How Soon Can I Take a Pregnancy Test?

Updated on May 16, 2018
Butterfly67 profile image

I spent over two years trying to conceive, used a lot of pregnancy tests, and also researched how all the tests worked.

If you are trying to get pregnant (or even if you just think there is a chance you might be pregnant after having unprotected sex), and you are wondering about the earliest date that you can take a pregnancy test, then there are a number of factors that you need to take into account before you can decide the answer to this.

Source

How Quickly Can I Take a Pregnancy Test and Get an Accurate Result?

Firstly, if your period is already a week late, then you can already take any of the home pregnancy tests that are on the market. You should get an accurate result. I say you "should get"' because obviously there are always exceptions to the rule, and it may depend on how regular your cycles are. The reason most doctors and sources, including AmericanPregnancy.org, recommend waiting until you miss your period is because your body needs time to build human chorionic gonadotropin, more commonly referred to as hCG. HCG is only present in the body when you're pregnant, and that's what most tests test for.

Also, you really need to have regular periods to know when your period is a week late!

So let's look at the factors you need to take into account.

Do You Know When You Last Ovulated?

If you are monitoring your cycles because you are trying to get pregnant, then you may well know the answer to this question—but if you are not necessarily trying to get pregnant or just not trying and not preventing, then you may well not be aware of when you ovulated.

If you do not know when you ovulated, then you can calculate your estimated ovulation date using your period—although it may not be that accurate! If you have regular-length cycles, then it is reasonably common to ovulate 14 days before the first day of your period, so you could take that as a rough guess. This may only cover 2/3 of the population though, so may not be that accurate.

So if you think that your period is due on the 20th of the month, then the most common time of ovulation would be around the 6th of the month.

If this sounds a bit confusing and overwhelming, FirstResponse (who produces one of the most sensitive and accurate pregnancy tests) made this handy calculator that helps you estimate when you may have gotten pregnant.

How Soon After Sex Can I Take a Pregnancy Test?

Can and should are two very different verbs here. You can take a test whenever you like. However, if you want accurate results, it's best to take the test at least eight days after you've ovulated. Waiting until 14 days after ovulation is a much better time frame. That means that taking a test immediately after sex won't give you any viable results. Here's why you want to wait:

  • Pregnancy Isn't Immediate: Pregnancy doesn't start the moment after you have sex. It can take up to six days for the sperm and egg to join.
  • Chemical Pregnancies: According to this study by J. Clin Med Res, "[o]ne of the possible outcomes of the pregnancy test is a biochemical pregnancy; where the initial pregnancy test is positive but does not progress into a clinical pregnancy." A chemical pregnancy is where the sperm and egg meet, but the body naturally miscarries before the person knows they are pregnant. The same study goes on to note that "between 50% and 60% of all first-time pregnancies are thought to end in miscarriage—a large majority of which can be attributed to biochemical pregnancies."
  • Test Sensitivity: Not all tests are created equal. Some are much more sensitive (meaning they can register lower amounts of hCG) than others. So, you potentially will get a false positive if you use an insensitive test early when your body hasn't had time to build up hCG. Waiting reduces the chances of this—but doesn't eliminate the chances entirely.

Which Pregnancy Test Is the Most Sensitive?

FirstResponse seems to be the most sensitive according to many clinical tests, including Clin Chem Lab Med's study of the product's efficacy.

There are different pregnancy tests available that pick up the pregnancy hormone, hCG, at different strengths. The most sensitive test picks up hCG levels of about 10 in your urine. Other tests pick up hCG at levels of 20, 25 or 50. So the higher the level of hCG is picked up by the tests, the later you will be able to use that test as the hCG builds up in your system.

That said, not all tests are created equal. J. Am Pharm Assoc. researched the sensitivity and accuracy of over-the-counter pregnancy tests, concluding that "First Response Early Result had an analytical sensitivity of 6.3 mIU/mL, which was estimated to detect greater than 95% of pregnancies on the day of missed period. The sensitivity of Clearblue Easy Earliest Results was 25 mIU/mL, which indicated detection of 80% of pregnancies."

I used the One Step pregnancy tests because they balanced price and accuracy, in my experience. Everyone on a forum I used to frequent would recommend these test strips because they were so cheap, showed a positive test pretty early on, and were really sensitive (10mlU). For some reason though, they didn't seem to sell these ones in the shops. They only seemed to be available online, so I would stock up on them so I could use them the next month. The cheapest ones I could find in the shops were much more expensive than these, so it was worth ordering them online. I also learned somewhere along the way that these are the ones that are used by doctors and hospitals. I don't know how true this is, as I don't have any evidence to prove this.

Cheap pregnancy test strips can show a positive from 10 DPO
Cheap pregnancy test strips can show a positive from 10 DPO

When Can I Test?

So, the question is, how soon can you use each type of pregnancy test strip? Well, your body would have had to built up certain levels of hCG for the test to show a positive line. The standard levels of hCG differ according to where you look, but wikipedia reports the following levels:

HCG Levels Timeline

Weeks Since Last Missed Period
HCG Level
3
5 - 50 miU
4
5 - 426 miU
5
18 - 7,340 miU
6
1,080 - 56,500 miU

If you break this down to a more detailed level—based on the pregnancies that I have observed through many friends on a pregnancy forum (not scientific, but you see a lot of stats on there over a year or so)—then you can generally expect tests to show positive according to these levels:

  • 10 days past ovulation - should see a faint line on a 10 miU test strip
  • 12 days past ovulation - you may see a faint line on a 20 or 25 miU test
  • 14 days past ovulation - you may see a positive on a 50 miU test

So this is where it is more important that you know which day you ovulated on last, as there can be a big discrepancy in whether you see a positive or not. Also, of course, some people have a later implantation (the time when the hCG starts to build up), so their levels will not rise until later. Also, bizarrely, there are some people who do not show a positive on a pregnancy test until 6 weeks or later.

So the basic answer is that a lot of pregnancies will show a faint positive (on the right test) between 10-14 days after you ovulated, which would be up to four days before your period is due.

What If My Period Is Already Late?

If your period is already late, then you should be able to test with pretty much any home pregnancy test these days. The most accurate ones are the digital tests that show you a "pregnant" or "not pregnant" in the window to avoid any doubt.

If you get a "not pregnant" or other negative result (but still believe that you might be), wait a week and test again. Or at least wait a few days, especially if you have irregular cycles because that could mean that your ovulation date may be later than you thought.

Also, stress can make your period late (even underlying stress that you don't realize you have), so there is always the chance that worrying about being pregnant is the reason your period has not turned up yet.

Does it automatically mean I'm pregnant if I miss my period?

Not necessarily. There's a litany of reasons why you might miss your period or why it might be a few days late. Dr. Mark Trolice weighs in on the subject, giving understandable, helpful advice.

Ensuring That You Don't Get a False-Positive

What is a false-positive pregnancy test?

A false-positive pregnancy test is exactly what it sounds like: a test gives you a positive result when you're not actually pregnant. False-positives can happen for a number of reasons, including:

  • letting the test sit too long before checking it
  • an expired test
  • being on medications that effect your hCG levels
  • experiencing a chemical pregnancy (where you are technically pregnant because implantation has happened but miscarry shortly thereafter)
  • a recent miscarriage or abortion (hCG levels take quite some time to dissipate)
  • a user error (some test's indicators are not quite clear and/or have confusing instructions)

How common are false-positives?

There doesn't seem to be a lot of research answering this question, so I don't have a clear answer. In "Strips of Hope: Accuracy of Home Pregnancy Tests and New Developments," a study by C. Gnoth and S. Johnson, they found that at-home pregnancy tests were generally far less sensitive than they claimed to be. It perhaps stands to reason then that false-positives wouldn't be all that common. There's not evidence that I could find to back up my claim one way or another.

What should I do if I think I got a false-positive?

  • Test again: Try a different brand of test or a different type, and see if you get the same results.
  • See a doctor: A doctor's second opinion could help you get more information. Your doctor also might be able to help you explore any other factors that might have led to a false positive.

Some tests will say 'Pregnant' or 'Not Pregnant' just to make things really clear.
Some tests will say 'Pregnant' or 'Not Pregnant' just to make things really clear.

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    • Butterfly67 profile image
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      Jackie Grant 5 days ago from UK

      Hi Catiesings, you can definitely take a test now if you are 6 days late. Good luck x

    • profile image

      Catiesings 6 days ago

      I’m 6 days late tomorrow morning, but have been experiencing odd cramps for the past three days. I was sure I was going to get my period today, but nothing. My husband and I have been trying for 4 years, so I’m a bit nervous to take a test. Should I wait a full week?

    • Butterfly67 profile image
      Author

      Jackie Grant 2 weeks ago from UK

      Hi Kay, sorry i don't understand your dates.

    • Butterfly67 profile image
      Author

      Jackie Grant 2 weeks ago from UK

      Hi Shradharath, that really depends on the length of your cycle, when you had unprotected sex etc but cycles are not always 28 days and can be late. If your cycles are regular then you could take a test though.

    • profile image

      Kay 2 weeks ago

      My period was may 28th but i got no period till this time. Its now 11th may and the pregnancy test say negative.

    • profile image

      Shradharath8@gmail.com 2 weeks ago

      My last period was on April 9....today it is 10th May.... Bt period didn't happen... M I pregnant or I go for a pregnancy test... Plz help me.. M confused guyss

    • profile image

      Mahleauh 2 weeks ago

      Hello I have a strong question here , I had a 3 day period March 29th my period did not come on April 1st 18 , I went to the hospital April 16th they told me I wasn’t pregnant at the emergency , than I had Sex April 26th 18 with condom but , condome broke , I went to doctor may 1st and they said I was pregnant , could I have already been pregnant or did I become pregnant in those 6 days from April 26th until may 1st please help me thanks

    • Butterfly67 profile image
      Author

      Jackie Grant 3 weeks ago from UK

      That sounds about when it was due Quenny.

    • profile image

      Quenny316 3 weeks ago

      Update: I got my period very late night on Friday.

      April 27th.

    • Butterfly67 profile image
      Author

      Jackie Grant 3 weeks ago from UK

      Hi Shavon. If yo have a 28 day cycle then the likelihood is that you ovulated around 23-26th April. So it is probably worth waiting a couple more days before testing again.

    • profile image

      Shavon 3 weeks ago

      Hi in 2015 I had my tubes untied.... I started my cycle April 12th I am on the 28 day cycle I have been nauseous and throwing up for a week now I’m tired all the time.... I have done a pregnancy test and it’s negative when is a good time to check pregnancy test

    • Butterfly67 profile image
      Author

      Jackie Grant 4 weeks ago from UK

      Hi Quenny, it really depends on when your period was due. If you have a 28 day cycle and your period is due on 26th then a test is likely to have shown positive today. However, if you ovulated later or your cycle is more than 28 days then it is possible that you tested too early.

    • profile image

      Quenny316 4 weeks ago

      Took a test this morning and it was negative. Could it be that I tested too soon?

    • Butterfly67 profile image
      Author

      Jackie Grant 4 weeks ago from UK

      If you have regular cycles then you could test now as your period would likely be due.

    • Butterfly67 profile image
      Author

      Jackie Grant 4 weeks ago from UK

      Hi Quenny, regardless of anything else, if you had unprotected sex in your fertile time then yes you could be pregnant. If you have a regular approximate 28 day cycle then you could test now with most pregnancy tests.

    • profile image

      Elle 4 weeks ago

      On April 6 my bf stucked his penis in without a condom, no friction just left it in for like maybe 30seconds. My last period was probably around March 23 ...On May 15 I got light bleeding lasted 3days. Then on May 20 I had brown spotting. I been tired, sometimes I feel nauseous, and I been getting hunger pangs. Could I possibly be pregnant and when can I test?

    • profile image

      Quenny316 4 weeks ago

      Ttc. Last period was 3/29. Had unprotected sex on 4/8 and he came inside. Light pink spotting 4/10. Had unprotected sex 4/14 and 415 has slight bleeding during intercourse during both days. Then light brown spotting 4/16 and 4/17. Light brown spotting 4/22 and unprotected sex and slight brownish pink bleeding during intercourse. Period is regular and I usually have light spotting a few days befor period. Could I be pregnant? If so when can I take a home pregnancy test?

    • Butterfly67 profile image
      Author

      Jackie Grant 5 weeks ago from UK

      Hi Ash, that is a pretty unusual situation so I would say if you test 2 weeks after you had sex and then a week after that if you are still in doubt and you should be able to tell from those tests.

    • profile image

      Ash 5 weeks ago

      I have a bit of a tricky situation. I had a copper IUD (nonhormonal) for 3 years. I got it removed 4/4 and started birth control pills on 4/7. On 4/12 my fiance and I had sex and the condom broke. We stopped after but I want to take a test for peace of mind. I'm taking my birth control continuously so there won't be a period, so how do I know when to take the test? My last period was 3/31 but I had irregular cycles, that's why I started the pill.

    • Butterfly67 profile image
      Author

      Jackie Grant 5 weeks ago from UK

      Hi shah you could certainly test already if your period was due on 7th. Yes you could be pregnant as you had sex on 12th day of your cycle which sounds like it could be right on your fertile window.

    • Butterfly67 profile image
      Author

      Jackie Grant 5 weeks ago from UK

      Hi unknown, check out all the info in the article about ovulation dates and testing and also what kind of tests you are using. Also you should be aware that it is pushing it for an egg to survive more than 24 hours after ovulation although it is not impossible.

    • profile image

      shah 5 weeks ago

      Hi I had my period mar 12-15 and unprotected sex on the 23rd and then again unprotected sex Apr 1st and 12. wad supposed to have my period on the Apr 7th and haven't had it yet am I at risk? When can I check

    • profile image

      unknown 6 weeks ago

      I had unprotected sex on March 18 two days after my fertile window, when should I take a pregnancy test?

    • Butterfly67 profile image
      Author

      Jackie Grant 6 weeks ago from UK

      In theory no but then you have to be guaranteed that your period will arrive 2 days after that and of course there are no guarantees of that as you may ovulate late one month for some reason.

    • profile image

      Happy 6 weeks ago

      I do sex on 2 days before my period is there any possibility to be pregnant?

    • Butterfly67 profile image
      Author

      Jackie Grant 7 weeks ago from UK

      Hi Yolanda, that is a really difficult question to answer as it depends on a lot of factors. Obviously you need to have unprotected sex at around the time you are ovulating to stand a chance of getting pregnant. Best idea is to do some ovulation tests to check you are getting your timing right. It is still possible to be pregnant if you only have some light bleeding, especially if you have other symptoms. If you have been trying for some time without success then it may be worth seeing your doctor as there are tests that they can do to make sure everything is working properly. Good luck.

    • profile image

      Yolanda 8 weeks ago

      My partner and I have been trying for a baby for some time now but still nothing..we have been having unprotected sex for some time now but i did go on my periods last month though the blood was dark brownish n im always tired n sleepy and my breast are big now but surprisingly was on periods again this month and had unprotected sex on the first day of my periods and throughout which was from the 21-26 last week..my question is it possible that im pregnant and what are the chances that we are pregnant??

      PLEASE REPLY

    • Butterfly67 profile image
      Author

      Jackie Grant 2 months ago from UK

      If the second line appears within the time limit specified by the test then that should be a positive result but it would be worth testing again to see what happens.

    • profile image

      sanjana sharma 2 months ago

      I have done the pregnancy test one line is darker & second one is light but after some time the second line does not show. what to do ? pls reply thnks

    • Butterfly67 profile image
      Author

      Jackie Grant 12 months ago from UK

      Anna Smith: I'm not sure where you got that information from but I'm sorry that is wrong. The luteal phase is 12-14 days and if it is less than 10 days then you are classed as having a luteal phase defect which can seriously hinder your chances of getting pregnant. Feel free to check anywhere else.

    • profile image

      Anna Smith 12 months ago

      Ovulation occurs 7 days prior to your expected period (not 14 days as said in this article). The luteal phase of your cycle is constant and the follicular phase varies according to your cycle length. So if you have a 28 day cycle you will ovulate on day 21, and for a 35 day cycle it will be day 28.

    • Butterfly67 profile image
      Author

      Jackie Grant 2 years ago from UK

      I would say generally to wait 3 days between tests so I don't think it is too early to take another one. Good luck.

    • profile image

      samantha 2 years ago

      Me and my husband had unprotected sex three weeks ago at what I believe i's the time I was ovulating my period was due right around Christmas and still has not showed up. I'm having a lot of symptoms dizzynes nausea and I'm very very very sleepy and emotional. I took a test on Christmas and it came back negative. Would it still be to soon to take a test?

    • Butterfly67 profile image
      Author

      Jackie Grant 2 years ago from UK

      That is a very good question! Any medication that contains some kind of hormones (which I assume i 72 does) is likely to mess up your cycle for a bit so I'm afraid you will just have to be patient. Hopefully it shouldn't be too long though.

    • profile image

      Priya 2 years ago

      Hi thanku so much for ur reply. Also i havent received my periods since that discharge on june 10-15. I took a pregancy test on 1st july which was negative. So, when should i expect my periods now ?

    • Butterfly67 profile image
      Author

      Jackie Grant 2 years ago from UK

      Sorry I have only just seen your comment but no, a brownish discharge is not a sign of pregnancy - you could get that whether you are pregnant or not.

    • Butterfly67 profile image
      Author

      Jackie Grant 2 years ago from UK

      I would say it is extremely unlikely. To start with you had sex on day 7 of your cycle which would only result in a pregnancy if you ovulate very early (day 10 or 11 at the latest) and even then it is unlikely. Secondly you took the I 72 pill so that should have prevented it in the unlikely scenario it did happen and thirdly brown discharge is not, on it's own, a symptom of pregnancy. So hopefully you can rest at ease as it is really highly unlikely that you are pregnant.

    • profile image

      priya 2 years ago

      , i am 22 years old. I had my period from 24- 29 may n had unprotected sex on 30th. I took an I -72 before 36 hrs. After 10 days .I.e on June 10, i observed a brownish discharge. Could it be a sign of pregnancy? Please reply ASAP.

    • Butterfly67 profile image
      Author

      Jackie Grant 3 years ago from UK

      In one word, yes.

    • profile image

      anxious 3 years ago

      First day of last period was 12th sept. Lasted 5 days. Had unprotected sex during & a few days after period. Also had unprotected sex (using the pull out method but not very well)! 7 days ago & 3 days ago. Am I at risk.

    • Butterfly67 profile image
      Author

      Jackie Grant 5 years ago from UK

      Hi adams122, it sounds like you are not pregnant to be honest. If you had your period from 14-17th September then you would still be halfway through that cycle and possibly just about to ovulate again. Also don't forget that your cycles will take a short while to get back to normal so you should not expect them to be regular for a few months at least.

    • profile image

      adams122 5 years ago

      hi I removed my implanon aug 28 and i have been having unprotected sex with my husband I ovulated on sep 2 then on the 14 i started bleeding and it was gone in 3 days. could i be pregnant ive taken hpt and they were negative all though my breasts are larger i have lower back pain and my sense of smell is crazy am i testing to early or am i not pregnant

    • Butterfly67 profile image
      Author

      Jackie Grant 5 years ago from UK

      Tumi, if you were on your period last week then it is unlikely that you are pregnant already. Ovulation happens at a minimum of about 10 days into your cycle (although can be earlier) and you would not be able to take a test until about 9-10 days after ovulation which would be around 20 days after the first day of your period.

    • profile image

      tumi 5 years ago

      I was on my period last week and I was having unprotected sex all the time. Now I feel dizzy and nusiou my brest are very soft and my nipples are getting big and really dark

    • Butterfly67 profile image
      Author

      Jackie Grant 5 years ago from UK

      Wow that is great news, massive congrats lilmama.

    • profile image

      lilmama2012 5 years ago

      well with my first pregnancy which was twins i got the $1 test from dollar general and took it the day after i missed my period and it was deffinately positive i wasn't trying to concieve so i didn't suspect it. i am now pregnant and we was trying to concieve i wasn't due for my period for like 5 days or so i was only 3 weeks pregnant with a hcg level of 43 when i took HPT the first kind i took was the same dollar general test and it showed an extremely faint line so i was kinda excited but discouraged at the same time well the same night i took that test i took 3 clear blue digital and all showed pregnant. i am now 22 weeks pregnant with a BOY!!!!

    • Butterfly67 profile image
      Author

      Jackie Grant 5 years ago from UK

      Thanks html. Like you say it is really difficult to know what is going on if you have irregular periods but charting your temp is a great idea. If you have got a negative then in your situation I would say wait a week to test. Your temperature will stay high when you are pregnant, yes. Good luck.

    • profile image

      html 5 years ago

      Just wanted to say your posts and feedback responses are great.started ttc since feb this year but with irregular periods it has been hard to tell.i am trying to chart bmt now to figure out when i ovulate but if i am in fact already pregnant would my temp stay the same?i have taken a test this morning as april and may's period never came but it is negative. Not sure what to do nowas i have had most symptoms.cramps sore breasts headaches frequent urination feeling sick and lower back pain.docs also checked for any infections.shud i just wait to test again?

    • profile image

      beccam 6 years ago

      Thanks for your response, when i have sat down and thought about it approx 4 weeks a day i bled a little bit for one day, mot sure if it is relevant to my situation, i was just unsure due to not having a proper period since january-ish. Thanks for you advice x

    • Butterfly67 profile image
      Author

      Jackie Grant 6 years ago from UK

      Hi beccam, basically if you have unprotected sex during your fertile time then it is possible that you could be pregnant as the withdrawal method is not totally foolproof. If you last had sex 12 days ago then you may get a positive on something like a 10mui (very sensitive) test by now. However, in order to get a more definitive answer it might be better to wait at least a couple of days before testing. You could use a First response early test as this may show a second line at this stage.

    • profile image

      beccam 6 years ago

      I had been on the depo pill injection for 18 months, and I stopped taking it in october; sp 6 months ago. Since febuary I have been having regular unprotected sex using the withdrawl method. Whilst on the pill injection I bled constantly, and that stopped in january; I haven't bled since. I last had sex 12 days ago (twice in that day) again using the withdrawl method. Since then I have felt extremely tired, and feeling nauseus of a morning (been sick once 1 morning) and cannot drink alcohol as one small drink makes me sick (usually I could drink a lot and be fine), my mum an sister could not touch alcohol without being sick whilst pregnant. Could I be pregnant?

    • Butterfly67 profile image
      Author

      Jackie Grant 6 years ago from UK

      Hi Mary, if you definitely know that your period was due that day and you had ovulated 10 to 14 days before then no, you should not be pregnant. However, if you have irregular periods and you do not know when you actually ovulated then it is possible but unlikely, unless your cycles vary very widely.

    • profile image

      MARY 6 years ago

      I MADE LUV D DAY I SHOULDER SEE MY PERIOD AND SINE THAT DAY IT HAS NOT COM CAN I BE PERGANT

    • profile image

      kelleyward 6 years ago

      I took my test days after ovulation because I was undergoing fertility treatments. A faint line is a line indeed! Thanks for the informative hub. I'm sure many will benefit from this one!

    • Butterfly67 profile image
      Author

      Jackie Grant 6 years ago from UK

      Yes, I believe that most tests will show a pregnancy 1 day after your period is due, which is much improved from a few years ago as the tests are so sensitive now.

    • mom0f2 profile image

      mom0f2 6 years ago from Columbus, OH

      I took one the day after I was late for mt period and it showed I was pregnant.

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