How Soon Can I Take an At Home Pregnancy Test?
Trying to conceive can be a very exciting time, and a nerve-wracking one, so it’s normal to want to take pregnancy tests every day just in case. But taking lots of pregnancy tests can be very disheartening and in most cases isn’t necessary at all. Women only have a brief window in their menstrual cycle in which they can become pregnant, so you should time your pregnancy test accordingly. Read on to learn when that is, and why timing your pregnancy test is important.
When to Take an at Home Pregnancy Test
Pregnancy tests work by measuring the amount of hCG (human Chorionic Gonadotropin) in the blood or urine of women, as this hormone is produced by the placenta after conception. Men and women ordinarily have low levels of this hormone, however, over the first 10-12 weeks of pregnancy, hCG levels rise greatly, so measuring hCG levels is an excellent way to know if a woman is pregnant.
However, taking a pregnancy test too soon after conception can miss the rise in hCG and produce a negative test, even though you may be pregnant and give a positive result even one to two weeks later. Pregnancy tests that measure the levels of hCG in the blood can detect smaller changes in hCG than urine tests, so they can be taken sooner and still give an accurate result.
Pregnancy tests that test urine samples should be taken one week after a missed period for the most accurate results, but even blood tests for pregnancy should be taken no sooner than 10 days, or ideally two weeks, after your suspected ovulation date. This can be easy for some women to track, if they have regular periods, show signs of ovulation or through the use of period-tracking apps for mobile, but not all women have regular periods so it isn’t always easy to know when you’re in your fertile period or when you should take a pregnancy test.
Taking a Pregnancy Test When You Have Irregular Periods
Women with irregular periods should first check with their doctor that there’s no serious medical condition causing this irregularity, although it’s not always a cause for concern, especially if your menstrual cycle lasts between 23 and 35 days in total. Having irregular periods doesn’t mean you’re necessarily infertile either, but it may be more difficult to time sex around your ovulatory phase to ensure conception, so if you’re struggling to get pregnant and have irregular periods, this may be the cause.
It can be really helpful to write down or keep note in a period-tracking app of your symptoms throughout your cycle and the dates of your period to work out approximately the halfway point of your cycle, which is usually when you ovulate. You should start having unprotected sex around 5 days before your suspected ovulation date to make sure you optimise your chances of getting pregnant. You can then take a blood test for pregnancy from 10 to 14 days after your suspected ovulation date, or around the expected start of your period, to see if you’ve been successful, or take a urine pregnancy test around 3 weeks after your ovulation date, or one week after your missed period.
Ovulation dates can be difficult to track if you have irregular menstrual cycles, but certain symptoms can make it more clear you’re ovulating, including:
- Clear vaginal discharge with an egg-like consistency
- Increased sex drive
- Tender or sensitive breasts and nipples
- Rise in basal body temperature (BBT)
- Pelvic pain
Not everyone will experience all of these symptoms, however, it’s useful to note when any of them occur in your cycle to have a rough idea of when you’re ovulating and thus ready to conceive.
Symptoms of Pregnancy
Whether you’re trying to conceive or not, knowing the symptoms experienced at the beginning of a pregnancy can help you understand if you’re pregnant; you can then take a home pregnancy test to know for certain before heading to your doctor for further advice. The complication is that many symptoms of pregnancy are also the same as premenstrual symptoms, so it’s easy to confuse being pregnant with being about to start your period.
Pregnancy symptoms include:
- a missed period
- nausea or vomiting
- breast tenderness
- passing urine more frequently, especially at night
- varicose veins
- craving specific foods or disliking foods you usually like
If you have had unprotected sex and missed a period, you should take a pregnancy test as there is a high chance you are pregnant. Moreover, if you are experiencing any of these symptoms and suspect you might be pregnant, think back to when you had unprotected sex (or protected sex but the contraception may have been faulty - like a broken or expired condom, or having vomited after taking the pill) and take a pregnancy blood test around two weeks after, or a urine test around 3 weeks after. If it’s been longer than 3 weeks since you had sex but you’re experiencing symptoms of pregnancy, take a pregnancy test as soon as possible.
What to Do with Your Pregnancy Test Results
If you’ve received a positive pregnancy test result and are experiencing pregnancy symptoms, then you should head to your doctor’s office to have it confirmed by a medical professional, arrange a scan to find out how far along you are, and learn about what happens next.
Not everybody wants to be pregnant, so if this is the case for you, you can speak to your GP or a sexual health specialist at a local GUM clinic to learn what your options are. Otherwise, if you have been trying to conceive or are looking forward to your pregnancy, your doctor will start your antenatal care and advise you on how to keep well during your pregnancy.
If you’ve received a negative pregnancy test result and aren’t experiencing any pregnancy symptoms, then it’s unlikely you’re pregnant and you can keep trying at your next ovulatory phase or you can ask your doctor for help increasing your chances of conception.
It’s important not to blame yourself if you’re struggling to get pregnant, it can be an easy process for some people and a difficult one for others, but it’s nobody’s fault. What’s more, fertility isn’t just a woman’s issue, men can be infertile and show symptoms of infertility as well as women, so if you haven’t been successful in your pregnancy, you and your partner can both undergo some medical examinations to determine the cause.
In some cases, you can receive a false-positive or a false-negative test result. So in this case, if you’re not sure about the result or the accuracy of your test, you can take another around one week later.
How Accurate Are Home Pregnancy Tests?
Pregnancy tests are around 99% accurate, however, there is always some room for error with each test, and even more so with urine tests for pregnancy. That’s why it’s important to follow the packet instructions exactly to get the most accurate result.
Tips for Taking Pregnancy Tests
Of course, the most important point is to take your pregnancy test at the right time in your menstrual cycle to ensure the most accurate results, but there are other factors to be aware of that may affect the result of your pregnancy test.
- Take your pregnancy test before its expiry date
- Take a urine test for pregnancy first thing in the morning to get the most concentrated urine
- Be aware that hCG can remain in the blood up to 6 weeks after pregnancy (including miscarriage or abortion)
- Some medications can give false results, such as antihistamines and antipsychotics
Crucially, however, and this is easier said than done, try not to stress about becoming pregnant. Stress can negatively impact your ability to conceive, so try to be excited about the prospect of becoming a parent without putting pressure on yourself. After all, there are many options to start a family in the 21st century.
Get Your Pregnancy Test Today!
Don’t waste any more time trying to get a doctor’s appointment to confirm your pregnancy; buy an at-home pregnancy blood test from Official Rapid Tests and receive your test in the post the next working day!