If you’re trying for a baby, or you suspect you’re pregnant, you could be wondering how soon you can take a pregnancy test.
Many pregnancy tests sold these days promise early results.
Early pregnancy test results can be a good thing or a bad thing.
Good, because if you get a positive pregnancy test it’s exciting to find out sooner rather than later
Bad, because you might test too early for accurate results. This might make you feel down and disappointed.
Read on to find out how early you can take a pregnancy test at home and get accurate results.
Home pregnancy tests
Today’s pregnancy tests are very different from the methods women used in days gone by, to try to find out whether they were pregnant.
Urine tests weren’t so unusual in the past!
In ancient Egypt, women would urinate on wheat and barley seeds after a missed period, to test for pregnancy.
If the wheat sprouted, the woman was said to be pregnant with a girl. If the barley sprouted, it was a boy. No sprouts at all, then no pregnancy.
Fast forward to the 1970s when home pregnancy tests first became available. A massive milestone for autonomous women’s health care. Simple: pee on a stick after a missed period and the test detects the presence of a pregnancy hormone called human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG).
The hCG in your urine builds up over time. By the time of your missed period, the level is high enough to produce a positive result on a pregnancy test.
How long does it take for hCG to show up in urine?
Different types and brands of over-the-counter early pregnancy tests can detect pregnancy at different times.
Early pregnancy detection has been possible thanks to the pregnancy hormone hCG, which is produced when a fertilized egg implants into the uterine wall, usually 3-4 weeks after your last period.
It can take 6-12 days for the fertilized egg to implant in your womb, and then another week before the pregnancy hormone levels are high enough to detect.
This will give you a general idea of how much hCG hormone is needed to affect test results:
- 5U/L or less = not pregnant
- 5 – 25U/L = possibly in early pregnancy (a week before your period is due)
- 25U/L = pregnant.
Early result tests claim to be able to detect the pregnancy hormone hCG a week before your next expected period. However, hCG might rise more slowly in one pregnancy than in another.
Testing early can lead to disappointment, especially if you get a negative result but you’re actually pregnant. This is called a false negative.
You can read more about hCG levels in hCG Levels – What Should They Be Each Week?
How do you tell if you’re pregnant without a test?
Every woman is different and experiences pregnancy differently.
Some women can sense early signs of pregnancy much earlier than the time of their expected period. Some ‘know’ right after conception.
Some women might notice first-trimester pregnancy symptoms, such as:
- Nausea or morning sickness
- Extreme fatigue or sleepiness
- Tender breasts
- Painful nipples
- Twinges in the lower tummy
- Increased appetite
- Mood swings
- Food cravings or aversions.
Check out Pregnancy Symptoms | 17 Signs Of Pregnancy for more information.
The only way to be sure is to do an at-home pregnancy test or have a blood test through your healthcare professional at your planned parenthood clinic.
Early pregnancy tests
Testing at home has never been easier.
Pregnancy tests are very similar but always make sure you read the instructions correctly.
There are tests that will actually write pregnant/not pregnant in the result window.
The most common tests, however, are the ‘two lines’ tests. These two lines can be parallel lines or crossed lines, like a plus sign.
Place the probe under your urine stream or collect your urine and dip the marked part of the test into it. Read the instructions carefully to know exactly how each particular test works.
After waiting the indicated amount of time, if you only get one line (a vertical line or a minus sign) that means you’re not pregnant. If you get 2 lines (vertical or making a plus sign), then congratulations are in order.
If you don’t get an accurate reading, don’t worry. Most accurate results take a bit of time to show up. You might get a very faint line in an early result. If you repeat the test one week later the line could be darker.
Read more in Faint Line On Pregnancy Test Kit Meaning.
Which pregnancy test detects the earliest?
There are many brands on the market these days and they don’t all have the same accuracy.
First response tests claim to detect hCG as early as 6 days before your missed period.
You should look for an early test that tests for low levels of hCG, around 10U/L. Most tests available can detect low levels of pregnancy hormones.
Bear in mind, though, timing is important and not everyone’s levels are the same at the same time.
How soon after ovulation can you take a pregnancy test?
Ovulation happens when your body releases an egg in preparation for fertilization.
This usually happens mid-cycle. If you have a 28-day cycle, you will ovulate around day 14.
This isn’t always the case. In fact, this study found only 12.4% of participants experience a 28-day cycle. Some women have irregular cycles (due to medical conditions or natural causes) and ovulate slightly earlier or later.
If the egg is fertilized, it takes about a week to travel to the uterus and implant.
Sometimes the fertilized egg doesn’t make it to the uterus. This is called an ectopic pregnancy. Once the egg is fertilized it takes some time for the levels of hCG to rise high enough for a test to pick up.
If you test after ovulation, you’ll need to know when you ovulated. It’s a good idea to count or track your cycle days to get an accurate idea of when you normally ovulate. This will help you to time the test for when your period is due and avoid a negative result if it’s not accurate.
To be able to know you’re pregnant early will, ideally, lead to early prenatal care.
How soon can you take a pregnancy test after implantation bleeding?
If your egg is fertilized by a sperm around ovulation, the embryo implants in your uterine wall, and the process of pregnancy begins. Usually, this takes about 8-12 days after ovulation.
Implantation can come with some symptoms such as:
After implantation your body will start to produce hCG. Remember, though, it takes time for the levels to be high enough to get a positive test. The time it takes for this to happen can be different for each woman.
Implantation bleeding is often mistaken for the start of the next expected period. Unless you’re hoping to be pregnant, you might not test until you have missed your period.
Can you get a positive 7 days before a period?
Many of the over-the-counter urine home pregnancy tests will give confirmation within the 5-24U/L hCG range.
That means a week before your next expected period you could get a positive result; it might be a false positive, however, due to a faulty product or because it was able to detect very low levels of hCG before a pregnancy could be confirmed.
Read more in our article False Positive Pregnancy Test – 7 Causes Of An Inaccurate Result.
The promise of an early result is alluring. If you really want to get pregnant, you want to know as soon as possible whether it’s happened.
Getting a positive tests result in the 5–24U/L hCG range, however, can be risky.
It can build up your hopes of being pregnant and then bring disappointment later.
How late should my period be before I take a pregnancy test?
Pregnancy tests work best on the first day of your missed period – or even later, if you can wait that long.
Read more about this in When To Take A Pregnancy Test – For The Best Result.
There are some things, such as diet or excessive exercise, that might alter your cycle. Having a good knowledge of your menstrual cycle is the best way to get a more accurate result.
While you’re waiting, try to distract yourself.
You’ll find some ideas in our article Two Week Wait Activity List – Surviving The Two Week Wait.
This is the period of time between when you ovulate and your (hopefully, missed) period or your positive test.
The article suggests some light ways to distract yourself during this time.
Can I take a pregnancy test at 4 am?
Our hormone levels vary throughout the day. Many home pregnancy tests detect hCG production, regardless of the time.
The pregnancy test results will depend on whether or not you’re pregnant and on how much hCG is present in your urine at that time.
How soon will a pregnancy test read positive?
If you follow the instructions of your pregnancy test correctly, you will need to read the test results window in the time frame given.
This is usually between 3 and 5 minutes.
It’s not a good idea to read the test before or after the time suggested or the result might not be accurate.
The positive or negative shown in that time frame is the most accurate. Any result seen outside the time frame could be a false one.
Is second-morning urine OK for a pregnancy test?
Pregnancy tests usually recommend using first-morning urine for accuracy. These days, however, most are sensitive enough to pick up hCG in your second-morning wee, if it’s present.
It is better to do the test early in the morning, when your urine isn’t diluted. This will help to avoid a negative test result if you’re actually pregnant.
How early can you tell if you are pregnant?
It’s best to take an over-the-counter home pregnancy test first thing in the morning.
Your urine is more concentrated at this time and the amount of hCG will also be the most concentrated.
This makes it more likely for the hCG to trigger the positive test result.
Some women might be offered a dating ultrasound scan if they have irregular periods and aren’t sure about their dates.
Your doctor is more than likely to offer you a blood test.
For the most accurate pregnancy test result – positive or negative – your healthcare provider will probably wait until after your missed period.
Blood tests are more sensitive to hCG and are generally more accurate in assessing hCG levels in your system. Compared with urine test, a blood test is less likely to produce a false-negative result.
Read more in BellyBelly’s article False Negative Pregnancy Test.