The condom broke.
You had unprotected sex.
You forgot the pill or your birth control failed.
Your period is late.
If you’re worried that you could be pregnant, when is it time to take a test? Does it matter when you take it? Waiting to take the test can lead to anxiety, and wondering if you might be pregnant if you weren’t expecting to be can be stressful.
Many assume that a pregnancy test doesn’t have to be timed to be correct, or that if they take many different kinds of tests they may get a different result. The truth is, it all comes down to timing. Taking a test too early can give you a negative result, even if you are indeed pregnant.
Though pregnancy lasts 40 weeks, you aren’t actually pregnant the first two weeks of that – ovulation typically occurs on day 14 of one’s cycle. Then, approximately 6 days after a fertilized egg attaches to the lining of the uterus, your body begins to produce the hormone human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG), which then enters your bloodstream and urine. In early pregnancy, HCG levels double every two to three days. If you take the test too early, your levels would be too low to detect.
Although ovulation generally occurs at day 14 of one’s cycle, the timing of ovulation can vary from person to person or month to month – and this can affect the timing of when you should take a test. For this reason, a pregnancy test will be the most accurate after you miss your period.
What if I have irregular periods?
If your periods are irregular, you will want to wait until the length of your longest cycle before you take a test. If you don’t get periods at all or your periods are very irregular, a good rule of thumb is to wait until 3 weeks after you have had unprotected sex.
Can I get a false negative?
False negatives happen to 10 to 20 people in every 100 who take a test because HCG levels can vary from person to person. If your test is negative but you are experiencing symptoms of pregnancy or still believe you could be pregnant, wait two more days and take another test. If your period does not begin within the week, take another test. By then, if you are pregnant, your HCG should have doubled once again, giving you a more accurate result. If you continue to get negative results but are not having periods, consult with your doctor as there may be other underlying health issues at play.
Can I get a false positive?
Yes…but it’s not likely. For a test to detect HCG in your urine when you are not pregnant means that either the test was defective, or something else is going on. This could mean that you are having an early ectopic miscarriage, ectopic pregnancy, problems with ovaries, or menopause. If you have a positive pregnancy test, it is important to visit your doctor or come to Alpha Center for a pregnancy appointment.
Do Early Pregnancy Tests Work?
Some pregnancy tests will advertise working up to 6 days before your missed period. It all depends on how your body is producing HCG. For some people, these tests will work, and for others, it will produce a false negative. The most accurate result will happen after you miss your period.
Does the brand of test matter?
Generally, no. Most at-home pregnancy tests measure the HCG in your urine. If you follow the instructions on the test, you should get an accurate result.
I took the test, and it’s positive. Now what?
If you are unexpectedly pregnant, it can be a lot to process. You might be feeling scared, confused, or simply overwhelmed. At Alpha Center in Fort Collins, we know how important it is to have results you can trust. We offer free and confidential pregnancy testing to any woman who thinks she may be facing an unplanned pregnancy, and we offer a non-judgmental space to explore your options and ask questions.
Author: Kristen Long, Alpha Center