Background: The introduction of home digital ovulation tests (OTs) has provided a simple solution for women wishing to optimise the timing of intercourse when trying to conceive. However, despite this, very little is understood about women's experiences of using these tests.
Methods: We carried out qualitative, semi-structured telephone interviews with women who were seeking to conceive (not actively undergoing clinical investigation/fertility treatment) from the general UK population. The interviews were conducted following participation in a randomised controlled trial (RCT) in which participants were either provided with digital home OTs to assist in timing intercourse (n = 18) or advised to have intercourse every 2-3 days (n = 18). The interviews were digitally recorded, transcribed and then analysed using Framework analysis to identify the themes.
Results: Data saturation was reached after 36 interviews. The use of the OT appeared to elicit 10 key themes, which could be described within the context of three overarching issues: 1) a positive impact (understanding the menstrual cycle, confirming when ovulating, emotional support, improving the relationship), 2) a negative impact (changing sex life and relationship with their partner, the emotional consequences of prolonged use, questions and uncertainty about what their results mean for them) and 3) the experiences of trying to conceive in general (use of clinical guidance and emotional experience).
Conclusions: Overall, the use of home OTs were found to affect women's thoughts and feelings in multiple ways during attempts to conceive. Although some women reported a range of negative experiences when using OTs, they also reported similar negative experiences when trying to conceive without using the tests. However, there were many positive themes associated with OT use, including an increased understanding of the menstrual cycle, confirmation of ovulation timing and providing a source of help and support when trying to conceive. Overall, when women are trying to conceive, ensuring they have access to high-quality information, including use of OT, may be of benefit to help address some of the questions and uncertainties that were raised by the participants in this study.
Trial registration number: NCT01084304.