Taking a pregnancy test should be easy. Unfortunately, the timing of when you test relative to your cycle can lead to inaccurate results and it can be confusing to get that timing down. To clear this confusion and try to minimize the likelihood of false results for women everywhere, let’s get real about when to test during your menstrual cycle.
A breakdown of your menstrual cycle
Understanding the entire 28-day (ish) menstrual cycle is important when thinking about taking a pregnancy or ovulation test. For most of us, what we know about periods may just be that they happen every month and aren’t fun. For a more in-depth understanding of your menstrual cycle, we broke it down for you:
- The uterine lining sheds and leaves the body which causes bleeding AKA your period.
- Estrogen levels rise as the egg prepares to be released.
- After your period, the uterine lining builds back up again.
- The egg is released from the ovary, mid-cycle. This is ovulation! If you are looking to get pregnant or pin down when you’re most fertile, you should get an ovulation test in order to figure out exactly when this time is for you in your cycle.
- The newly released egg travels towards the uterus and the body prepares for possible pregnancy.
- The egg is potentially fertilized by the sperm. If it is unfertilized, it breaks apart and leaves the body along with the uterine lining, starting your cycle all over again.
What happens when you get pregnant
In case you forget most of what you learned in your 6th grade health class (I know I did), here’s a little reminder:
When the egg travels away from the ovary towards the uterus it may intercept with a sperm in the fallopian tube. If they join together, the egg will become fertilized. This fertilized egg continues down the fallopian tube and attaches to the lining of the uterus (womb). Pregnancy begins once a fertilized egg attaches to the womb. Even though you may be technically pregnant when this happens, it may take a few more days to get a positive result on your pregnancy test.
What pregnancy tests detect
Pregnancy tests detect a hormone in your urine called human chorionic gonadotropin (try saying that three times fast...). hCG is produced very early on in pregnancy when a fertilized egg attaches itself to the lining of the uterus, and slowly increases as the pregnancy moves along. If you take a pregnancy test too early in your cycle, there may actually not be enough hCG to detect which will result in a false negative.
The best time to take a pregnancy test
Whether you are looking for a positive result or not, there is sure to be a lot of anxiety around taking a pregnancy test and wanting to see the result as soon as possible. However, if you take a pregnancy test too early in your cycle, there is a chance you could end up with a false negative. Because of this, the best time to take a pregnancy test is three days before your missed period, at the earliest. If you have an irregular period, you can take a pregnancy test about 19 days after having sex. Results are typically over 99% accurate on the first day of your missed period.
If you’re one of those people who just can’t wait, technically the earliest you can take a pregnancy test is seven to ten days after ovulation because traces of hCG start showing up in your pee about 10 days after the egg is fertilized. However, if you don’t know your ovulation cycle, you should probably just wait until 19 days after having sex or three days before your missed period. The longer that you wait to take the test, the stronger your results will be.
Additionally, you should take the test first thing in the morning before drinking any liquids. Water or coffee, or any morning drinks for that matter, can dilute your urine and make it harder for the test to detect that pregnancy hormone we know all too well.
The latest you can take a pregnancy test
There technically isn’t “too late” of a time to take a pregnancy test, as hCG levels grow higher each day you’re pregnant. But why wait? Taking a test and finding out your result as soon as you possibly can allows you prepare and make decisions for your future.
How pregnancy tests work
A pregnancy test is very easy to use and just consists of just three steps:
- You first need to remove the plastic cap to expose the absorbent tip.
- Point the absorbent tip directly into the urine stream.
- Re-cap the test and place it horizontally on a clean, flat surface and wait five minutes for it to finish processing.
Interpreting the results of the test is also very simple. A pregnancy test has both a control line (to make sure the test works) and a test line. If after you take the test only the control line appears, the test result is negative, which means you are not pregnant. If after you take the test and both the test line and the control line appear, the test result is positive, which means you are pregnant. If there is no distinct line in both the test area and the control area this means the pregnancy test is invalid and you should try another one.
Timing your pregnancy test might seem difficult, but is actually simple once you understand your cycle. Order a Stix pregnancy test for a better, clearer, and simpler pregnancy test experience.