Testing for pregnancy can bring about a wide range of emotions. From nervousness, to excitement, to happiness to sadness, finding out that you are pregnant is one of the most life-changing experiences a woman can have. So, it makes sense that most of us want to know about a pregnancy as early (and as accurately) as possible.
If you want to know if you are pregnant, taking a home pregnancy test is a crucial first step. But how early can you test for pregnancy?
Keep in mind that there is a danger in taking a home pregnancy test too soon, since you can easily get a false negative. (The pregnancy test says that you are pregnant, but a few days afterwards, you get your period.) On the other hand, if you wait too long, you have less time to prepare yourself for the reality of pregnancy.
How Early Can I Test for Pregnancy?
The earliest you can test for pregnancy and get an accurate result is about seven to twelve days after the date of conception.
If you are worried that you might have gotten pregnant and you want to know as soon as possible – you do not want to wait until your missed period – you need to make an appointment with your doctor and get a blood pregnancy test.
Home pregnancy tests will not work this early. Many are not sensitive enough until at least the day of your expected period. Human chorionic gonadotrophin (hCG), the unique pregnancy hormone that the developing placenta secretes immediately after implantation, enters your bloodstream before it filters to your urine.
So, if you have a feeling that you may have gotten pregnant, you have to wait at least a week afterward you had unprotected sex before you can take a blood pregnancy test and get an accurate result for pregnancy.
With a blood pregnancy test, you can still get a false negative result if you test too early. You might be pregnant, but the level of hCG in your bloodstream is too low for the blood pregnancy test to pick up.
It is also possible that you get a false positive result. The pregnancy test says you are pregnant, but a few days (or a week later), you have a regular period.
When this happens, it’s called a chemical pregnancy, or a very early miscarriage. It basically means that you were technically pregnant (your sperm was able to fertilize your egg), but the pregnancy did not take. Either, the embryo was unable to implant in your uterine lining (for whatever reason), or there was a genetic defect with the fertilized egg.
The majority of doctors simply recommend waiting until you miss your period before you take a pregnancy test. This will never be more than 2-3 weeks after conception, and a missed period is the first sign of pregnancy, so it’s really not too much extra time to wait, as opposed to waiting a week to see a doctor. Some at-home tests can be taken before this time, but accuracy cannot be guaranteed until around first missed period, or about 2 weeks after conception.
How Home Pregnancy Tests Work
At-home pregnancy tests work by determining the level of hCG in your urine. The placenta produces hCG hormones after an embryo attaches. HCG is unique to pregnancy. The level of hCG in a non-pregnant body is zero. So the presence of this hormone is a positive sign of pregnancy. Most home tests are about 97 percent accurate on the day of your missed period.
It is best to take multiple tests from a couple different brands if you want to be extra sure you’re getting an accurate result.
How Early Can I Take a Home Pregnancy Test?
A majority of over-the-counter home pregnancy tests claim to be accurate on the day of your missed period. However, studies have shown that they are most accurate a week after your missed period, since the level of hCG in your body doubles every 2 to 3 days after implantation.
There are a few of the newer (and more expensive) home pregnancy brands that can detect very low amounts of hCG – some as low as 10 mIU/L. These tests allow you to test before you miss your period.
I Think I Might Be Pregnant – What’s Next?
No matter how you choose to test for pregnancy, it’s always best to consult with a doctor when you have questions or concerns about the best way to get accurate results.
If you have a feeling that you’re pregnant and you don’t want to be, make an appointment to see your doctor as soon as you possibly can. He or she will be able to offer advice on how to move forward.
If you had unprotected sex, a condom broke, or you missed a birth control pill, you can also consult a pharmacist about a morning-after pill, such as Plan B, One-Step, or Next Choice, which should be available over the counter to women over 17 years of age.
This guest post is contributed by Lauren Bailey, who regularly writes for accredited online colleges. She welcomes your comments at her email Id: blauren99