Whether you’re trying to conceive, or crossing your fingers that you’re not pregnant, taking a pregnancy test can cause some anxiety. There are so many questions, like when, exactly, to take a pregnancy test, and whether it’s possible to calculate the percentage of the possibility that you’re pregnant. Sure, you could be on the lookout for early pregnancy symptoms, but that’s not the same as actually taking a test. And if you do take a test, is a urine test in the comfort of your own bathroom as accurate as a blood test?
So many questions! But first, let’s take a moment to thank the lucky stars you live in an age when one can pee on a digital smart stick that offers a resounding “pregnant” or “not pregnant.” It wasn’t always this way. The history of homemade pregnancy tests is wild and often unsafe, including everything from the innocuous barley, sugar, toothpaste, and baking soda tests, to the highly questionable and dangerous bleach test.
Alright, so you’re all set with a pregnancy test. What now? Tools like due date calculators and gender predictors already exist, but what about a calculator to help you determine when to take a pregnancy test? Well, that’s a thing too. Here’s what to know.
How soon will a pregnancy test read positive?
For many people, their first question is how many days after having unprotected sex can pregnancy be confirmed by a urine test. But for multiple reasons, that question isn’t as straightforward as it seems. First of all, it depends on the point of your ovulation cycle you were in when you had sex. And on top of that, not everyone has the same regular ovulation and menstrual cycles, so the timing of when a pregnancy test will read positive can differ from person to person. And remember: this is the soonest a pregnancy test would be positive, and, depending on the concentration of your hormone levels, may end up showing as a negative initially but later read positive, according to Verywell Family.
What time of day should you take a pregnancy test?
Though you can take a pregnancy test at any time of day, they tend to be more accurate in the morning, according to a 2011 study published in the journal Clinica Chimica Acta. This is because at-home pregnancy tests detect the hormone human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) in your urine, and unless you make frequent trips to the bathroom throughout the night, your pee is likely most concentrated first thing in the morning, before you start diluting it by drinking water or other fluids.
When should you take a pregnancy test after missing a period?
The best — and most accurate — time to take a pregnancy test is immediately after missing a period, because, as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration points out, this will help you avoid both false negatives and the false positives of what may be very early miscarriages.
So why is taking a pregnancy test right after you’ve missed a period the best option? As the Mayo Clinic explains, once a fertilized egg is implanted in the uterine lining, the placenta starts to form, and your body begins to produce hCG, which enters your bloodstream and urine. When someone first becomes pregnant, their hCG levels are low, but they double every two to three days, meaning that the earlier you take a home pregnancy test, the more difficult it might be for it to detect hCG.
But what about those pregnancy tests that are marketed as being “early” and able to detect pregnancy before a missed period? In short, their accuracy is questionable. These tests are based on the assumption that everyone has a 14-day luteal phase — which isn’t universally the case, according to a 2017 study published in the journal Fertility & Sterility. As great as it would be to have the results sooner rather than later, you’re better off waiting until you’ve missed a period and then taking the test.