We all know that feeling. Either you’ve missed your period or your contraception failed, and now you’re wondering if you might be pregnant. For those of us who have been trying to conceive, we may feel slight flutters of hope, but if it’s something we are trying to avoid, it is likely fear and trepidation will set in. Off you go to the pharmacy, secretively depositing your pregnancy test kits in your purse until you can sneak away to the bathroom to see what the future may hold.
Many questions can run through your mind every time you take an at home pregnancy test, no matter what the result turns up. Instead of worrying, let’s look at some of the most commonly asked questions about urine home pregnancy tests (HPT) and find out if you are really pregnant.
- When is the earliest I can take an at home pregnancy test?
- How soon after unprotected sex can I do a pregnancy test?
- How much can I trust an at home pregnancy test?
- Can drinking too much water affect the results of the test?
- How common is it to get a false negative on a pregnancy test?
- What does it mean if you get a positive and negative on a home pregnancy test?
- What is the best, most accurate pregnancy test kit, over the counter?
When is the earliest I can take an at home pregnancy test?
We have all seen the commercials that say you can get an accurate result at 4, 5, or even six days before your period is due but this is simply false advertising. These tests are looking for the presence of Human Chorionic Gonadotropin (HCG) that is produced as the placenta forms and grows, after the fertilized egg has implanted. To make sure you are not wasting money on a test, it is not advised to test until at least one day after your regular period would start, but for optimal results, you should wait at least seven to ten days after the day your monthly cycle normally begins. A test taken any time after seven days should be accurate, as long as it is not expired. If your first test reads negative or is only faintly positive and you still feel you may be pregnant, wait a few days and test again. At home pregnancy tests are sensitive to different levels of HCG and you may not have enough of the hormone present yet to test a strong positive on the brand you are using.
How soon after unprotected sex can I do a pregnancy test?
If you have irregular period or are not sure when you ovulated, you can do a urine home pregnancy test 14 days after you last had unprotected sex. However for accuracy of result, it is recommeneded to do the test 21 days after intercourse.
For those of you who want to test earlier than a urine test, you can visit your doctor for a blood pregnancy test which can help you determine if you are positive within 3-4 days after implantation or about 6-8 days after fertilization and ovulation.
How much can I trust an at home pregnancy test?
Home pregnancy tests are very accurate—between 95 and 99%. Having sex before taking a home pregnancy test, using drugs or alcohol, and taking antibiotics, including birth control pills or fertility enhacers, should not have an effect on a home pregnancy test. Only drugs containing HCG such as, Profasi, Pregnyl, Humegon or Pergonal or some fertility treatments that contain HCG could cause a false positive on a pregnancy test. Additionally, neither yeast infections nor urinary tract infections are known to cause false positives on at home pregnancy tests. Douches or soap and water vaginal washes do not prevent pregnancy; neither will they cause inaccurate test results for a home pregnancy test.
Can drinking too much water affect the results of the test?
Drinking too much water before taking the test can dilute your urine to the point that the test cannot read enough HCG to get a positive result, thus giving you a negative result, when you may indeed be pregnant.
Also, not following the test directions may affect your results. There are two basic types of pregnancy tests: one where you pee on a stick encased in plastic and one where you pee in a cup and use a dropper to place urine in a slot. If you pee directly on the one that requires a dropper, it could cause you to get incorrect results. For best results, you should follow all directions and try to test during your first urination after waking.
How common is it to get a false negative on a pregnancy test?
It is extremely rare to get a false negative result on a pregnancy test. False negatives are usually due to testing too early, not following the testing directions correctly, reading the results long after the reaction time (when an evaporation line has appeared), using an expired test or the presence of a chemical pregnancy, when the egg becomes fertilized but never attaches to the uterine lining. Chemical pregnancies sometimes show up because your body makes the same amount of HCG as if the fertilized egg had actually implanted, and yet, if implantation does not occur, you are not actually pregnant. This could lead a woman to think the test result was false, but it was not a true pregnancy. That being said, all of these things could cause a false negative on a pregnancy test, but again, if you think you are pregnant even after a negative reading, wait a few days and test again.
What does it mean if you get a positive and negative on a home pregnancy test?
Occasionally, you will test positive on the first test you take and test negative on a successive test, taken a day or so later. Or, you will test positive at home and then test negative at your Obstetrician’s office. The culprit here is usually a chemical pregnancy. You tested positive because your body thought you were pregnant, when in fact the egg was unable to implant (usually because it is not a viable egg), thus leading to a later negative test result.
If you are still in doubt, a urine test done at your Obstetrician or Gynecologist’s office is often slightly more sensitive to those available over the counter and a blood test done by your doctor is even more so. If the blood test comes back negative and you are more than seven days past the date of your normal period, it is highly unlikely that you are not pregnant.
What is the best, most accurate pregnancy test kit, over the counter?
If you are going to spend money on a pregnancy test, it may be in your best interest to get the most sensitive and accurate test on the market.
According to CBS news and Parents Magazine, the clear stand out in the standard stick test category is the First Response Early Pregnancy Test which also comes out on top in the newer digital category of pregnancy tests.
Another inexpensive pregnancy test kit that comes out top with rave reviews for their sensitivity and accuracy is the Wondfo Pregnancy Test Strips.
Both of these test kits are rated most accurate, clearest, most sensitive, most reliable, and easiest to read. Value for money, they are the gold standard and seem to detect the earliest and lowest levels of HCG when present.
Remember to only do a pregnancy test from the first day of your missed period (or 21 days after you last had unprotected sex.)
In our modern age, it seems we no longer really have to wonder very long if we are pregnant. While our aunts and grandmothers may have needed more obvious symptoms of pregnancy to appear to allay their fears or boost their hopes, it seems that if taken at the right time, in the right conditions, following the proper steps, a quick trip to the drugstore and then the bathroom, is all that is needed to verify whether we will need to think about color schemes for a nursery in the near future.
** Trying to get pregnant? Click here for obGyn-recommended fertility supplements and ovulation prediction tools for trying to conceive couples.
Rachel Reeves is a mother of two, a doula, childbirth educator, a breastfeeding counselor and an M.S.W. She has lived in Palestine, Honduras, and most recently Seoul, South Korea. She currently resides in Michigan in the U.S.A and enjoys supporting women, teaching classes and writing about anything birth, baby or parenting related.