Knowing when to take a pregnancy test can be source of anxiety for a lot of women.
Whether you’re hoping to be pregnant or hoping not to be pregnant, proper timing is key to knowing when to take a pregnancy test.
Should you wait until your period is a few days late? Is morning best? Or evening?
Taking an early test may seem like a good way to definitively determine if you’re pregnant. However, taking the test early may give you a negative result. Even when you are pregnant.
So how do you decide precisely when to take a pregnancy test? Does timing really matter?
The best time to take a pregnancy test is any time after your period is late. The date of your last period is how your practitioners will determine how far along you are in your pregnancy.
Taking a pregnancy test after your period is late will help you avoid both false negatives and false positives.
Think about keeping a fertility calendar to help determine proper pregnancy test timing.
If you don’t chart your cycles, it is best not to take a test until you’ve passed the longest cycle you usually have. For instance, if your cycles range from 28 to 34 days, the best time to take a test would be day 35 or later.
Also consider whether you know if your period is even late when determining when to take a pregnancy test. Even tests labeled for early pregnancy detection can’t accurately detect a pregnancy before your period is late.
The Best Time of Day
The time of day you take a pregnancy test is much discussed. It does matter to a certain extent. But it’s not vital.
So, when to take a pregnancy test during the day? You’re more likely to get an accurate result if you take the test early in the morning. Especially if you’re not yet late or are only a couple days late.
Pregnancy tests detect the hormone human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) in your urine. Since your urine is more concentrated when you first wake up, this usually means that the amount of hCG is a bit higher in the morning.
However, you can still take a pregnancy test at any point in the day. You’re a bit more likely to get a false-negative, especially if you’ve been drinking a lot of water and your urine is diluted.
When You “Feel” Pregnant
You may be having early pregnancy symptoms, including:
Slight morning nausea
Sensitivity to smells
Pregnancy symptoms don’t always mean you’re pregnant.
Get the best of Working Parents Handbook delivered to your inbox each week. Subscribe to our weekly newsletter!
In fact, you can “feel pregnant” and not be pregnant, or “not feel pregnant” and be pregnant. Your body is a complicated machine.
The hormones that cause pregnancy symptoms are also present between ovulation and your period. Additionally, pregnancy symptoms can be caused by other things like poor sleep or a mild flu.
How Pregnancy Tests Work
Knowing how the tests work can help you understand when to take a pregnancy test.
The tests detect the pregnancy hormone, human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG), in your urine.
Some tests also detect a variation of this hormone, known as hyperglycosylated hCG (H-hCG).
The regular hCG is produced after an embryo implants into the endometrium. H-hCG begins to be released earlier, after fertilization.
Pregnancy tests don’t measure the exact amount of pregnancy hormones that exist in your urine. Rather, they detect whether a minimum amount is present.
A negative result just means your urine doesn’t contain enough hCGto trigger a positive result.
H-hCG levels typically exceed hCG. If a test detects H-hCG, you’re more likely to get a positive result early. If a test only detects regular hCG, getting an early positive result is less likely.
How Early Result Pregnancy Tests Work
Early results pregnancy tests promise results a few days before your expected period.
These tests assume a two-week luteal phase. A luteal phase is the time between ovulation and your period. But you may have a shorter or longer luteal phase.
If your luteal phase is usually 13 days, five days before your missed period would be ten days after ovulation. That’s too early to test. In this instance, taking the test four days before your missed period doesn’t accomplish anything.
If your luteal phase is 15 days, four days before your missed period is 12 days after ovulation. You still may not have enough hormone that early. But you have better odds than someone with a shorter luteal phase.
If you’re undergoing fertility treatment and you’ve have had an hCG trigger shot, don’t take an early pregnancy test. You’re more likely to get a false-positive.
Most at-home tests boast 99 percent accuracy on the day of your missed period. This doesn’t apply for early results. If you expect your period on Friday, Saturday would be the day of your missed period.
Promises of 99 percent accuracy are not always true. In research studies, the tests were only 46 percent to 89 percent accurate. In one study, pregnancy tests showed a positive result only 80 percent of the time on day 28.
Taking A Test Early
Consider advantages and disadvantages if you’re thinking about when to take a pregnancy test early.
Small chance of a positive result, relieving some two-week wait anxiety
If positive, possibility of detecting an early miscarriage
Not accurate with hCG trigger shots
Higher chance of getting a false-negative
Expenses – anywhere from $1 to $18 per test
The Best Early Pregnancy Test
Which test should you use if you want to take an early test?
The best early pregnancy test on the market now is the First Response Early Result or the FRER. This is a manual test.
The digital test, First Response Gold Digital Pregnancy Test, has been reported as less accurate. But according to a 2013 FDA comparison between the two, the results show the same accuracy.
This pregnancy test has clearance from the FDA to say it can detect pregnancy hormones up to six days before your missed period.
But is it accurate that early? Here are the results from one study:
One day past your expected period: detected 100 percent of pregnancies
On the day of your expected period: 96 percent of pregnancies detected
On the day before your expected period: 93 percent of pregnancies detected
Two days before your expected period: 81 percent of pregnancies detected
Three days before your expected period: 68 percent of pregnancies detected
Four days before your expected period: 42 percent of pregnancies detected
Five days before your expected period: 33 percent of pregnancies detected
Six days before your expected period: 25 percent of pregnancies detected
According to the same study, E.P.T manual tests detected only 53 percent of pregnancies on the day of an expected period.
The First Response Early Results test was more accurate three days before an expected period than E.P.T.’s test was on the day of the expected period.