How early can you take a pregnancy test?
Are you trying to become pregnant and want to know exactly when to take a pregnancy test? In this blog post, you can learn how early you can take a pregnancy test and how to understand the result.
Once you have done “the work” – either in form of unprotected intercourse or fertility treatment – you are probably eager to see the result. For many, a positive pregnancy test is an important milestone on their way to become a parent. The magical two lines mark a new beginning - but do you know when to take an at-home pregnancy test to get a reliable result - and how it works?
How does a pregnancy test work?
A home pregnancy test detects the level of hCG (human chorionic gonadotropin) in your urine. HCG is also known as the pregnancy hormone, as it is a hormone produced by the placenta during pregnancy. Your hCG level will start to rise just after the conception and can be detected in the urine of pregnant women as early as 10 days after conception. The hCG level can also be detected in blood, but hCG blood tests are not commonly used to check for pregnancy.
When should you take a home pregnancy test?
Most pregnancy tests instruct the user to test themselves on the first day of their missed period. With an average cycle of 28 days, this means about 14 days after your ovulation. However, some pregnancy tests are more sensitive and may be able to show signs of hCG 10 days after conception.
The two-week wait can seem endless, when all you want is to find out if you are pregnant – but taking a test earlier may not be reliable.
If you have had fertility treatment and used an ovulation trigger, this may give you a false positive if you test too soon. The ovulation trigger also contains hCG which can then be detected in the test and give a false positive. The recommendation from your clinic will usually be to wait 14 days after IUI and 10-14 days after IVF transfer, to allow the fertilized egg to implant and the hcG level to rise to a detectable level. It does not matter whether you use sperm from a donor or your partner, the waiting period will be the same. If you have become pregnant using donor sperm, we recommend you report your pregnancy to us, as it is very helpful in terms of quotas and reservations.
If you are trying to conceive naturally, and you are unsure about the timing of ovulation or when your period is due, you can take a pregnancy test at least three weeks after having unprotected intercourse. Three weeks will give your body enough time to produce hCG if you are pregnant.
The different pregnancy tests available
There are several types of pregnancy tests available. Here are some of the different pregnancy tests you can purchase:
- Over the counter pregnancy tests: These are the most common type available and can be purchased at most pharmacies or supermarkets. Normal pregnancy tests sold over the counter require a urine sample. They are easy to use and provide results within a few minutes.
- Digital pregnancy tests: Digital tests work the same way as over the counter tests, but they display the results in words or symbols, rather than lines. Some digital tests also estimate how many weeks pregnant you are.
- Blood pregnancy tests: These tests are the most accurate type of tests available; they can detect pregnancy sooner than pregnancy tests reliant on urine. You can book time for a blood pregnancy test with your doctor.
It is important to note that the accuracy of a pregnancy test depends on a variety of factors, including when and how well you follow the instructions. If you have any concerns about the results, we recommend you contact your doctor.
Understanding the pregnancy test results
Most home pregnancy tests are simple to use and understand. Before you take the test, however, we recommend that you carefully read the instructions as the procedure may vary depending on the test type or brand. Usually, the tests will require just a few drops of urine, either on a test strip or stick, and the result will appear within a matter of minutes. How to read whether the pregnancy result is positive or not depends on the test. Most non-digital pregnancy tests use two lines or a plus to show a positive result – one line to indicate that the test is working properly (control line) and a second line if the result is positive (= pregnant). Digital pregnancy tests will usually say “Pregnant” or “Not pregnant”. Some digital pregnancy tests even include a week indicator which estimates how many weeks ago the conception occurred.
It is important to emphasize that at home pregnancy tests are not 100% accurate, as false results may occur if the test is taken too early or if you did not follow the instructions carefully.
What happens if you take the pregnancy test too early?
If you take a pregnancy test too early, the result may be false – either false-negative or false-positive. A false-negative result can happen because your body may not have produced enough hCG yet for the test to detect it. If you receive a negative result but still suspect pregnancy, it is recommended to wait for a few days and retake the test. If you keep getting negative results, and your period does not arrive, we recommend that you contact your doctor.
False-positives are rare but may occur if you test too soon after fertility treatment, as some of the medication provided before the treatment contains the same hCG hormone as the tests look for. A false-positive pregnancy result may also be explained by a pregnancy loss in the very early stages (also known as “chemical pregnancy”).
To reduce the risk of getting an incorrect result, we recommend to always follow the instructions of the pregnancy test and/or from your fertility doctor if you are doing a pregnancy test after fertility treatment.
If you are trying to become pregnant, it is important to know when you can take a pregnancy test and how to interpret the results. Remember that most home pregnancy tests instruct you to take it from the first day of your missed period. If you get a negative result but still think you might be pregnant, wait a few days and take another test or contact your doctor.
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