How soon after implantation can I test?
Home pregnancy tests can help determine if you’re pregnant as early as the first day of your missed period. But there are several factors to keep in mind to ensure you get an accurate result.
One of the most important factors is timing. All at-home pregnancy tests look for the hormone hCG in your urine to confirm you’re pregnant.
But some tests are more sensitive than others. If you test too soon, your hCG levels may not be high enough for the test to catch.
Here are five things to keep in mind when taking a pregnancy test to help ensure your results are accurate.
1. Follow the directions carefully
Before taking a pregnancy test, it’s important to take some time to read and understand the directions. All pregnancy tests measure the hCG levels in your urine, but they don’t all work exactly the same way.
Each test will require a certain amount of urine. That’s why some tests ask you to pee directly onto a stick, while others have you dip the stick in a cup of urine.
The directions may also mention a specific time you should hold the absorbent part of the stick in your stream (or in a cup). Not following these directions can lead to inaccurate results.
While you’re looking at the box, take a peek at the expiration date. Tests collecting dust in your closet for years probably won’t be as accurate as ones fresh off store shelves.
2. Don’t test too early
“Testing too soon after sex is usually the biggest mistake people make,” said Robin Watkins. She’s a certified nurse midwife and director of healthcare at Power to Decide.
Many pregnancy test manufacturers say their tests are more than 99% accurate from the day of your first missed period. But that day isn’t always obvious.
For many people who menstruate, their periods don’t start on the same day (or week) every month.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) estimates that as many as 20% of women won’t be able to detect their pregnancy on the first day of their missed period.
There’s nothing wrong with testing on the first day you’re late. Still, the FDA recommends waiting 1–2 weeks after your first missed period for the most reliable results.
“If you think you might be pregnant but get a negative test result, it might be too early,” Watkins said. “Wait a few days and take another test, or check in with a healthcare professional.”
3. Don’t use diluted urine
Gulping down several glasses of water before you take a pregnancy test isn’t always the best idea. Many people think this will increase the volume of urine, but it can often dilute your hCG levels.
Instead, take a pregnancy test when you first go to the bathroom in the morning. That’s when you’ll have a full bladder of nondiluted urine.
“Urine can be more concentrated first thing in the morning, so you may get a positive test a bit sooner if you’re checking then,” Watkins said.
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4. Don’t check the results too soon (or too late)
It can be tempting to peek at your pregnancy test results before the timer goes off. Still, it’s important to read the results in the time frame listed in your test’s directions.
Looking too soon and ditching the test before the time is up could lead to a false negative.
But looking too late could lead to a false positive. That’s especially important with nondigital line tests.
“Waiting too long can sometimes cause a faint, colorless evaporation line to appear when the urine dries. While lines without color aren’t a sign of pregnancy, they can be confusing,” Watkins said.
5. Read the results carefully
Don’t feel bad if you’re confused about what your pregnancy test tells you.
There are entire internet forums dedicated to deciphering the results of people’s nondigital pregnancy tests. Trying to figure out whether a line is a line or a plus is a plus can be tough.
Because of that, you might do better with a digital test that says “pregnant” or “not pregnant” when the results are ready.
These tests aren’t more accurate than non-digital ones, but they can take the guesswork out of reading lines or signs.
If you get a result you’re just not sure about, wait and test again. Watkins suggests talking with your healthcare professional about getting a blood test. It can detect lower levels of hCG than a urine test.
At-home pregnancy tests are pretty reliable. However, it’s important to read the instructions carefully to ensure your results are accurate.
If you’re confused about your result, consider speaking with a healthcare professional. They can help determine whether you’re pregnant.
- Pregnancy test (beta-hCG). (n.d.). https://www.gloshospitals.nhs.uk/our-services/services-we-offer/pathology/tests-and-investigations/pregnancy-test-beta-hcg/
- Pregnancy. (2019). https://www.fda.gov/medical-devices/home-use-tests/pregnancy
- Watkin R. (2021). Personal interview.