When Should You Get a Pregnancy Test?

Pregnancy Test

When should you get a pregnancy test? The week following a missed period is the best time to take a pregnancy test. Some tests can detect pregnancy as soon as 1-2 weeks after intercourse, but the body needs time to raise hCG levels. Testing before a missed period raises the possibility of a false negative result.

How do pregnancy tests function?

When you take a pregnancy test, the amount of human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) in your body is measured. hCG can be found in your urine or blood. However, because this chemical takes time to accumulate in your body, very early pregnancy tests may come back negative. During the early stages of pregnancy, your body produces more hCG. As the weeks pass, your body will produce more and more hCG, increasing the likelihood that a pregnancy test will be positive.

Pregnancy tests work by detecting the presence of hCG in your urine or blood. A piece of reactive paper detects hCG in a urine test. This could then display a plus sign, two vertical lines, or even the word "pregnant." Different tests will produce positive results in different ways. Read the test instructions to find out what a positive result will look like. On the test, there will be a control window that appears first. A symbol in this window indicates that the test is running. Keep in mind that different types of tests require varying amounts of time to process.

When you have a blood test, your provider will draw a sample of your blood and send it to a laboratory. The amount of hCG in your blood will be determined by the lab.

When should you take a pregnancy test?

For the most accurate results, wait a week after your missed period to take a pregnancy test.

You should wait at least one to two weeks after having sex if you don't want to wait until you've missed your period. When you are pregnant, your body requires time to produce detectable levels of HCG. This usually takes seven to twelve days after an egg has been successfully implanted.

If you take the test too early in your cycle, you may get an incorrect result.

Here are a few indicators that you should get a pregnancy test.

1. You didn't get your period.

A missed period is one of the first and most reliable signs of pregnancy.

It may be difficult to determine whether or not you are late if you do not closely monitor your cycle. The menstrual cycle of many women lasts 28 days. If it's been more than a month since your last period, you should think about getting a test.

Remember that stress, diet, exercise, or certain medical conditions can cause your period to be delayed or skipped.

If you suspect pregnancy, keep an eye on your flow. Light bleeding or spotting is common in the early weeks as the egg buries deeper into the uterine lining during implantation. Take note of any changes in the color, texture, or quantity of blood.

If you have bleeding and a positive pregnancy test, see your doctor.

2. You are experiencing cramps.

Implantation can also cause cramping sensations similar to menstrual cramps. You may feel this discomfort in early pregnancy and believe your period is on its way, but it never arrives.

Does this sound familiar? Take a test. Hormone levels differ depending on the woman and the stage of pregnancy.

3. Your breasts ache.

As your pregnancy produces more estrogen and progesterone, these hormones begin to change your body in order to support the baby's growth.

Because of the increased blood flow, your breasts may feel tender and appear larger. Your nipples may hurt, and your veins may appear darker under the skin.

Because many women have breast discomfort in the days before their period, this symptom isn't always indicative of pregnancy.

4. You're feeling unusual.

Early pregnancy can result in the following symptoms, in addition to cramps and sore breasts:
  • nausea
  • food phobias
  • exhaustion
  • a lot of urination

These symptoms may worsen over time before your HCG levels stabilize late in the first trimester. You are familiar with yourself, so pay attention to your body. Any unusual physical symptoms should prompt you to take a pregnancy test.

5. Your contraception was ineffective.

Birth control pills, condoms, and other contraceptive devices do not guarantee complete pregnancy prevention. In other words, no matter how cautious you are, there is always a chance of pregnancy.

Regardless of your birth control preferences, consider taking a test if you experience any of the signs listed above.

Unwanted pregnancy can also be caused by human error or defects. It can be difficult to remember to take birth control pills on a daily basis. According to Planned Parenthood, 9 out of every 100 women on the pill who do not take it as directed will become pregnant.

Condoms can tear and break if they are used incorrectly. Each year, nearly 18 out of every 100 women who use condoms for contraception become pregnant, according to Planned Parenthood.

If you're concerned about contraceptive failure, talk to your doctor about other options, such as an intrauterine device (IUD). According to Planned Parenthood, less than one in every hundred women who use an IUD becomes pregnant each year.

How to Take a Pregnancy Test Correctly

A pregnancy test will occasionally produce a false positive, which means that the test will show positive when a person is not pregnant. When this happens, it is almost always due to user error. Perhaps you were flustered or anxious when taking the test and misread the results, or perhaps you took the test incorrectly. Regardless of the cause, an inconclusive or incorrect test result is probably the last thing you want, especially if the potential pregnancy is unexpected.

Fortunately, there are some simple things you can do to ensure the accuracy of your at-home pregnancy test results and avoid any test-related confusion or anxiety.

1. Don't take a pregnancy test too soon

If you had unprotected sex or suspect you're pregnant, it's tempting to take a pregnancy test before your missed period. Resist the urge. HCG, or Human Chorionic Gonadotropin, is a hormone produced by cells surrounding a developing embryo, which eventually forms the placenta after implantation. The presence of elevated hCG levels indicates pregnancy. However, hCG takes time to accumulate in the body. So, even if an embryo was implanted on a Monday, taking a pregnancy test on Wednesday may still yield a negative result.

Wait at least 10 days after a missed period before taking a pregnancy test, or you may get an inaccurate result. If you suspect you are pregnant and have already missed your period, wait three days before taking another test.

2. Take your pregnancy test as soon as you wake up

If you have hCG in your system, it will build up in your urine overnight and peak in the morning. Using a pregnancy test first thing in the morning will help you get an accurate result.

3. Dip test in a cup

Most tests instruct you to hold the test under your urine stream, but this is messy and risks errors, such as not getting enough urine on the test strip. This method also increases the likelihood of the test accidentally falling into the toilet.

Instead, collect your urine in a small plastic cup and immerse the test strip in it for the time specified in the instructions.

4. Don't let the test sit for too long.

Reading an at-home pregnancy test has a time limit; if you read the test outside the time frame specified in the instructions, the results may be inaccurate.

Most non-digital tests display lines to indicate the presence of hCG in the urine. The first line is always a control line, and the second line usually indicates a pregnancy. If your test is negative, you may still notice a faint, colorless evaporation line as the urine dries. If you're unfamiliar with evaporation lines, you might mistake this line for a pregnancy test.

Allowing the test to sit too long may result in an evaporation line, leading you to believe you are pregnant.

5. Don't read the results too soon

Similarly, avoid reading your pregnancy test results too soon. Your urine may appear to be showing results as it passes through the test indicator window, but the test requires time to complete its work.

Follow the test instructions as closely as possible and avoid checking the results too soon. Set a timer to notify you when the results are ready, if necessary.

6. Do not take an expired test

Yes, you read that correctly—pregnancy tests can expire. If you use an expired test, the chemical used to detect the presence of elevated hCG in your body may no longer be accurate. If you have an expired test, it is worth purchasing a new test to confirm your pregnancy.

7. Avoid drinking a lot of water before the test

Drink plenty of water, or any liquid, before taking a pregnancy test. Excess fluids can affect the accuracy of the test results, so if your urine is diluted or pale yellow, postpone the test. Diluted urine contains diluted hCG levels, which can skew the test results. Take a test when you naturally need to pee. This way, you won't dilute your hCG level and get a false 'Not Pregnant' result.

8. Don't rely solely on pregnancy tests

Pregnancy tests are typically accurate in detecting pregnancy. However, you should not rely solely on those results. An ultrasound will confirm the pregnancy and assess the embryo's early health to determine pregnancy—this assurance is critical for women who are experiencing pain or bleeding during pregnancy, as well as those who have had previous miscarriages or ectopic pregnancies.