basal body temperature thermometer are easy to use and budget-friendly.
Pros: Lower cost, great user experience, FDA-approved for contraception
Cons: Need to use LH test strips for most accurate tracking
The Natural Cycles app, which requires its basal body temperature (BBT) thermometer to function, does require a subscription, which costs $10 a month or $90 a year. But the annual subscription also includes the thermometer, which is a pretty nice deal, as it brings the monthly cost for your first year down to a little over $6 a month — far cheaper than other options on this list.
Also, the company says that the subscription fees let them to run their business without selling user data which many free tracking apps do (though Natural Cycles does its own research using anonymized user data).
Natural Cycles works by asking you to input your temperature at the same time every morning. Based on your temperatures and cycle start and end dates, the app uses an algorithm to predict your high, low, and peak fertility days.
I was certainly impressed by Natural Cycles‘ algorithm. When I downloaded the app, I manually added the start and end date of my last menstrual cycle, then uploaded my temperatures for that cycle from another app. Based on just this info, the app correctly predicted the ovulation date of my next cycle (as confirmed by the other tests here).
Natural Cycles has separate modes for preventing, planning, and following pregnancy, which is nice personalization.
Also, the app is FDA-approved for contraception, making it an ideal choice for anyone who wants to track ovulation specifically to prevent pregnancy. While Natural Cycles has gotten some bad press in the past for unplanned pregnancies among its users, its efficacy rates are similar to other forms of birth control: 93.5% effective with typical use, and about 98% effective with perfect use.
The app itself allows you to view your information in several different ways: a daily view, monthly calendar view, and a graph of your cycle temperatures