For many women, the decision of when to take a pregnancy test is a major source of anxiety. Sometimes the stress is because they want to be pregnant. Sometimes it’s because they don’t want to be.
For those of you who are worried you’re pregnant (but don’t want to be!), you may be considering a test because your period is late, or because you think you’re having pregnancy symptoms. Or, perhaps, you’re concerned your chosen method of birth control failed.
If you’re trying to conceive, you may spend the entire two-week wait debating if and when to “pee on a stick.” Should you wait until your period is late? What time of day is best?
Whether you’re hoping for a negative or a positive result, taking an early test may seem like a good way to find out ASAP if you’re expecting. Unfortunately, taking the test early may give you a negative result, even if you are pregnant.
How do you decide when to resist, and when the right time to take a test is? Does when you take a pregnancy test really matter?
The best time to take a pregnancy test is after your period is late. This will help you avoid false negatives and the false positives of very early miscarriages. If you’re not already keeping a fertility calendar, proper pregnancy test timing is a good reason to start one.
If your cycles are irregular or you don’t chart your cycles, don’t take a test until you’ve passed the longest menstrual cycle you usually have. For example, if your cycles range from 30 to 36 days, the best time to take a test would be day 37 or later.
Something else to consider is whether you know if your period is even late.
According to the FDA’s website, out of every 100 women, between 10 and 20 will not get a positive pregnancy test result on the day they think is just after their missed period, even if they are pregnant. Even tests labeled for early pregnancy detection can’t accurately detect a pregnancy before your period is late.
So, maybe you went to the pharmacy after work and bought a pregnancy test. Does it matter what time of day you take a pregnancy test?
It does matter a bit.
You’re more likely to get an accurate result if you take the test in the morning. This is especially true if your period is not yet late, or if your period is only a couple days late.
At-home pregnancy tests work by detecting the hormone human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) in your urine. Unless you get up in the night to pee often (or you drink water throughout the night), your urine is more concentrated when you first wake up. This usually means that the amount of hCG is a bit higher, and you’re more likely to get a positive result (if you’re pregnant.)
However, you can still take a pregnancy test in the middle of the day, or even at night. You’re just more likely to get a false-negative, especially if your period isn’t that late, and especially if you’ve been drinking a lot of water and your urine is diluted.
You may decide to take a pregnancy test because you’re having early pregnancy symptoms. Examples of early pregnancy symptoms include:
Mild cramps (sometimes called “implantation cramps”)
Very light spotting (sometimes called “implantation spotting”)
Sensitivity to smells
Slight morning nausea
Let’s say you want to take an early test, despite the possible downsides. Which test should you use?
According to the research, the best early pregnancy test on the market now is The First Response Early Result, or, as it’s sometimes abbreviated on fertility forums, the FRER. This is their manual test, not the digital one, which is slightly less accurate.
This is the only pregnancy test that has clearance from the FDA to say it can detect pregnancy hormones six days before your missed period. That is five days before your period is due.
How accurate is it that early? Here are the results from one study:
One day past your expected period: detected 100 percent of pregnancies
On the day of your expected period: 96 percent of pregnancies detected
On the day before your expected period: 93 percent of pregnancies detected
Two days before your expected period: 81 percent of pregnancies detected
Three days before your expected period: 68 percent of pregnancies detected
Four days before your expected period: 42 percent of pregnancies detected
Five days before your expected period: 33 percent of pregnancies detected
Six days before your expected period: 25 percent of pregnancies detected
How do these statistics compare to other brands? According to this same study, E.P.T manual tests (not the digital one) detected only 53 percent of pregnancies on the day of a woman’s expected period. The First Response Early Results test was more accurate three days before a woman’s expected period than E.P.T.’s test was on the day of the expected period.