Thinking of taking an early pregnancy test and not sure how accurate it will be?
Perhaps you’re wondering what’s the best time to test and still get an accurate result.
Taking an early pregnancy test can be a challenge to anyone’s nerves.
How Accurate Is An Early Pregnancy Test?
If you think you might be pregnant, but haven’t yet missed a period, you might be wondering, how accurate is an early pregnancy test?
Most people think home pregnancy tests are 99% accurate.
But early pregnancy tests are marketed for use before your period is due.
This can affect the accuracy of the results.
Find out everything you need to know about how accurate early pregnancy tests really are.
How Does An Early Pregnancy Test Work?
There are two ways to test for pregnancy – either by testing blood or by testing urine.
Both tests look for the presence of a hormone called human Chorionic Gonadotropin or hCG.
When a fertilised egg implants into the uterus lining, the tissue that will become the placenta starts to secrete hCG.
You can read more in hCG Levels – Everything You Need To Know About hCG.
Over the course of the next few days, hCG levels in the body begin to rise rapidly.
This sudden shift in hormones is responsible for triggering most early pregnancy symptoms.
Find out more in our article about pregnancy symptoms.
When To Take A Pregnancy Test?
A sperm fertilises an egg in your fallopian tube. This is the moment of conception.
Except in very rare cases, the fertilised egg is then swept along the tube and down into the uterus.
This journey from tube to uterus can take about 6 days. The fertilised egg will then burrow or implant into the uterus lining.
Implantation usually happens around 9 days after ovulation, but can happen anytime from 7 to 12 days after.
When the fertilised egg has implanted, hCG is produced; this is what a home pregnancy test is designed to detect.
These days, most home pregnancy tests claim to be sensitive.
This means they can pick up quite low levels of hCG in urine – around 10IU/mL.
Most women will have enough hCG in their urine to be detected at about the time their period is due, or the week after.
You can read more in our detailed article When To Take A Pregnancy Test If You Might Be Pregnant.
How Soon Can I Take An Early Pregnancy Test?
We know the two week wait after ovulation is the longest time ever!
Whether you’re trying to conceive or suspect you’re pregnant, it can be hard to sit on your hands and wait for a sign.
There are very sensitive tests on the market, and they claim to give a positive result 6 days before your period is due. That sounds great, but there are a few hitches with these early pregnancy tests.
The main problem is accuracy. Early pregnancy tests are more accurate the closer you get to your expected period.
Two of the leading brands of early pregnancy tests claim the accuracy rate is 99%, when used 3 days before your expected period.
If you were to test 5 days before your expected period, however, the accuracy rate would be only 76%.
Technically, then, although you can test in the week before your period is due, it’s important to know the results might not be as accurate as you think.
If you use these early pregnancy tests, waiting until at least the day of your expected period will give you the most accurate results.
Find out more in How Soon Can You Take A Pregnancy Test?
Best Pregnancy Test for Accuracy
There are literally dozens of pregnancy tests on the market today.
For the best results, in terms of accuracy, look for a test that is simple to use and has an accuracy rate of 99% on the day of your expected period.
Some women prefer to use digital tests, while others are happy to use the strip types.
Whichever you prefer, make sure you follow the instructions properly and wait for the right amount of time before checking the results.
This will reduce the chance of an inaccurate test result.
A recent study in the US found up to 5% of standard pregnancy tests produced a false negative result, of up to 5 weeks of pregnancy and more. So if you find your test returns a negative result, but you feel you might be pregnant, a blood test from your doctor might be the best bet.
Positive Early Pregnancy Test
Perhaps you have a positive pregnancy test result but you’re still wondering whether or not it’s accurate.
It’s very rare to have a false positive pregnancy test. However it can happen, for any number of reasons.
You can read more in False Positive Pregnancy Test – What You Need To Know.
Some women are concerned when they see only a very faint line in the results window.
A faint line can be stressful if you’re concerned about miscarriage, trying to cope with fertility problems, or hoping for a negative result.
Usually you need to wait a little longer for hCG levels to rise before taking another test.
For more information be sure to read Faint Line On Pregnancy Test.
Pregnancy Blood Test
The other way to test for the presence of hCG in your body is by having a blood test.
Blood tests work on the same principle as urine tests.
They look for the presence of hCG in the bloodstream and determine whether or not there is a pregnancy.
Blood tests are 99% accurate and can detect smaller amounts of hCG than urine tests.
The test can be done around 7 days after you ovulate, or a week before your expected period.
However, blood tests still rely on the time it takes for implantation to occur, and this time can vary among women.
There are two different types of pregnancy blood tests your doctor can order:
- Qualitative blood test: it confirms the presence of hCG. If there is less than 5 mI/mL present then the test is considered negative. This test is about as accurate as a urine test.
- Quantitative blood test: this measures the exact amount of hCG present and detect trace amounts. It is useful to track the progression of pregnancy.
As with urine pregnancy tests, a blood test can still produce false positive or negative results, for the same reasons.
It usually takes longer to receive your results from a blood test, compared with a urine test.
The time it takes to receive the lab results from a pregnancy blood test varies, ranging from an hour to a few days.
A blood test is also less convenient and costs more than a urine pregnancy test.
Your doctor might do the blood test, or give you a referral to a pathology collection centre.
The fees for blood tests make them more expensive than home pregnancy tests.
Most women who have blood tests usually do so because they need to have their hCG levels monitored – for example, after fertility treatment or recurrent miscarriages.