How Soon Can You Take a Pregnancy Test?

Timing, Efficacy, and More

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You may wonder how soon you can take a pregnancy test after having sexual intercourse. To get the most accurate result, wait until a day after your missed period to take a pregnancy test.

That said, some over-the-counter (OTC) early pregnancy tests are sensitive enough to detect pregnancy several days before a missed period and give results in minutes.

This article will go over the types of pregnancy tests and factors that can affect results. It also covers how to decide when to take a pregnancy test and when to retest after getting a negative result.

When to Take a Pregnancy Test - Illustration by Ellen Lindner

Verywell / Ellen Lindner

Types of Pregnancy Tests

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. Today, you can find out that you're pregnant much earlier, faster, and with better accuracy using home pregnancy tests.

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

How Do At-Home Pregnancy Tests Work?

At-home pregnancy tests check for a hormone called human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) in your urine. It's known as the "pregnancy hormone" because it's produced only when you are pregnant. If you have a 28-day menstrual cycle, you can usually detect hCG in your urine 12 to 15 days after ovulation.

Urine Pregnancy Test

Urine tests can be done at home with an over-the-counter kit or at your healthcare provider’s office.

To use an at-home OTC pregnancy test, you pee on the end of a stick, which will check your urine for hCG. If you take a urine pregnancy test at a healthcare provider's office, you will pee into a cup and your provider will dip a test stick into your urine sample.

Small amounts of hCG can sometimes be detected in the urine about 10 days after conception or becoming pregnant.

If you take a urine pregnancy test sooner than 10 days after conception, the tests might give a “false negative” result. If you take an early test and it's negative, you should continue to test if you miss a period.

For the most reliable results, wait until after the first day of your missed period to take a pregnancy test.

What if My Pregnancy Test Is Negative?

Getting a negative pregnancy test result does not necessarily mean your urine does not contain hCG—especially if it's taken before a missed period. It just means your urine does not have enough hCG in it to trigger a positive result.

Blood Pregnancy Test

Blood tests to detect pregnancy are rarely done routinely 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 high-risk pregnancy, are having fertility treatments, or are concerned that you may be having multiples, a miscarriage (loss of pregnancy before 20 weeks), or complications such as an ectopic pregnancy (when a fertilized egg implants outside the uterus, such as in a fallopian tube).

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

  • Qualitative hCG blood test: A qualitative blood pregnancy test gives an overall picture. It tells your provider if hCG is absent or present in your blood. The accuracy of these tests is a bit higher than a urine test. 
  • Quantitative hCG blood test: Quantitative refers to a count or quantity. The results of this test are given as an exact number. This gives your provider more detailed information about where you are in your pregnancy and how it’s progressing.

Pregnancy Test Timing

With pregnancy testing, timing is everything because the amount of hCG in your urine increases as the pregnancy progresses.

HCG levels should almost double every 48 hours at the beginning of pregnancy. 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 to Take a Pregnancy Test

After you become pregnant, it takes some time for hCG to increase to a detectable level. 

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, at least wait for one to two weeks after you had sex to take a test.

Everyone's fertile window (the time when they can get pregnant) is different, depending on when they ovulate.

Menstrual bleeding typically begins 14 days after ovulation. People who ovulate on day 14 usually expect their period on day 28 or 29. People who ovulate later in the month may not expect their period until day 31 or later.

It’s best to wait until the time you are sure you’ve missed a period to take a pregnancy test. If you are unsure when you ovulate, you can try ovulation test kits or track your basal body temperature.

How to Tell If Your Period Is Late

Many people have irregular menstrual cycles, either longer or shorter than others. Sometimes it’s hard to remember the exact date of your last period and when to expect your next period. Between 10% and 20% of pregnant people get a negative pregnancy test because they test too early.

Tracking your cycle can help you know a few things: when you ovulated, the first day of your last period, when to expect your next period, and a general idea of the length of your cycle.

Best Time of Day to Take a Pregnancy Test

Taking a pregnancy test first thing in the morning gives you a better chance of getting an accurate result. Assuming you have not been waking up to drink a lot of water through the night, your urine will be more concentrated right when you wake up.

More concentrated urine means there will be a build-up or higher content of hCG in it if you are pregnant—especially if you are testing before your period is expected or just a day or two late.

When you are farther along in pregnancy, there is a greater chance of the test detecting hCG at any time in the day.

When to Take Early Result Pregnancy Tests

Early pregnancy tests can be used several days before a missed period. These tests are more accurate for people who conceived (got pregnant) earlier in their cycle. 

If you ovulated a little late, you may have conceived later in your cycle. In this case, there may not be enough hCG for these tests to detect until closer to or after your missed period.

If you received an hCG trigger shot to help with fertility, it's best to wait two weeks after the shot to take a pregnancy test. The trigger shot can cause a false positive if a pregnancy test is taken before the medication has left your system.

What to Do If You Feel Pregnant But the Test Was Negative

Talk to your provider if you’ve had a negative pregnancy test result, but are having symptoms of early pregnancy such as:

  • Breast tenderness
  • Mild cramps
  • Very light bleeding (spotting)
  • Fatigue
  • Sensitivity to smells
  • Nausea and vomiting (sometimes called "morning sickness" but can happen at any time of day)

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

How Effective Is Early Pregnancy 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

Pregnancy Test Accuracy

Most tests promise 99% accuracy on the day of your missed period. However, this actually doesn't apply to early results. 

In one European study, seven pregnancy tests were tested for accuracy. Three of those seven tests were accurate 97.6% to 100% of the time. The other four tests had lower accuracy rates, ranging from 81.6% to 95.9%. The study did note that regulations for these tests are different in Europe than in the United States and that the results may also vary based on the user.

User error is also a factor to consider. According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the accuracy of pregnancy tests relies heavily on how a person follows directions and interprets the results. The FDA also notes that while these tests are able to detect hCG, if someone tests too early there may not be enough hCG for the test to detect. This can give them a false negative.

Summary

You could start taking pregnancy tests 10 days after conception, but taking a pregnancy test too early may give you a negative result—even if you are pregnant.

Pregnancy hormones increase rapidly. The longer you wait to take a pregnancy test, the higher your chances of getting 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.

A Word From Verywell

When you’re anxious to get the results of a pregnancy test, it’s understandable if you would want to test as soon as possible. Testing too early can give you a result that's not accurate, which can make the process all the more frustrating.

Let your provider know as soon as you get a positive pregnancy test at home. They can confirm it with a more accurate test and help you decide on the next steps.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How long does it take for sperm to reach the egg and lead to pregnancy?

    You don't get pregnant the moment sperm enter your body. It can actually take several days for the sperm to make their way to the egg and fertilize it.

    From there, it can take a few more days for that fertilized egg to implant into the uterus—at which point you would be pregnant.

  • How soon can you take a pregnancy test after implantation?

    Once the fertilized egg implants into the uterus, it still needs more time to start pumping out pregnancy-supporting hormones. You probably won't be able to pick up any hCG on a pregnancy test until about a week after implantation has taken place.

    For some people, that works out to be about the time when they will experience a missed period, which might prompt them to take a pregnancy test.

  • How soon can you take a pregnancy test after IVF?

    Your IVF provider will let you know when to take a pregnancy test, but generally, you should wait about two weeks after treatment.

12 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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By Brandi Jones, MSN-ED RN-BC
Brandi is a nurse and the owner of Brandi Jones LLC. She specializes in health and wellness writing including blogs, articles, and education.