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How Early Can You Take a Pregnancy Test (For Best Results)

When you’re trying to conceive, one of the most common questions people ask is when is the best time to take a pregnancy test. The answer, however, isn’t always clear-cut. Different tests have different sensitivity levels, and not all tests are created equal. So when is too soon to take a pregnancy test?

The general rule of thumb is to wait until you’ve missed your period before taking a pregnancy test. However, if you’re anxious to know sooner, there are some things to keep in mind. Keep reading to find out all the important information about taking a home pregnancy test.

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How Do Pregnancy Tests Work?

Pregnancy tests generally work by testing the amount of HCG (human chorionic gonadotropin) that is present in your urine or blood (if you are getting a blood test). HCG is a pregnancy hormone that is produced once a person gets pregnant. The HCG levels typically go up as the pregnancy progresses after the fertilized egg travels through the fallopian tube and attaches to the uterine lining. In order to have a chance of pregnancy, you must have had unprotected sex around your ovulation date.

Most home pregnancy tests can detect the presence of HCG in your urine when it reaches a certain level. This level is different for each test and is usually between 25 mIU/mL to 50 mIU/mL. When the test detects this hormone, it will show a positive result and if it does not detect the hormone, it will show a negative result. HCG levels typically double every two to three days during early pregnancy. Therefore, if you take a test too early, there may not be enough HCG in your urine for the test to detect it and you will get a negative result.

Woman looking at a pregnancy test and smiling

What Is the Best Type of Home Pregnancy Test?

The best type of home pregnancy test is the one that you are most comfortable with and can use easily. There are many different types of the home test on the market including strips, midstreams, and digital tests. Some tests are more sensitive than others which means they can detect lower levels of HCG. More sensitive tests typically cost a little more but they can be worth the investment if you want to test early.

Early pregnancy tests, like First Response, claim to be able to pick up the HCG in your urine up to 5 days before your missed period. However, this may not work for every person who takes the test, so if you get a negative, try testing again a couple of days later. To get the most accurate reading, make sure you read and follow the instructions or you could end up with inaccurate results.

You might be able to get a free pregnancy test through a nearby women’s health clinic or family planning clinic. Try searching in your area to see if this option is available if you cannot afford to purchase a home pregnancy test.

When is too Soon to Take a Pregnancy Test?

If you are testing too early, there is a chance that HCG levels might not be high enough yet to trigger a positive result. If you choose to test early, know that it could still show a negative result even if you are pregnant. If you test early and get a negative result, wait a few days and try again. It’s also important to note that if you are charting your basal body temperature or monitoring cervical mucus, you might have an idea of when you ovulated and when your next period is due. This can help give you a general idea of when to start testing.

If you have done fertility treatment or fertility drugs, you likely have a good idea of exactly when you ovulated. You can wait until the doctor does a beta (HCG blood test) or can take a home urine test starting a few days before your missed period.

If you are impatient and want to take a test as soon as possible, try an early detection pregnancy test, these would be the most sensitive pregnancy tests, that can detect HCG when it reaches levels as low as 12. Again, make sure to follow the instructions carefully so you don’t end up with a false negative or false positive. The Wondfo brand is a great test for early testers because it has a lower sensitivity level and is affordable to buy in bulk.

A woman is sitting on a couch looking at a pregnancy test.

What If I Have Irregular Periods?

Having an irregular cycle can definitely make it harder to know exactly when to take a test. We are taught that most women have the typical 28-day cycle, with ovulation occuring on day 14 of this cycle. For many women, their cycle can vary from this “standard” and it can make it harder to pinpoint the best time to test. If you are tracking your cycles, either through taking your basal body temperature, or checking cervical postion/cervical mucus, you might have a good idea of when you ovulated for that cycle. Ovulation strips (also called OPKS) can be taken during your cycle to help you better pinpoint ovulation and give you a better idea of when to expect your menstrual cycle to start. Wondfo also makes an affordable brand of ovulation strips that will help you better track ovulation.

Another important note to consider is regarding the birth control pill. Coming off of the pill, your cycle can be irregular at first and take a couple of cycles to normalize again. You may want to wait a couple of months before you start testing early to make sure your cycles have normalized.

To learn more about tracking your cycles, I highly suggest reading Taking Charge of Your Fertility by Toni Weschler.

When is the best time of day to take a test?

Many home pregnancy tests specify that taking them with first morning urine is often the best option. This is because the urine is the most concentrated in the morning after sleeping and would make it easier to detect even lower levels of HCG. If you can’t test first thing in the morning, try to avoid drinking a lot of water or other fluids before testing as this can water down your urine and make it more difficult to detect HCG. You can try taking the test at a different time after you have held your urine for a couple of hours. Drinking too much water before taking the test can lead to a false-negative result.

Can I get a False Positive or False Negative?

A false negative result is typically more common than a false positive result. If you test too early and get a negative result, wait a few days and try again. Your body may not have a big enough concentration of hcg if you have not yet passed the first day of a missed period. In some cases, taking the test wrong or using a test that is expired can also cause false negatives. Always check the expiration date before testing or you could end up with a false negative pregnancy test.

A false positive pregnancy test typically happens when there is an error taking the test. This could be from reading the results after the designated time frame or from taking the test wrong. Some tests made with blue dye have been known to show evaporation lines or false positives, so try to use one made with pink dye to avoid a false positive result.

Close up of a positive pregnancy test next to a woman's mid-section.  Her hand is on her belly.

Is a Faint Line Still a Positive?

In the world of the home urine pregnancy test, any line counts as a positive (as long as you used the test properly), regardless of how dark it is. If you see any line, no matter how faint, this typically means that the test is positive and you are pregnant. However, if you’re not sure or want to be extra certain, you can always retake the test in a few days or wait until your missed period to test again.

It can be possible to get a faint line and then start your period a few days later. This is known as a chemical pregnancy, which is an early miscarriage before you are 5 weeks pregnant. The egg may not properly implant itself in the uterine wall, or may implant but stop developing. If you are unsure about whether or not you are pregnant, it is always best to consult with your doctor.

What are my Next Steps After a Positive Test?

If you received a positive test result, congratulations! You might be wondering what your next steps would be. You can call your OBGYN, or other healthcare provider, and get a blood pregnancy test for confirmation. Sometimes the doctors will do two or more blood draws at least 48 hours apart to see if the hormone HCG is doubling properly as it would be expected to. You would then likely be scheduled for your first ultrasound. This is a dating ultrasound that is usually a standard part of prenatal care. The ultrasound helps determine how far along you are and what your expected due date would be. Most doctors do this around 6-8 weeks, but some do it even later than this.

Trying to get pregnant can be both an exciting and a stressful time. Knowing all of the information about how to take pregnancy tests, which test to take, and when is too soon to take a pregnancy test will all help you make the best informed decisions. Always remember to consult with your doctor if you have more specific questions as they will be able to give you the best guidance when it comes to your individual situation. Hopefully, this blog post helped answer some of your questions. Good luck!

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