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When You Should Take a Pregnancy Test

July 30, 2018
Katie Visco

If you think you might be pregnant, it can be hard to wait to take a test! Unfortunately, you might need to… taking a pregnancy test too early could result in a false-negative result, and although most tests claim to be 99% accurate, there’s still a possibility that the test will tell you you’re not pregnant when you actually are. There are a few different variables that go into when the prime time to take a pregnancy test is, so let’s dig into it a little bit…

  • How Pregnancy Tests Work
  • When You Should Take a Pregnancy Test
  • Are There Other Reasons for False Tests?
  • What About False-Positives?
  • The Next Step: Consult a Doctor

How Pregnancy Tests Work

At-home pregnancy tests measure the level of human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG), or “the pregnancy hormone”, that’s in your urine. HCG is only present when you are pregnant, because it’s produced by the placenta. HCG production is quite rapid for the first eight to ten weeks of pregnancy—doubling every two or three days—but after ten weeks it tends to slow down until delivery.

When You Should Take a Pregnancy Test

It’s best to take a pregnancy test at least a week after you missed your period

There’s not a wrong time to take a pregnancy test, but there is a right one! We’ve already established that pregnancy tests check the level of hCG in your urine, and that hCG is produced by the placenta. Well, the placenta doesn’t start to develop until the fertilized egg is implanted in your uterus. Implantation can vary because ovulation and fetal development differ from person to person, so there’s not an exact timeline as to when this happens.

So when is the right time to take a pregnancy test? At least a week after your first missed period. This will give time for the egg to implant and for the placenta to start to grow and produce hCG.

If you take a pregnancy test earlier than a week after your missed period, it still might detect hCG, depending on how far along you are. In fact, most pregnancy tests claim to be accurate as early as the first day of your missed period. But to avoid a false-negative test and to give your baby plenty of time to attach to your uterine wall, waiting at least a week after Aunt Flow doesn’t show up will give you the most accurate results.

Are There Other Reasons for False Tests?

Even if you wait until a week after your missed period, there’s still a possibility that the test will result in a false-negative.

The Test Isn’t Sensitive Enough

All pregnancy tests will get the job done, but some are better than others. According to Ava Women, a recent study evaluated six over-the-counter pregnancy tests, and the brands First Response and Answer were the top two when it comes to sensitivity! If you plan to take a test earlier than the one week buffer we talked about, these two tests are your best bet for accurate results.

Urine is Too Diluted

If you drink a lot of fluids before you test, your urine may become too diluted for the test to detect levels of hCG. It’s best to test in the morning when you wake up because your urine is most concentrated at that time.

Checking Test Too Early/Too Late

If you check results too early, the test might not have had time to work. Set a timer according to the instructions on the package. On the flip side, if you don’t collect your urine soon enough and let it sit for more than 30 minutes, tests might not detect hCG levels. Follow directions on the test package to make sure that you have the timing down!

pregnancy test
‍Image courtesy of Parents

What About False-Positives?

Although false-negatives are most common—and that’s why it’s important to test at the right time, because it’s quite easy for a test to come out negative when you’re in fact pregnant— false-positives do happen.

False-positives typically only happen if you’ve experienced a miscarriage early on in the pregnancy. It’s possible for hCG to still be in your body even though you’ve lost the baby. If you test too soon after taking a fertility drug that contains hCG, a false-positive may also occur. False-positives are rare, so if you have a positive pregnancy test, chances are you’re pregnant. See the next section to find out what the next step is.

The Next Step: Consult a Doctor

So, you’ve missed your period, waited a week, and taken the test. If your test is positive, consult your healthcare provider as soon as possible. They’ll be able to confirm that you’re pregnant through a blood test or ultrasound. The sooner you know for sure that you’re pregnant, the sooner you’ll be able to start prenatal care, so don’t hesitate!

If you got a negative result but are experiencing early pregnancy symptoms such as nausea or exhaustion, or still haven’t gotten your period, it would be a good idea to go to the doctor, as well. It’s possible that you’ve gotten a false-negative and are pregnant! It’s also possible that there’s a different issue preventing your menstrual cycle. Either way, consulting a medical professional is beneficial, and they’ll be able to get you on the right track.

pregnancy test
‍Image courtesy of Baby List

Pregnancy tests are easy to use, but not-so-easy to trust. In order to ensure that your body is producing a detectable amount of hCG, wait at least a week after you’ve missed your period to take a test. After this time you should be getting the most accurate results. There are still possibilities of false-negative (or false-positive) results, though. If you think you might be pregnant, according to a test or from other symptoms you’re experiencing, consult your healthcare provider to confirm! They’ll be able to give you a blood test or ultrasound that will let you know for sure, and will help you begin your journey to parenthood!


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