When Is the Best Time to Take a Pregnancy Test?

Learn how to get the timing right for the most accurate results

Taking a home pregnancy test after awakening

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If you're experiencing early signs of pregnancy like fatigue, sore breasts, nausea, or a period you could have sworn should have arrived by now, the most pressing question is when you can know for sure that you're actually pregnant. The best time to take a pregnancy test is after you’ve missed your period or, to put it another way, when you know yours is late.

It can be difficult to know exactly when that is if you have irregular periods, you don't chart your cycles, or you’re not actively trying to conceive. 

So, how soon can you pee on a stick and get an accurate result? Here’s how to figure out when to take a pregnancy test, the best time of day to do it, and what to do next.

Pregnancy Tests: Why Timing Matters

Pregnancy tests measure levels of human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) hormone in your urine or blood. This hormone is released by your body when a fertilized egg attaches to the wall of your uterus (womb). After you become pregnant, your hCG levels rise slowly at first and then very rapidly, doubling every couple of days.

But if you take a pregnancy test too early (before you’ve missed your period), your body may not yet have detectable levels of hCG for a positive result (“pregnant”). As such, you could risk getting a false negative result (“not pregnant”) and have to take another test later on.

You could also get a positive result if you end up having a chemical pregnancy or early miscarriage or have an underlying health condition that could be responsible for the presence of hCG.

Most people start by self-testing for pregnancy. You can buy an over-the-counter pregnancy test kit at most pharmacies and grocery stores. You can also sometimes pick one up for free or at a reduced cost from a local health center such as Planned Parenthood. 

While you can visit your healthcare professional for a pregnancy test, they’ll most likely use a standard urine test as well unless your health history indicates any potential complications.

In that case, they may send you to the lab to draw a pregnancy blood test, too. Just how long it might take to get those results will depend on the lab your healthcare professional is working with.

Best Time During Your Cycle to Test

Some manufacturers produce home pregnancy tests that they claim can detect a pregnancy as soon as one day after your missed period or even before then. But remember: The earlier you take a test, the more at risk you are of getting a false negative result due to still-too-low hCG levels.

While you could give an early pregnancy test a try, research suggests that most over-the-counter tests aren’t sensitive enough to detect hCG before or on the first day of your missed period, per a 2014 study.

What's more, about 10 to 20 out of 100 people don’t get a positive test result on the day they believe is just after their missed period—even when they are in fact pregnant, according to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

To avoid a false negative or positive result and the roller coaster of emotions that could follow, wait to test until a couple of days after your missed period or, even better, until a full week has passed. By then, the chances of getting a false negative result are very low.

If you take the test a day or so after your missed period and get a positive result, it’s likely correct. If you get a negative result, keep in mind that you could still possibly be pregnant. You might want to retest one week after your missed period to be sure.

If you haven’t been tracking your cycles or have an irregular period, know that hCG levels typically become detectable within two weeks of conception. As such, wait about 14 days after you had sex to take a test.

If you take two pregnancy tests and both are negative but you still believe you may be pregnant, contact your healthcare professional.

The Best Time of Day to Test 

The wait to take a pregnancy test can be excruciating. But some good news is that the moment you hit the right time in your cycle, you can take it the first thing that morning. In fact, that’s preferable. 

You want to take a pregnancy test just after you wake up and when you haven't used the restroom in a while. This is when your urine is the most concentrated, with the highest hCG levels. If you are a shift worker, take the test after you wake up to begin your day, or when you haven’t peed in a handful of hours. 

A Word From Verywell

The wait to take a pregnancy test can make for some of the most anxiety-inducing hours and days. It’s completely understandable if you want to take a test as soon as possible. But to make the most of it, waiting a little longer may make sense.

The best time to take a pregnancy test is a few days after your missed period (or at least two weeks after having sex) and when you haven’t peed in many hours.

If you’re not quite there yet, keep in mind that your test results may not be entirely accurate. If you’re comfortable with that, it’s OK to take an early pregnancy test and follow up with an additional test in a week or so. 

For your peace of mind, make sure you’re emotionally prepared to navigate a potential positive or negative result. Have a trusted family member, friend, or healthcare professional nearby. If you have any questions about your results or discover you are indeed pregnant, reach out to a doctor as soon as possible to determine which next steps are right for you.

6 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  2. American Association of Clinical Chemistry Lab Tests Online. Pregnancy test (hCG).

  3. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Pregnancy.

  4. Office on Women's Health. Knowing if you are pregnant.

  5. Bondurant, Amber. When is the best time to take pregnancy test? The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center.

  6. MedlinePlus. Pregnancy test.

By Lauren Krouse
Lauren Krouse is a journalist especially interested in covering women’s health, mental health, and social determinants of health. Her work appears in Women's Health, Prevention, and Self, among other publications.