Kierstin is a mom to two little girls and host of the satirical podcast Really Good Advice for New Moms.
If you're here, it's 99% likely that you think you're pregnant or just that you're absolutely terrified that you're pregnant. Or that maybe a little bit, you're actually hoping you are. It's also pretty likely that you're a teenager and you're feeling isolated about the whole thing. First off, (read the rest in your great-grandmother's voice) you're pretty lucky because back in my day we teens didn't know how to use Google and we had to just sit in an unmade bed staring out the window, wondering what the hell was happening in our uterus (end great-grandmother's voice).
Getting Pregnant: The Basics
One thing I need to clear up before you continue on reading is that if you have not had sex then you can not be pregnant. Babies can't come from nothing, they need a sperm to meet an egg first. I think this article by Mount Sinai Adolescent Health Center is immensely helpful in understanding in what instances conception happens and how to prevent it.
Now, if you've recently had unprotected sex or fear that your birth control method failed, and you're starting to get that cold sweat feeling every single time you scroll past your cousin's new baby on Instagram, then you're in the right place.
If You Have a Late Period, It Doesn't Mean You're Pregnant
Finding out if you're pregnant is going to be the most crucial step in moving forward with your anxieties and the best way to know if you're pregnant or not is to take a pregnancy test. But, before we talk about how to get a pregnancy test, here are some quick reminders on what could cause your period to be late, if that's the reason you suspect you're pregnant:
- You're stressed. Maybe your grades are bad, or your boyfriend has been a total AWOL jerk lately, or your parents are fighting or there's money trouble at home (or all of it?!). I've been there, most of us have. Stress has a funny effect on our reproductive system and can keep us from ovulating. Ovulation is when your body releases an egg for fertilization. If it gets fertilized you get pregnant. But if it doesn't get fertilized, you get your period. If you're feeling stressed about something, your body might be like "hey, I think I'll wait to make a baby. Let's keep those eggs on lockdown until this little lady has her act together." Soooo, if you're so stressed that you don't ovulate, or you don't ovulate on time, your period will be late! Oh joy! More to stress about!
- You've been sick. Did you catch your best friend's nasty stomach bug or a cold from that girl who sits behind you on the bus (the one who's always sneezing right over your shoulder)? Getting sick can also cause your ovulation to be delayed or can cause you not to ovulate at all that month. Remember, no ovulation, no period.
- You're not eating enough or you're exercising too much. Also been there. It's tempting to try to get rigid in your eating and exercise habits when senior photos or spring break are on the horizon or when you've recently been downing a lot of Cheez Whiz and brownies before bed. But the thing is, altering your eating and exercise habits can cause your period to stop if you drop a lot of weight really fast. Take it as a sign that your body isn't happy and try to ease back into healthy eating and exercise habits. And maybe unfollow Kayla Itsines for a while.
So anyway, I'm sure that most of that came as little comfort to you, but it's good to get a reality check.
When is the Best Time to Take a Pregnancy Test?
You can take a pregnancy test at any time but if you want accurate results you need to be specific about when you actually take the test. You need to take it at the right time to get accurate results.
When I was a teen the movie Juno was a huge deal and in the very beginning Juno takes a pee test right in the gas station where she's purchased the test. It's a pretty cute movie and realistic in a lot of ways and not realistic in even more ways. For one thing, definitely do not take a pregnancy test in a gas station. You need to be somewhere familiar and comfortable. If that's not your own bathroom then at least take it in a place where you have someone there to support you, like at a friend's house.
If Your Period is Late...
If you're already late for your period then it's a pretty safe bet to just go right ahead and take a test. The time of day doesn't really matter once your period is late.
If Your Period Isn't Late Yet...
But, if your period is not late then you don't want to take a test too early because you could get a false negative. This happens when you are pregnant but the hormones haven't built up enough to show up on a pregnancy test. This happened to me when I was pregnant with my second baby. I took a test about five days before my period was due and it was negative. I took another one two days later and it was positive.
Honestly, it's best to wait until your period is late but if you're just totally stressed and can't wait then at least wait until four days before you are supposed to get your period, and test in the morning with your first pee of the day.
How to Get a Pregnancy Test
As an adult, you kind of take getting a pregnancy test for granted. I just have mine Amazon primed to me or send my husband out for a box (it's obviously his favorite chore ever). But when you're a teenager, getting your hands on a pregnancy test is a different game.
Ideally, you have a car, a job and some sweet cash to get yourself a test. But life isn't ideal ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
Here's your options for getting a pregnancy test if you can't just drive to get one yourself:
- Ask a trusted adult. If you feel like you can ask your mom, awesome. If not, ask an older sister, cousin, an aunt or even a friend's mom that has your back.
- Ask your boyfriend. If you're in a relationship and feel comfortable, ask him to pick one up or ask him to take you to a drugstore so you can get one (and just a bit of unsolicited advice, if he's not willing to help you out with this, then that's pretty dang awful).
- Ask a school nurse for a test. This option might not be available in all districts and you have to keep in mind that if you're a minor, the nurse may be obligated to tell your parents or legal guardian.
- Contact an Obstetrician (a doctor who specializes in caring for women during pregnancy) or an OB/GYN (a doctor who cares for women during pregnancy and who also specializes in women's reproductive health whether the woman is pregnant or not). They will be able to help you locate an office that will give you a pregnancy test and also to find other resources related to pregnancy and contraception. These are doctors who have seen and heard it all so there should be absolutely no shame in confiding in them. Mine saw me poop while I was giving birth. So.
- Call or visit a Planned Parenthood. PP has a lot of resources, including pregnancy tests. If you're not sure if you have one nearby go to PlannedParenthood.org to locate a facility near you or call 1-800-230-7526 to be directed to your closest location.
- Call or visit a pregnancy care center. Pregnancy care centers are another option full of resources, including pregnancy tests. To locate one near you just Google "Pregnancy care center near me" or "Pregnancy care center [your county/city]".
What Kind of Pregnancy Test is The Best to Take?
You can get a blood pregnancy test (where a small amount of blood is taken from a vein using a very thin needle) or urine pregnancy test at the doctor. Or, you can take a urine test on your own, which you can buy at any drugstore and most grocery stores.
Knowing which pregnancy test to grab though can be really overwhelming because there are soooooo many out there.
In my experience, the best tests to take are First Response Early Response. There are other tests that work just as well but sometimes they're really confusing to interpret. I like First Response Early Response tests because they're simple - if you have two pink lines, you're pregnant.
If there is only one pink line, you're not pregnant.
These tests come in a pink box and usually have 2-3 in a package (here's some pictures for reference).
Here are a few other options for pregnancy tests:
Digital tests often require more hormone and can give you a false negative. Plus, they're super expensive and sometimes tricky to get to work properly. I think these tests are better for those who are actively trying to get pregnant or who have already confirmed pregnancy and just want to see a "yes".
Blue Dye Tests
These brands include ClearBlue, E.P.T. and most store brand pregnancy tests.
I avoid blue dyes altogether and the reason is that sometimes they give you false positives. I have taken several that to the naked eye looked pretty dang positive and guess what? I WASN'T PREGNANT. Avoid that emotional turmoil and just skip blue dye tests unless you're absolutely sure that your period is very late.
These are packages of pink dye test strips that come individually sealed and that you can buy from places like Amazon. They include brands like Wondfo and ClinicalGuard. To take one, you pee in a cup and then dip the strip in the urine.
First Signal brand pregnancy tests are available at WalMart and they're pretty dang cheap. To take on you pee in a cup and then use a dropper, which is included in the test package to drop urine on the test. If you're pregnant two pink lines will develop. If you're not pregnant, only one line will develop.
If You Go to a Doctor, What Kind of Test Will You be Given and Will They Tell Your Parents?
If you go to a doctors office, a Planned Parenthood, or a pregnancy care center you are almost always going to be given a simple urine test. You will pee in one of those SUPER FUN plastic cups, screw the lid on and hand it back through a little slot or directly to a nurse who will then dip a test strip in it. This test strip is basically the same thing that is inside a home pregnancy test and measures for the hormone that is present during pregnancy.
Sometimes, but not very often, a blood test will be administered. This is also a really simple poke (seriously, I am a total phobe when it comes to this stuff and I can tell you this test is nothing). Chances are, you would not be given this test unless it was confirmed that you were actually pregnant and then you would get a blood test later on so your doctor could get more information about the pregnancy.
Will My Parents Find Out?
If you're a minor and you visit a doctors office (including Planned Parenthood or a pregnancy care center) then there is a possibility that they will tell your parents if the test is positive. According to Planned Parenthood's website, this is the time to buckle down and do your research by calling individual offices and asking them what their policy is on telling parents about pregnancy. It differs because there are different rules regarding minors and privacy in different states.
How to Handle Your Anxiety Until You Find Out
Waiting to find out if you're pregnant is probably just eating you alive and has your heart doing some kind of funky dance. To occupy your time and calm your brain, you should try:
- Writing. Writing down your thoughts in a journal can help you to break down those big bad fears into smaller, easier to tackle pieces.
- Talking with a friend. If you have a friend who has gone through the same thing or who you trust and can confide in, this might help you to put the situation in perspective and get advice from someone who isn't in the heat of the moment. Just don't pick a friend who is prone to drama. You need calm right now.
- Talk some more... to your mom, aunt or another woman who you hold in high regard and who has earned your trust. Just knowing that you're not alone and that you have someone in your corner to help you sort out your feelings will help take the edge off the anticipation.
- Rethink your birth control. Since you're in a situation right now that has left you questioning whether your birth control method worked, now's a great time to find one that gives you confidence. Bedsider.org is a good place to find legit info and resources on birth control methods that will work best for you.
What to Do Once You Find Out
Whether the test comes back positive or negative, you're definitely going to have some things to deal with once you know what you're actually dealing with. Take comfort that we live in a really connected era and that you have resources and access to a plethora of information from birth control to pregnancy options.
Knowledge is power, you know that, someone somewhere told you that, I'm sure. So empower yourself with information and make a plan to take whatever situation you're in by the reigns and make it work for your future.
Here's a list of links to help you get started:
More Questions About Pregnancy
Can you get pregnant from taking a bath if a guy was in the tub before you?
No, you absolutely can not get pregnant this way. Remember, sperm are fragile little creatures that don't live for very long even in an ideal environment (a woman's reproductive system).
What about a pool, can you get pregnant from swimming in one?
No, there's no way, whatsoever, to get pregnant from swimming in a pool (or anywhere else, for that matter).
Can I get pregnant from messing around or just kissing?
No. You can not get pregnant this way, even if you kiss at a weird angle or the new Spiderman is playing in the background or your parent's portrait of Christ is staring at you on the basement wall, you will not get pregnant unless you have unprotected sexual intercourse.
What is emergency contraception?
Emergency contraception (or EC) is a form of birth control you take immediately after unprotected sex (or sex in which your birth control method has failed). You usually need to take it within a few days because it prevents pregnancy from starting at all. Remember, it takes a few days to conceive even after sex. That sperm goes on a journey and if it meets an egg at all, it still takes days for that fertilized egg to implant into the lining of the uterus and begin a pregnancy.
So, if a pregnancy has already started, the EC won't work. It's just last minute birth control, not abortion.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.
Questions & Answers
Question: If my period is irregular and I had unprotected intercourse four days ago, how soon can I know if I'm pregnant?
Answer: You can't know yet since it's too early to tell.
Technically speaking here, most women will ovulate around fourteen days after their last period started. This is when you're fertile. Of course, if you have irregular cycles, this timeline isn't so helpful. However, after you ovulate, if you conceived, it'll take about two more weeks for a pregnancy test to show up positive. So, you should take a pregnancy test three weeks from the day you had an unprotected encounter. That leaves enough time for late ovulation to give you an accurate result. If the test is negative I think you're in the clear!
Question: Should I take a pregnancy test if I’ve never had sex?
Answer: No, if you’ve never had sex you can’t get pregnant so you shouldn’t worry about taking a pregnancy test. Although you might find some internet rumors claiming that it’s possible, engaging in sexual activities outside of intercourse is not how you get pregnant.
If you’re concerned about becoming pregnant you should definitely look into birth control. My favorite resource for finding the right fit for your lifestyle is Bedsider(dot)org
Question: My period is almost two weeks late. I had protected sex on the day I was due. Am I pregnant?
Answer: It's highly unlikely unless your form of birth control failed (like a condom break or not taking your birth control correctly). To be safe, any time you have sex, protected or not, there's totally a chance you could be pregnant so if you're late go ahead and take a pregnancy test, if for no other reason than to ease your mind.
Again, the chances of becoming pregnant if you're using birth control correctly are really low. According to the CDC, if you're taking the pill correctly, your odds of becoming pregnant are less than 1 out of 100. When used correctly, condoms also have a high rate of success - they're 98% effective at preventing pregnancy, according to Planned Parenthood.
Question: Can I get pregnant even if I’ve never had sex?
Answer: In a word: No. You can not get pregnant if you have not had sex. It’s important though to know that you can still pass along STD’s and STI’s even if you’re not having intercourse. If you’re in any way sexually active, check out the Bedsider website. There you’ll find all kinds of information about how to protect yourself and the best forms of contraception and barrier protection for you and your partner.
Question: Can I be pregnant if I’m 2 weeks late but with a negative test and I have every symptom?
Answer: Yes, you can be. Is it likely? Not very.
I do have a friend who doesn't get a positive on her pregnancy tests until she's 6 weeks along (2 weeks late). However, this isn't typical of most women. That's because the hormone that accumulates during pregnancy (HCG) should be high enough just a few days after your missed period to turn a pregnancy test positive.
If your period continues to be late you can always test again but remember that it's not unheard of to skip periods once in a while.
Question: I’m still a teenager but I really want a baby. Why do I feel this way? Am I weird or is this normal?
Answer: I’m not a therapist or someone who can really say what’s normal and what’s not but I can tell you from personal experience, that those little flutters of desire to have a baby and the knowledge that I wanted to be a mom someday started in my teenage years. This maternal desire led me to babysitting for my newborn cousin a lot, straight through her early grade school years and what I learned is that parenting is a ton of work which I’m sure you’re already privy to. Now, as the mother to two preschool aged girls who already can’t wait to have babies, I’ll say from my mom-perspective that yes, it’s normal to want to have a baby even when you’re still a teenager.
Now, wanting something that a lot of other people want too doesn’t mean you should go for it. Truthfully, I don’t think anyone is ever prepared to become a parent, no matter their age and experience but the older you are and the more experience you have, the easier it’ll be.
For now, to quell your maternal instinct, look into nannying or babysitting as a way to earn some extra money and spend time with babies and little kids without the full-on responsibility of motherhood. Another thing you might consider is looking into early-childhood education programs through a community college to prepare you for a career working with babies and children or volunteer in your church nursery or look for volunteer opportunities in your local library’s children’s department.
When the time comes for you to become a parent, you’ll be glad that while you waited to have a baby, you spent some time getting acquainted with the nuances and responsibilities that come with bringing a child into the world.
© 2018 Kierstin Gunsberg
Kierstin Gunsberg (author) from Traverse City, Michigan on February 02, 2018:
It's a whole lotta work, let me tell you, Angel :)
Angel Guzman from Joliet, Illinois on February 02, 2018:
Great unbiased assuring article :) I'm glad I'm not pregnant, lol.