The timing of a pregnancy test is important for both your physical health and mental preparation and peace of mind. Whether you hope to be pregnant or not, knowing for sure is critical for many reasons.
Simply put, if you’ve been trying to get pregnant, you can wait for a positive result. Ideally, you should take the test a day after a missed period.
Unfortunately, some people have an irregular period, confusing the issue of when is the best time to take a pregnancy test. On the other hand, a highly sensitive test kit can show whether you’re pregnant even before your period is due to begin.
Testing at the right time can save money and give you security in knowing for sure whether you are expecting a baby. To that end, it’s always advisable to consult a physician from a trusted urgent care center in Newport Beach, CA.
Early Pregnancy Symptoms: When to Consider a Test
The ultimate proof of pregnancy is the right test. Also, you might hope or suspect you’re pregnant even before missing your period. There are several signs of pregnancy that you might or may not have. It’s also important to avoid comparing pregnancy symptoms with someone else because the signs can vary dramatically.
Here are some common symptoms to look out for:
- Missed Periods: A missed period is a common and obvious sign of pregnancy. Once conception has occurred, the body produces a hormone that stops ovulation and shedding of the uterus lining. It means your menstrual cycle has stopped, and you won’t have your periods until the baby is born. Even so, you need to check other signs because missing a period may occur for other reasons besides pregnancy. You might miss your periods due to stress, a change of diet, excessive exercise, hormone imbalance, and other reasons that cause irregular periods.
- Swollen or Sore Breasts: Your breasts may become tender to touch during pregnancy. You may also feel sore, a feeling that occurs before your period. The areolas(the skin around your nipple) may become darker and larger. Nonetheless, the soreness is temporary and will likely disappear once the body adapts to increased hormones. You may also notice that your breasts might become larger, making it difficult to fit in your bra.
- Fatigue: Most women feel extremely tired during pregnancy. The fatigue occurs due to a sudden increase in the release of a sex hormone called progesterone. The body needs progesterone for the baby’s growth; however, it slows down metabolism leading to fatigue. Fatigue becomes mild in the second trimester—after week 13. However, it comes back in the third trimester for most women.
- Frequent Urination: Pregnancy increases the production of body fluids and kidney efficiency. In addition, the blood supply increases, requiring the kidney to filter the excess waste, which is later passed out through urination. The swelling of the uterus also presses against the urine bladder. As a result, most women experience frequent urination in the first weeks of the pregnancy.
- Morning Sickness: Despite its name, symptoms of morning sickness can happen any time of the day or night. You may experience nausea symptoms as early as two weeks into a pregnancy. There are different levels of nausea, and not everyone experiences it. You may experience nausea but not vomit. Nausea in pregnancy is fairly normal; however, it may escalate if you become hydrated. Pregnant women and people who can’t keep down food or fluids develop a condition called hyperemesis gravidarum.
Less Common Signs of Early Pregnancy
Below are additional signs of early pregnancy that are less common in pregnant women:
- Mood Swings: Some pregnant women may experience mood changes such as irritability. Other women may feel elated or display mania symptoms. It is believed that hormones produced during pregnancy influence chemicals in the brain behind mood changes. Interestingly, 1 in 10 pregnant women experience depression.
- Metallic Taste in the Mouth: Many pregnant women say they experience a metallic taste in their mouth during the early stages of pregnancy. The feeling resembles having a pile of coins in your mouth. The metallic taste in the mouth may occur after eating certain foods or randomly throughout the day.
- Leg Cramps: Cramps occur due to the build-up of acid, which causes involuntary contractions of affected muscles. At least half of pregnant women experience leg cramps at night. Watch out if you experience severe cramps or cramps mainly felt on one side of the body. Speak to your health provider to check for ectopic pregnancy or any other complication.
- Bloating: It takes several weeks or months to develop a noticeable baby bump. However, increased hormones may cause your stomach to feel bloated and pass gas frequently.
- Congestion: The surge of estrogen and progesterone hormone and blood may cause a stuffy nose in the early stages of the pregnancy. Pregnant women experience a dry mucous membrane in the nose and are likely to breed.
- Headaches: Headaches, dizziness, and lightheadedness is common in the early stages of the pregnancy. Headaches occur due to hormonal changes in the body and increasing blood volumes.
- Food Cravings, Aversion, or Constant Hunger: Your food habits can greatly change during pregnancy. Some women crave certain foods or constantly feel hungry. You may dislike foods you previously liked during the pregnancy. Most cravings are directed to foods that provide energy and calcium, such as milk and other dairy products.
- Skin Changes/Acne: You’ll likely experience skin changes due to increased blood volume and hormonal changes. Although a few people get a pregnancy glow, others develop skin pimples.
- Spotting: Spotting is also called implantation bleeding. Although spotting—light bleeding—- seems like a bad sign, it can signify that an embryo has attached to the lining of your uterus. Usually, implantation takes place 10 days after conception. The implantation bleeding resembles small drops of blood or brown discharge from the vagina. Spotting starts during your regular bleeding period and may last a few days or weeks. The timing of spotting confuses people to think they’ve just had their periods and are not pregnant.
Types of Pregnancy Tests: Choosing the Right Option for Accuracy
There are two main types of pregnancy tests— urine and blood tests. A urine test is taken at home, whereas a physician orders a blood test, including at an urgent care center. Both urine and blood test checks the presence of hCG (Human Chorionic Gonadotropin) in the bloodstream.
Both tests can produce accurate results; however, timing is of the essence.
Accuracy of Urine Pregnancy Test
Most urine (home) test kits use a dipstick to collect and analyze urine. Most people prefer urine tests because they require one step and are highly convenient. Most home tests require you to hold the test kit on the urine strip or dip it into a cup collected with urine.
How Urine Pregnancy Works
The body starts releasing the hCG hormone when a fertilized egg implants in the uterus. In most people, implantation occurs six days after conception. The hCG hormone increases each passing day, doubling every two days.
A Urine test can reliably detect the hCG hormone a week after a missed period. While some urine test kits can detect a pregnancy a day after a missed period, most are not sensitive enough to detect a pregnancy if taken that soon.
Accuracy of Urine Pregnancy Test
Most home pregnancy tests claim to offer a 99% accuracy or better. Unfortunately, these accuracy claims are somewhat misleading. The major loophole in the claim is the assumption that the accuracy level is still true if you take the test as early as one day after a missed period.
According to numerous studies, the hCG levels found in the urine during pregnancy can vary significantly. Similarly, most urine tests are not sensitive enough to detect a pregnancy a day or two after a missed period.
Blood Pregnancy Test
Most women take a home pregnancy test to check their pregnancy status. Even so, there are instances when a doctor may request you to take a blood test. A blood pregnancy test is a quantitative test that shows how much hCG is in your blood.
A physician takes a blood sample from one of your veins using venipuncture. A blood test is more sensitive than a urine test and can offer more information. Unlike a urine test, a blood test can detect slightly lower volumes of hCG which means it can tell if you’re pregnant a few days earlier. A urine test requires a higher count of hCG to detect a pregnancy which is why you’re likely to get a false-negative.
A doctor or midwife orders a blood test (quantitative) to find more information than just whether you’re pregnant. The quantitative test can detect a tiny amount of hCG hormone and detect the levels in the bloodstream.
Doctors record this information and compare it over time. For instance, the doctor may conduct a blood pregnancy test every 48 hours to understand the pregnancy better. Doctors use blood tests to check if you’ve had a miscarriage or ectopic pregnancy and if you’re carrying multiples.
A blood test may also be ordered in case of high-risk pregnancy or during fertility treatment. In case the urine test returns a negative, and you’ve already missed your periods, a physician may recommend a blood test to check for a potential pregnancy complication, miscarriage, or multiple.
Interpreting the Results of a Blood Test
A normal result of a blood pregnancy test would show hCG levels rapidly rising during the first trimester, declining after 10 weeks. The hCG levels then stabilize after 16 weeks and for the rest of the pregnancy.
Abnormal results can mean a variety of things.
Higher than expected hCG may indicate:
- Ovarian cancer
- Infection of the uterus
- More than one fetus—twins or triplets
- Non-cancerous tumors of the uterus
Lower than expected hCG may indicate:
- Ectopic pregnancy
- Probable death of the fetus
How Accurate is a Blood Pregnancy Test?
If you’re trying to conceive, you may wonder whether a blood pregnancy test may be wrong. The good news is that these tests done at a doctor’s office or a laboratory are 99% accurate.
Timing Considerations: When to Take a Pregnancy Test for Reliable Results
For most people, deciding when to take a pregnancy test can be a source of anxiety. Sometimes you hope to get a positive pregnancy test; in other cases, you hope it turns out negative.
Regardless of the outcome you’re hoping for, early testing can help you clear your doubts when you find out whether you’re pregnant or not. Unfortunately, early testing can return a negative result, which might not be true.
With that in mind, it’s important to test at the right time to improve your chances of getting an accurate reading.
How Soon Can You Take a Pregnancy Test?
Taking the pregnancy test after you’ve missed your period is always advisable. Taking the test after the periods are due helps you avoid false negatives. As such, take the test at least one day after you expect the period to start.
For a more accurate report, take the test at least one week after you’ve missed the period.
People who keep a fertility calendar can use it to nail down an ideal time to perform a pregnancy test. If you have an irregular fertility cycle or you don’t chart your cycle, do not take the test until the longest menstrual cycle has passed.
If your cycle ranges from 29-35 days, the best day to take should be day 36 or later.
You shouldn’t take the test too soon because the pregnancy test works by measuring HCG levels, a hormone released after conception. It’s important to note that the body releases HCG hormone after a fertilized egg attaches to the uterus, a process called implantation.
Implantation occurs 10 days after conception— when a sperm fertilizes an egg.
In addition, traces of HCG are present 6 days after implantation; however, it takes 7-10 days after implantation for the body to build up enough HCG to show up in a pregnancy test. Based on the understanding of HCG build-up, you may also take a pregnancy test 21 days after having unprotected sex if you have an irregular period cycle.
The Best Time of the Day to Take a Pregnancy Test
You’ll likely get an accurate pregnancy test if you take a urine test in the morning. An accurate reading is highly true if the period is not yet late or late for a couple of days. In the morning, urine concentration is higher, which means the amount of HCG is a bit higher, increasing the probability of getting a positive result if you’re pregnant.
If you take the pregnancy test in the middle of the day or night, you’re more likely to get a false negative. The likelihood of getting a false negative increases if your period isn’t late or you’ve been drinking a lot of water, diluting urine.
Factors Affecting Test Accuracy: Navigating Potential False Results
A urine test may be as accurate as a blood test. A variance might occur based on the ability to wait the recommended time.
False Negative in Urine Tests
If you get negative or not pregnant on your urine test, you might still be pregnant—a scenario called a false negative, which is usually more likely than a false positive.
A false negative may occur because of the following reasons:
- Urine Dilution: Most tests advise people to take the pregnancy test in the morning, right after waking up. Urine is usually most concentrated in the morning. It’s also advisable to avoid drinking too much water before the test to avoid inaccurate results.
- Improper Timing of the Test: It is recommendable to perform the pregnancy test within 15 minutes after collecting the urine sample. Also, ensure you follow the test kit’s instructions on how long it takes to analyze the results. If you check the results too soon, they will likely return negative. On the other hand, the results may turn out positive if you check too late.
- Wait A Bit After a Missed Period: It is recommendable to wait at least a day after a missed period. If possible, wait 7 days after your period is due to minimize the chances of a false-negative result.
Take another test within a week of getting a false negative. If it still returns negative, make an appointment with a health professional to see if something is wrong.
False Positive in Urine Tests
Getting a positive reading—even faint lines— means you’re pregnant. Although rare, obtaining a false positive is still possible, which means you are not pregnant.
Here are the possible reasons why you may end up with a false positive:
- If You’ve Had a Chemical Pregnancy: It means a fertilized egg implanted into the uterus and did just enough to trigger the production of hCG, but for some reason, it stopped production. At least 30-50% of all fertilized eggs are chemical pregnancies due to developmental abnormalities. Women who get chemical pregnancies may get periods a few days later, which may be heavier than normal.
- Under Medication Containing hCG: Traces of hCG in medication such as Chorex, Novarel, A.P.L, Profasi, and Pregnyl can cause a false positive in urine tests.
- Using an expired or a damaged pregnancy test
- If there are traces of protein or blood in your urine
- If you’re currently taking diuretics
False Negative Result in Blood Test
A blood test may turn out negative, indicating you’re not pregnant when you’re indeed pregnant. A blood test can turn out negative if the test was done too early when there wasn’t enough hCG in your bloodstream to detect a pregnancy.
The probability of getting a false negative diminishes when the pregnancy turns 9-14 days. It’s always advisable to test again if you get a false negative within 48-72 hours.
You may also get a false negative blood test result if you have gestational trophoblastic disease. In such a case, the lab technician may need to dilute the sample to get an accurate reading.
False Positive Result in Blood Test
A false positive returns a positive meaning that you’re pregnant when you’re not. Although rare, false positives occur if you’re taking medication that contains hCG— for example, when undergoing fertility treatments.
The possible causes of a false positive include:
- Kidney failure
- When taking hCG medication for doping, weight loss, or fertility
- Blood transfusion
- Presence of heterophile antibodies due to exposure to certain animal products
- Some types of cancer
Confirming Pregnancy at Urgent Care
In most cases, at-home pregnancy tests are accurate; however, if you need confirmation or a re-assurance, urgent care is always ready to help. Whether you need a urine or blood test, urgent centers are well-equipped to give you the most accurate pregnancy result 7 days a week.
More importantly, you don’t need an appointment to confirm a pregnancy.
If you get a negative result but are unsatisfied, a doctor can perform a blood test to confirm the pregnancy. A blood test is used to confirm pregnancy because it can detect a small amount of HCG compared to urine testing.
A doctor can give you a blood pregnancy test as early as 10—14 days after ovulation. If the doctor has no reason to suspect a complication, they can administer a urine test after understanding your fertility cycle.
Always see a doctor for confirmation if a home test has a negative result, yet you feel pregnant.
Try Newport Urgent Care Center Pregnancy Testing Services
If you forgot to take your pills and are eager to know whether you’re pregnant, a timely test will cast away the doubts. If it turns out negative, you can confidently resume your pills or adopt a new family planning method.
Irrespective of your motive for the pregnancy test, doing the test at the right time can provide information for better health.
At Newport Urgent Care & Occupational Medicine, we have a team of experienced and highly trained physicians who can advise when to take the test.
Contact us online or call us at 949.828.0613 to book an appointment.