How Soon Can You Take a Pregnancy Test?

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As recently as the 1970s, you had to miss your period before you took a pregnancy test, and the results could take up to two hours. These days, you can find out you’re expecting much earlier, faster, and with better accuracy using home pregnancy tests.

If you have a feeling you might be pregnant, it’s important to take the test at the right time to maximize your chance of getting an accurate reading. Results depend on a number of factors. Read on to determine how soon you can take a pregnancy test.

Cropped shot of an unrecognizable woman taking a home pregnancy test

Jay Yuno / Getty Images

How Do Pregnancy Tests Work?

Pregnancy tests measure human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) in your urine. You produce this hormone only when you are pregnant. If you have a 28-day menstrual cycle, you can detect hCG in your urine 12 to 15 days after ovulation.

Types of Pregnancy Tests

Today’s at-home pregnancy tests are easy to use and almost as accurate as those given at the healthcare provider’s office. But there are some issues to consider when deciding what kind of pregnancy test is right for you.

Urine Test

Urine tests can be done at home with an over-the-counter kit or at your healthcare provider’s office. Small amounts of hCG can sometimes be detected in the urine about 10 days after conception.

If you take a urine pregnancy test fewer than 10 days after conception, the at-home tests might give a “false negative” response.

For the most reliable results, wait until after the first day of your missed period.

What If My Test Is Negative?

Getting a negative pregnancy test result doesn’t mean your urine doesn’t contain hCG. It just means it doesn’t contain enough to trigger a positive result.

Blood Test

Blood tests to detect pregnancy are rarely done as a routine measure because they are expensive and the same results can be obtained from a urine test. However, your healthcare provider may order blood tests if you have a higher-risk pregnancy, are having fertility treatments, or are concerned that you may be having multiples, a miscarriage, or other complications such as an ectopic pregnancy.

Results of a blood test take longer than a urine test, but they can detect smaller amounts of hCG. Your healthcare provider may use one or both types of these blood tests:

  • quantitative blood test (also called a beta hCG test) measures the exact amount of hCG in your blood. It can find even tiny amounts of hCG.
  • qualitative hCG blood test checks to see whether the pregnancy hormone is present or not. The qualitative hCG blood test is slightly more accurate than a urine test.

Timing

With pregnancy testing, timing is everything. This is because the amount of hCG in your urine increases with time.

HCG levels should almost double every 48 hours at the beginning of pregnancy, so if you are pregnant and you wait a few days to take the test, it is more likely to be positive.

The Best Time in Your Cycle

The best time to take a pregnancy test is after your period is late. If you don’t want to wait until you’ve missed your period, you should wait for at least one to two weeks after you had sex. If you are pregnant, your body needs time to develop detectable levels of hCG. 

If you have an irregular cycle or you don’t chart your cycles, don’t take a test until you’ve passed the longest menstrual cycle you usually have. For example, if your cycles range from 30 to 35 days, the best time to take a test would be day 36 or later.

Are You Sure Your Period Is Late?

Something else to consider is whether you know if your period is even late. In fact, 10% to 20% of pregnant people will not get a positive pregnancy test result on the day they think is just after their missed period, even if they are pregnant.

Best Time of Day to Test

You’re more likely to get an accurate result if you take the test in the morning. This is especially true if your period is not yet late, or if your period is only a couple of days late.

Your urine is usually more concentrated when you first wake up. This generally means that the amount of hCG is a bit higher, and you’re more likely to get a positive result if you’re pregnant.

However, you can still take a pregnancy test at a different time of day. You’re just more likely to get a false negative, especially if you’ve been drinking a lot of water and your urine is diluted.

Early Result Pregnancy Tests

Some pregnancy test kits boast “early results” that promise an answer three or four days before your missed period. These tests assume a 14-day luteal phase, which is the time between ovulation and when you get your period. The problem is that you may have a shorter or longer luteal phase.

If your luteal phase is usually 12 days, four days before your missed period would be nine days after ovulation. That’s way too early to test. For you, taking the test four days before your missed period would be pointless.

If you have a luteal phase of 15 days, four days before your missed period is 12 days after ovulation. You still may not have enough hormones that early. However, you have a better chance than someone with a shorter luteal phase.

If you’re having fertility treatments and you have had an hCG trigger shot, then you should not take an early pregnancy test. An early test may detect the remains of fertility medication.

Negative Test but “Feel” Pregnant?

Speak to your healthcare provider if you’ve taken a pregnancy test that has come up negative, but you are experiencing symptoms of early pregnancy such as:

  • Breast tenderness
  • Mild cramps
  • Very light spotting
  • Fatigue
  • Sensitivity to smells
  • Slight morning nausea

Since the amount of hCG increases rapidly when you are pregnant, you may need to retest in a few days.

How Effective Is Early Testing?

If you are tempted to take a test before your period is late, consider the pros and cons before you do.

Pros
  • Very small chance of getting a positive result

  • Helpful if you need to start or stop medications

  • Allows you to begin prenatal lifestyle changes

Cons
  • High chance of a false negative result if pregnant

  • Expense of repeated tests, if necessary

  • Not accurate with hCG trigger shots

Test Accuracy

If you read the instructions carefully, most tests promise 99% accuracy on the day of your missed period—but not for early results. 

Surprisingly, these promises of 99% accuracy may not be accurate. In studies where researchers compared how much hCG the test claimed to detect and how much it ​actually detected, the tests were only 46% to 89% accurate. In one study, pregnancy tests indicated a positive result only 80% of the time on day 28 of the participant’s menstrual cycle.

A Word From Verywell

Although, in theory, you could start taking pregnancy tests 10 days after conception, taking the test early may give you a negative result, even if you are pregnant. As pregnancy hormones increase rapidly, the longer you wait, the more chance of an accurate result.

The best time to take a pregnancy test is the day after your expected period, in the morning hours, with your first urination of the day. However, when you’re anxious to see results, it’s understandable if you are tempted to test earlier.

In the event of a positive result, contact your healthcare provider as soon as possible to discuss your options and potential next steps.

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