You’ve had sex without protection, or the protection has failed, and you want to know if you’re pregnant.
There are early signs of pregnancy that you can look out for, but many women don’t suffer from all or any of them, so the best way to tell if you’re pregnant is to do a home pregnancy test – but how soon can you take a pregnancy test, and how accurate are they?
How do pregnancy tests work?
Pregnancy tests look for a special hormone in the urine or blood called hCG (human chorionic gonadotropin) that is only there when a woman is pregnant.
hCG is only made in your body after a fertilized egg implants itself in the uterus and this usually happens around 6 days after conception – however, this can vary from woman to woman. The further along your pregnancy you are, the higher the level of hCG in your body.
How soon can you take a pregnancy test?
Home pregnancy tests may claim that they can tell if you’re pregnant on the day you expect your period and it’s possible to tell even a couple of days before your period, but this is not usually the case. It’s not always possible to be that specific about the date of your period, and levels of hCG vary greatly from woman to woman.
Women all have different menstrual cycles and so everyone ovulates at a different time. This will affect when your period is due. You may also have conceived later in your cycle than average, which will affect how much hCG is in your body.
Although you may not want to wait, the best way to be sure is give it at least a week after your period is due.
How do you do a home pregnancy test?
There are many different types of home pregnancy tests and they cost between £6-12. Most of them work by telling you to urinate onto a small stick.
Then all you have to do is wait a few minutes and your result window will show you if you’re pregnant or not.
If a line or plus symbol appears, you are pregnant. It doesn’t matter how faint the line or plus symbol is, the result is positive.
Most brands will advise you to repeat the test in a few days, no matter what the result.
If your first result is negative, it doesn’t meant you’re not pregnant. There might not be enough hCG in your body yet – take it again in a few days.
If your first result is positive, you’re almost definitely pregnant. False positives are very rare, although they do sometimes happen.
How accurate are home pregnancy tests?
Home pregnancy tests are very accurate and most claim between 97% and 99% accuracy, but as with any kit there are things that can affect the test result.
How you use them: Check the expiry date and make sure you follow the instructions properly.
When you use them: The amount of hCG or pregnancy hormone in your urine increases with time and is often different at certain times of day. The earlier after a missed period you take the test, the harder it is to spot the hCG. Also, testing your urine first thing in the morning may boost the accuracy.
Who uses them: The amount of hCG in urine is different for every woman. Some women will have accurate results on the day of the missed period while others will need to wait longer.
The brand of test: Some tests are more sensitive than others, so they will be better at spotting hCG early on.