How soon can you take a pregnancy test?
If you think you might be pregnant, you may be keen to take a test as soon as possible. But can testing early affect the accuracy of your result?
Early pregnancy tests can now be taken several days before your period is due, but the earlier you take the test, the less reliable the result.
The number of days varies according to the make of pregnancy test. The earliest tests claim to be reliable from up to 5 days before your period is due.
Midwife Anne Richley, Matron for the Community Midwifery Service in Northampton, tells us: “Most home tests will give an accurate result around the time your period would have been due.”
Because different pregnancy tests can be taken at different times, it’s vital that you read through all of the instructions and follow them very carefully.
Which pregnancy test can you take earliest?
Currently, there are pregnancy tests that can be taken 5 or even 6 days before your period is due. But the accuracy of the test at that point is only around 62% – not a lot more than tossing a coin. The accuracy then increases each day, until it reaches 99% accuracy the day before your period is due.
The other tests offer more than 99% accuracy on the day your period is due. Test before this and you do risk false results, or continued hope that they’re false results.
One mum, Twinkletwin, in our forum explains, “This month I vow… NOT TO TEST AT ALL! I’m on month 18 and it's scary how much I must have spent on negative pregnancy tests over the last year and a half!
"I always do it, but this month I vow not to. It gives you false hope, because you always think ‘maybe I tested too early’.”
And Twinkle81K puts it like this: "So all I can do now is wait which is sending me quite crazy. Because clearly I have money to waste I have done a test nearly every day and today another BFN [big fat negative = negative pregnancy test result].
"I will keep you all updated on my insane wait for AF [aunt flo = period] or BFP [big fat positive = positive pregnancy test result] - whichever arrives first..."
Which pregnancy tests work when?
There are lots of home pregnancy tests out there, some from well known brands, and some really cheap options from names you might not have heard of - so we totally get that it can be confusing, as Lindosadani on our forum says:
"I'm so tempted to try one, but not sure if they're a waste of money? What are people's thoughts and experiences with these early detection tests? I'm 8dpo [days past ovulation]."
In case you're tempted, the current products offer the following (but always check as new products are constantly being developed):
Pregnancy tests you can take 5 days before your period is due
- First Response Early Response (£7.59 for a pack of 2) - (the packaging says 6 days before the day of your missed period, which is the day after your due date)
- Clearblue Early Detection (£8 for a pack of 2)
Pregnancy tests you can take 4 days before your period is due
Inexpensive tests you can buy in bulk packets
There are also some super cheap pregnancy tests and strips available through Amazon and eBay. They make bold and sometimes confusing claims and are not manufactured by well-known brands. These include:
- One Step 10 mIU Ultra Early pregnancy strips (£3.19 for a pack of 15) – 3 days before you period is due (the instructions say 4 days before the first day of your missed period). Ignore the conflicting wording on Amazon that claims it “tests up to 6 days earlier than a standard pregnancy test”.
- ProMatris Highly Sensitive 10mIU pregnancy test strips (£2.95 for a pack of 20) – 3 days before you period is due (the instructions say 4 days before the first day of your missed period). Ignore the conflicting wording on Amazon that claims it “tests up to 6 days earlier than a standard pregnancy test”
- Dragoskandia pregnancy hCG strip tests (£8.99 for a pack of 60)
How do pregnancy tests work?
“A pregnancy test detects the pregnancy hormone hCG (human chorionic gonadotrophin) in your urine,” explains midwife Anne. As your pregnancy develops, the levels of this hormone increase.
At 2 weeks from conception, most women’s bodies will have produced a sufficient amount of this hormone for a test to identify it.
When is the best day to test?
Fertility experts, GPs and midwives all have the same advice – the most accurate time to test is one day after your period is due, eg, the first day that you’re late.
If you can’t wait till then, it’s best to wait at least until the day of your period so you can have more trust in your test.
One mum in our forum, filobabe, says,“I used an early pregnancy test today. Yes, I know I've got 5 days to wait but you can’t blame a girl for trying.
"I looked at the literature for early bird kits and although you can test early it only shows positive in 53% of women that early (4 days).”
And giving advice to another mum on our forum about whether to do an early pregnancy test, nikkiandneil says: "I got a bfp [positive result] on a cheapy test, when af [my period] was 1 day late.
"Personally I would wait a bit longer if you can, as a test now... won't be at all accurate, and you don't want to get disappointed for no reason.
"Having said that though, if you are having pregnancy symptoms, this could be because there is enough HGC in your system - so a test could (maybe) work."
Of course you may have irregular periods and not be sure when your due date would be. Instead, try to recall when you last had unprotected sex. Around 3 weeks from this point would be a suitable time to test.
Tests that date your pregnancy
Pregnancy tests are now available that claim to tell you how many weeks into your pregnancy you are. Clearblue DIGITAL Pregnancy Test with Conception Indicator, for example, may be able to tell you whether you are 1-2, 2-3 or 3+ weeks pregnant.
Clearblue says that their conception indicator is 92% accurate in detecting when you conceived.
The dating of your pregnancy will be confirmed at your hospital ultrasound scan.
Early symptoms of pregnancy
What signs of pregnancy can you look out for in the first 3 weeks – aside from the obvious missed period? Initially, you may not feel any different to normal, but keep an eye out for:
- sore breasts
- feeling exhausted (and perhaps a bit grumpy)
- stomach cramps or strange pulling feeling in your tummy
- nausea (find out how soon morning sickness actually starts)
- a heightened sense of smell
- cravings for unusual foods – or disgust at foods you usually like
- a metallic taste in your mouth
- a desire to wee more than usual
- increased vaginal discharge – but without itching or soreness
If you are pregnant, you may experience some or all of these symptoms.
What if you have pregnancy symptoms but get a negative result?
If you have pregnancy symptoms but you had a negative test result, wait 3 days until after your period was due and then take another test.
It may be that your hCG levels were too low to be detected by the test. If you are pregnant, your hCG levels will rise during the 3 days, meaning that you should get a positive pregnancy test result.
Tara is mum to 1 daughter, Bodhi Rae, and has worked as Content Editor and Social Media Producer at MadeForMums since 2015
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