How Soon Can You Tell If You're Pregnant? How to Know for Sure
I've worked with many women and those with young families in therapeutic roles on a team with midwives and health visitors. Here in the UK, midwives are the main carers for women with normal pregnancies, births and babies. I've listened to many hundreds of women's experiences of trying to conceive, unplanned pregnancy, early symptoms, miscarriage, etc. and supported them through it all.
I hope my experiences can help you.
How Can You Tell If You're Pregnant?
Answering the burning question of whether you are pregnant or not can be easy or difficult depending on how far along you are and how well you know your own body.
I've worked with many women and those with young families in therapeutic roles on a team with midwives and health visitors. Here in the UK, they are main carers for women with normal pregnancies, births and babies. I've listened to many hundreds of women's experiences of trying to conceive, unplanned pregnancy, early symptoms, miscarriage, etc., supported them through it all and learned a lot in the process.
Many women can tell if they are pregnant within two or three weeks of conceiving, and some women know a lot sooner, even within a few days. It really depends on your ability to pick up on the changes occurring within your body and how sensitive you are to them.
Of course, you'll definitely be able to find out for sure once you have missed your first period by doing a pregnancy test (and sometimes even before your missed period). Don't be tempted to take a pregnancy test too early, though. Doing so can increase your chances of getting an inaccurate result.
How to Know for Sure You're Pregnant as Soon as Possible
The only way to know for sure that you're pregnant is through a positive pregnancy test. The earliest home pregnancy test (First Response Pregnancy Test) is accurate up to six days before the day of your missed period for 76% of women who take the test (according to the test manufacturer's website).1
So, the soonest you might be able to find out for sure that you're pregnant is by testing with a First Response home pregnancy test no earlier than six days before the day of your missed period.
So if you're expecting your period on a Saturday, you would be able to test the Monday before (see the table below).
First Response Pregnancy Test Accuracy vs. Date
Test is 76% accurate
Test is 96% accurate
Test is 99% accurate
Test is 99% accurate
Test is 99% accurate
Period is expected.
Test is 99% accurate
As you can see above, roughly one in four pregnant women (24%) who take this test will get a false negative when they take it six days before the day of their missed period. Five days before the day of the missed period, however, it will be accurate for 96% of women, and 99% of women will get the correct result if they take it four days or less before the day of the missed period.
In general, the accuracy of home pregnancy tests gets better the longer you wait to take them. If you take a test and it comes out negative and you still think you might be pregnant, wait three days and test again. If you test and it's positive, you're pregnant.
Other pregnancy tests are also very reliable—they just can't be used as early as First Response. Most brands of pregnancy test are accurate from the day of the missed period.
When Will You Start Feeling Symptoms of Pregnancy?
Some women experience symptoms of pregnancy very early on, though many women do not. According to one study of 136 women who ended up having babies, 50% had some symptoms roughly eight days after their missed period, 70% had some symptoms roughly two weeks after their missed period, and 90% had some symptoms one month after their missed period.2
Many early pregnancy symptoms are also very similar to PMS, which can be confusing. I go into more detail about the early symptoms of pregnancy below.
Helpful Video on Early Signs of Pregnancy
How to Know If You're Pregnant and . . .
You Missed Your Period
You should take a pregnancy test. If it's positive, you're pregnant. If it's negative, wait a few more days and retest. If it's another negative, you're still not experiencing any symptoms of pregnancy, and you're sure you're taking the test correctly, then you're probably not pregnant and you've missed your period for another reason.
You Haven't Missed Your Period Yet
If you haven't missed your period yet, mark down the day that you think you may have conceived on, and wait at least six days before the day you are expecting your period to take a First Response pregnancy test. If you think you might be pregnant and do not want to be pregnant, there are emergency contraception methods that are effective within five days of having unprotected sex, so you may want to explore those options.
You can also choose to take a pregnancy test after you miss your period. In fact, some recommend not taking one until one week after your missed period in order to ensure accurate results.3 Be sure to follow the instructions of the brand of pregnancy test that you buy.
You Don't Know If You've Missed Your Period or Not, or You Don't Know When It's Supposed to Come
Mark down the day when you may have conceived and wait two weeks to take a pregnancy test. This is because your body needs 7 - 12 days after the fertilized egg implants itself in the uterus in order to produce enough of the hormone to be effective with home pregnancy tests, and it takes a few days for implantation to happen.4
Your Pregnancy Tests Are Negative, but You Still Think You Might Be Pregnant
While false positives are very rare, false negatives with pregnancy tests are more common. Here are some reasons you could be getting a negative pregnancy test.
If you've gotten negative results multiple times but are experiencing the signs of pregnancy, and especially if you've missed your period, then you should see a doctor who will be able to conduct additional tests and see what might be going on.
How to Know If You Are Pregnant
If You Had Sex...
What to Do
If It's Negative
And you missed your period
Take a pregnancy test
And your period doesn't come, test again in three days
And you haven't missed your period
Mark down the date that you may have conceived on and wait until six days before your period is supposed to start to take a pregnancy test
And your period doesn't come, test again in three days
And you don't know when your period is supposed to come
Wait at least two weeks before taking a test
And your period doesn't come, test again in a week
How Long Does It Take HCG Levels to Be Detected By Home Pregnancy Tests?
Pregnancy doesn't necessarily start the day that two people have sex. An egg can be fertilized by sperm up to six days after intercourse.5 And then, it can take between six and ten days for the egg to implant itself in the uterus.
The hormone that home pregnancy tests look for starts being released from when the fertilized egg implants itself, which is why you have to wait for them to be effective.
According to the American Pregnancy Association, HCG is made by cells formed in the placenta, which nourishes the egg after it is has implanted itself in the wall of the uterus.4
Levels of HCG can be detected by two kinds of tests:5
- Blood test—accurate as early as 11 days after conception (between 12 and 17 days after you've had sex)
- Urine test—accurate as early as 12 to 14 days after conception (between 13 and 20 days after you've had sex)
So, if you don't know when your period is supposed to start and you think you might be pregnant, you should test about two weeks after you had sex and possibly conceived.5
If it's negative and your period still hasn't come and you still think you might be pregnant, test again in another week.
Should You Get a Blood Test to See If You're Pregnant?
If you the idea of waiting longer to see if you're pregnant is unbearable, you might be considering a blood test. A blood test has its pros and cons:5
Cons of Blood Testing
- It must be done at a doctor's office.
- It is more expensive (up to $75).
- It takes longer to get the results (about two days).
Pros of Blood Testing
- Blood tests can detect pregnancy earlier than a home pregnancy test, about 6 to 8 days after ovulation, or about 7 - 12 days after possible conception (roughly a week before your missed period).
- This could mean that you get a result as early as 9 days after possible conception, or 5 days earlier than a home pregnancy test would be able to detect (because you still need to wait for the results of the test).
For most women, it makes more sense to wait and do a pregnancy test at home because of its convenience and low cost, as well as the fact that you'd only find out a day or two earlier with a blood test (if that).
For others, especially those with a high risk for miscarriage or other pregnancy complications, their doctor may recommend getting a blood test.
Some Tips on Pregnancy Testing at Home
Because early pregnancy symptoms can be confused with other illnesses or conditions, I would always recommend buying yourself a test. These are very accurate from the point that your period is due, and will take the guesswork out of knowing if you are pregnant or not.
- Pregnancy tests can get expensive, especially if you end up buying a lot of them, but you can shop around as the prices will vary greatly. I bought a pack of three tests from a pound store (99c store) and they worked just fine. All the tests work in the same way by testing the hCG levels in your urine.
- One of the most recommended brands of pregnancy test is the . In 76% of women, it was able to detect pregnancy six days before the first day of the expected missed period. Price may vary depending on your location. First Response Pregnancy Test
- You can also buy pregnancy tests in bulk, as with the . These should not be used for testing before your missed period, but they are accurate for testing after it. ClinicalGuard® HCG Pregnancy Test Strips
- It's always advised that you test your first urination of the day. This is because the urine is stronger and you will get a quicker result. Testing the weaker urine that you produce during the day may not give you the real result—it may tell you that you're not pregnant when in fact, you really are (this actually happened to me).
- If you find you have a positive result, then it's time to book a doctor's appointment because you are pregnant. False positive results are extremely rare. The doctor may decide to do another pregnancy test to confirm your result.
For those who have missed a period and got a negative pregnancy test result, follow the link to learn about the most common reasons behind this.
If you keep getting negative results but are experiencing pregnancy symptoms, listen to your body and make a doctor's appointment!
Early Symptoms of Pregnancy (Aside From a Positive Pregnancy Test)
- Extreme tiredness
- Breast changes
- Feeling sick (nausea)
- Light spotting (implantation bleeding)
- Metallic taste in mouth
- Aversion to certain foods and/or drinks
- Heightened sense of smell
- Feeling dizzy and light-headed
- Missing your period
- Increased urination
- Feeling different
- Feeling emotional
These are all symptoms you might experience within your first six weeks after conception,2 and organised roughly by when you might experience them.
Sometimes a confusing factor when trying to determine if you are pregnant is that all of the symptoms of pregnancy can be symptoms of other conditions. So, detecting the very early signs of pregnancy without a test can be tricky, especially if it is your first pregnancy. Once you are on to pregnancy two, three, or four, you will more than likely recognise the signs quite quickly. Testing, however, should always be your first course of action, and is especially helpful to confirm your symptoms.
There are several early signs that can tell you that you may be pregnant. The most obvious is missing your period or having light spotting instead of a proper period.
Pregnancy is the number one reason for missing your period.6 After you've missed your period, you probably conceived between one and three weeks ago unless there is something else that could be interfering with your menstrual cycle.
It can be possible to have symptoms of pregnancy even before that first missed period. Personally, I knew I was pregnant within two weeks of conceiving on each of the three occasions I've been pregnant.
How to Tell If You're Pregnant: 13 Early Signs and Symptoms
1. Extreme Tiredness
If you're trying to determine whether the feeling of being tired is one of the early pregnancy symptoms you are experiencing, then be aware that the kind of tiredness you'll feel within the first 4-6 weeks after conception is probably unlike any kind of tiredness you've felt before. You will feel exhausted and will more than likely be falling asleep on the sofa and will be wanting early nights and afternoon naps for no apparent reason.
Some women start may start feeling extra fatigue as early as two weeks after conception.2
2. Breast Changes
One of the first things most women notice and that causes us to suspect pregnancy is changes to our breasts.2 These changes can take on many forms, including prominent blue veins in the breast tissue. Some of the common breast changes caused by pregnancy are listed below:
- Enlarged nipples
- Darkened nipples
- Sore breasts
- Swollen breasts
- Enlarged breasts
You might start noticing these very early in your pregnancy, as early as two weeks after conception. This is one of the symptoms that can be easily mistaken for PMS, however, as it will probably start right around when you might be suspecting your period.
3. Feeling Sick (Nausea)
Feeling nauseous is another common early sign of pregnancy. The way to tell whether this is nausea caused by pregnancy, rather than a virus, is that the nausea tends to last all day (even though it's often caused morning sickness) and also tends to get increasingly worse over a period of weeks. In the early weeks you may just feel a bit sick, then later on it may progress to actually vomiting.
About 1/3 of women experience nausea two weeks after conceiving, but most women start really feeling it between four and six weeks after conceiving.2
4. Light Spotting (Implantation Bleeding)
Not everyone will experience implantation bleeding, but it is something that some women do experience, and it's another symptom that's easy to mistake for a period (especially if your cycle is irregular or very light).
Implantation bleeding is different from a normal period. It will usually last between 1-3 days, and will be intermittent spotting, rather than the constant flow of menstruation. Most women who have had implantation bleeding also say that it's more brown in color, rather than red.
It may happen within roughly a week or so after the date that you conceived.7
5. Missing Your Period
I mentioned this earlier but I'll say it again. Missing your period is the most obvious and clear sign that you are pregnant. If your period hasn't arrived on time, then it's time to take a pregnancy test.
6. Metallic Taste in Mouth
The experience of constantly having a metallic taste in your mouth is a pregnancy sign that I am familiar with. It's difficult to describe, but your mouth feels like you have been sucking on a coin.
It's a pregnancy symptom that is very common and is unmistakable (unless you have actually been sucking metal . . . if so, that's a very weird thing to do!)
You may also experience other strange flavors in your mouth, like saltiness, rancidness, or just a bad taste in general.8
7. Aversion to Certain Foods and/or Drinks
Do you suddenly dislike the taste of foods and drinks you used to love? Do they make you feel nauseous? If so, this is another common pregnancy symptom that many women experience. Common culprits are tea, coffee and alcohol.2
8. Heightened Sense of Smell
Related to the point above (taste and smell are very closely linked), a heightened sense of smell is another common pregnancy symptom. Are you quite suddenly starting to feel nauseous from everyday smells such as soap, cooking or perfumes? This can be another early pregnancy sign to watch for.2
9. Feeling Dizzy and Light-headed
Another extremely common sign of pregnancy is having bouts of dizziness and/or light headedness. If you've been experiencing these sensations, have had unprotected sex recently, are sure you don't have a virus and have missed your period, then this could well be an early sign of pregnancy.2
10. Increased Urination
Need to pee more often than usual? Waking up in the night to urinate when you normally wouldn't? These are both hints that you might be pregnant.2
11. Feeling Different
How can we put our finger on a sense of "feeling different?" If you just feel different inside for no apparent reason, this can be a sign of pregnancy. I have found it impossible to find any words that explain this feeling. I'm pretty certain that even if I could, my feeling different would be different from your feeling different. If you have a feeling you can't put your finger on, but you sense an internal change, then this could be an early sign of pregnancy.
12. Feeling Emotional
Keep bursting into tears or getting cross and snappy with people around you for no apparent reason? Check to make sure it's not a full or new moon and that it's not your normal PMS—it could be a sign.2
A Personal Note: What My Pregnancy Symptoms Were Like
Some of these pregnancy symptoms are hard to quantify, especially when it's something like "feeling different." But, you may well feel different somehow even though you can't explain how you feel different.
In my first pregnancy, the earliest signs for me were the enlarged nipples and breasts and breast tenderness as well as feeling dizzy, sick and extremely tired. And yes—I did feel different!
During my second pregnancy, the most noticeable early symptoms were a metallic taste in my mouth, an aversion to drinking tea and a heightened sense of smell. This last symptom got worse and worse throughout my pregnancy and it became difficult to manage all of the smells that made me either feel sick or actually be sick. Smells I couldn't handle were anything soapy such as body wash and deodorant, perfume, aftershave and alcohol. There were a lot more, but these were the main ones.
For my third pregnancy, me, my husband and our daughter were away traveling around Europe in our motorhome. We'd stopped to work on a farm for a few weeks, when I started to feel incredibly tired.
I couldn't work out why I felt that way after a good night's sleep and I had no other symptoms of illness, so I tried drinking extra coffee to keep me awake (I wasn't concerned about the caffeine because I wasn't planning on becoming pregnant). Then a few days later I started feeling really unwell to the point I spent around four days laying down resting, but no real symptoms as such—I might describe them like the flu without the sore throat and cough.
Then the nausea and dizziness came but I still didn't put it all together. I was chatting to my adult daughter on Skype and when she suggested I might be pregnant, I just scoffed at her. I thought that was impossible, especially as I couldn't remember having had sex! Anyway I bought a test the next day and it was positive. The result was a bit of a shock to say the least!
Other Reasons for Missing Your Period
Here are some possible reasons for missing your period but having negative pregnancy tests:
- Very high levels of exercise
- The morning-after-pill
- Starting a new birth control method
- Hormone imbalance
If you suspect one of these reasons may be disrupting your normal menstrual cycle, and you have a negative pregnancy, test then you should speak to a health professional.
And Finally . . .
It goes without saying that if you have had unprotected sex at any time during your menstrual cycle you could well be pregnant, even if it was your first time and even if your partner "pulled out."
You could also be pregnant if your contraception failed. Remember, no form of contraception offers a fail-safe 100% guarantee. If you're worried about pregnancy because you haven't taken precautions, you might want to read the real story about how to avoid pregnancy.
I hope I've provided enough information here to help you work out how soon you can tell if you are pregnant. If you are pregnant and wanted to be—Congratulations!
- First Response Pregnancy Test Website. Accessed February 28, 2018.
- BabyCenter editorial team. "Early signs of pregnancy: When will I feel symptoms?" May 2017. BabyCenter. Accessed March 1, 2018.
- Mayo Clinic Staff. "Home Pregnancy Tests: Can You Trust the Results?" December 2, 2015. Mayo Clinic. Accessed March 1, 2018.
- "Human Chorionic Gonadotropin (HCG): The Pregnancy Hormone." August 22, 2017. American Pregnancy Association. Accessed March 1, 2018.
- "Understanding Pregnancy Tests: Urine & Blood." March 4, 2017. American Pregnancy Association. Accessed March 1, 2018.
- "Missed or Irregular Periods - Topic Overview." (n.d.). WebMD. Accessed March 1, 2018.
- "What Is Implantation Bleeding?" November 25, 2017. American Pregnancy Association. Accessed March 1, 2018.
- Cherney, Kristeen. Medically reviewed by Lynn Starr, RNC-OB. "The Metallic Taste in Your Mouth During Pregnancy." September 30, 2015. HealthLine. Accessed March 1, 2018.