When Should I Take a Pregnancy Test?

Whether you're expanding your family or considering becoming a first-time parent, pregnancy is an important life event for many people. If your period is late or you suspect you're pregnant, you should take a pregnancy test as soon as possible. This will provide you with a clear answer and help you determine your next steps. If you do learn that you’re pregnant, you can work with your doctor to develop the best health plan moving forward. We understand that this can be a challenging time, which is why SABEResPODER created this guide to provide in-depth information and assistance.

Keep reading to discover which pregnancy tests are the most reliable, where to buy them, how to use them, and how to interpret their results. Familiarizing yourself with pregnancy symptoms and how the tests work will help you stay as healthy and informed as possible if you are pregnant. Remember, when it comes to pregnancy and reproductive health, SABEResPODER!

How Do Pregnancy Tests Work?

A pregnancy test is designed to detect human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG), a hormone that your body produces during pregnancy. This hormone is released when a fertilized egg implants itself into the uterine wall. Pregnancy tests work by indicating whether or not HCG was detected. If the test is positive, HCG is present. If the test is negative, no HCG was detected, and therefore the person isn’t pregnant. 
Keep in mind: Sometimes, if a pregnancy test is taken too early on, it might produce a false negative result. If you suspect you might be pregnant, a more accurate way to confirm is through a blood test. 

Types of Pregnancy Tests

HCG can be detected in both blood and urine. Therefore, the two types of pregnancy test that you can take will require a sample of either. We’ll explain what each test involves below. 

Urine test

Urine tests can be done at home or a doctor’s office. At-home pregnancy tests tend to be the most common way of obtaining an initial result. The way a urine test works is simple: a test strip detects the presence of HCG approximately one week after a missed period. 

Method: Home pregnancy tests can be bought at most pharmacies and some supermarkets. They’re typically cheap, easy to use, and come with simple instructions. You can even get these tests for free at some health centers. How they’re used is generally similar, regardless of the brand:

  • It’s a good idea to take the test first thing in the morning. This is when HCG levels tend to be higher, leading to a more accurate result.
  • You’ll have to put a few drops of urine on a test strip. To do this, you can either urinate directly on the strip or into a container and submerge the strip for a few seconds. Most tests include a handle so you don’t have to touch the urine (avoiding contamination).
  • After a few minutes, your test results will appear on a small display window.

Results: The way that the results are displayed will depend on the brand. It could be a plus or minus sign, one or two lines, or the words “pregnant’ or “not pregnant.” If the result is negative but you’re still unsure, try taking the test again in a few days. Levels of HCG increase throughout your pregnancy; you might have just taken the test a little too early. If the result is positive, make an appointment with your doctor. They’ll confirm the result with a blood test and/or physical exam.

Time: Results usually appear  a minute or two after the sample is taken. To determine the exact amount of time required to obtain a result, read the test instructions carefully.

Accuracy: When done correctly, home pregnancy tests are 97-99% accurate.

Blood test

Pregnancy blood tests are conducted in a doctor's office. These tests are more sensitive and can detect smaller quantities of HCG compared to urine tests. A blood test can detect a pregnancy even before a missed period. These tests are often used to confirm the results of an at-home pregnancy test.

Method: This test doesn’t require any special preparation. A healthcare professional will take a blood sample from a vein in your arm using a small needle and send it to a lab for analysis. Any discomfort you feel when the sample is taken will only last a few minutes.

Time: Once the blood sample is sent to the lab, it can take anywhere from a few hours to a day or two to get the results. 

Accuracy: A blood test is approximately 99% accurate at detecting pregnancy. 

What’s the best kind of pregnancy test?

Both urine and blood tests are effective at determining whether or not you’re pregnant. That said, there are a few important things to keep in mind when taking any kind of pregnancy test: 

Urine test

  • Can be taken at home
  • Results in a matter of minutes
  • Highly effective, though there’s a small chance that they can result in a false positive or false negative. To ensure accurate results, we recommend taking the test again a few days later.
  • Most effective following a late or missed period

Blood test

  • Must be done at a doctor’s office
  • More effective than a urine test
  • You don’t have to wait for a missed period to take one
  • Blood tests detect HCG and measure the quantity in your blood. If the quantity is low, this may be a sign of an ectopic pregnancy (a pregnancy growing outside the uterus). A fetus cannot survive outside of the uterus. If left untreated, ectopic pregnancies can be fatal.

Neither is better or worse than the other. Instead, the tests can be seen as complementary. You can take an at-home urine test to get an initial result. If it’s positive, schedule a blood test to confirm with greater accuracy. 

When Should I Take a Pregnancy Test?

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To ensure reliable results, it’s best to wait at least 15 days after conception to take a pregnancy test of any kind. If you frequently have unprotected sex, it might be hard to pinpoint when conception occurs. In this case, it’s best to take a pregnancy test at least one day after your missed period.

If you take a urine test, keep in mind that some are more accurate after certain periods of time. This will be indicated in the test's instructions. The earlier you find out whether or not you're pregnant, the earlier you’ll be able to get the appropriate medical care.

The Most Popular Pregnancy Tests on the Market 

Pregnancy tests are widely available in supermarkets and pharmacies. You can also purchase them online. Whatever option you select, it’s important that you carefully read and follow all of the instructions. Otherwise, the results may be inaccurate. The following are some of the most well-known and widely used pregnancy tests:

  • First Response Early Result: This is one of the most popular and readily available tests on the market. It’s very easy to use. It has a specially designed handle so you don’t have to urinate into a cup and then dip the test strip in it. This kit comes with two or three tests in the package.
  • Clearblue Rapid Detection: This test promises results in just one minute. Each kit comes with two pregnancy tests.
  • ClinicalGuard: These tests require a little bit more work and the test strips are smaller and more fragile than other brands. The upside is that they tend to be cheaper and are just as accurate as other tests when used correctly. They’re generally designed to be dipped into a container with urine. Each kit includes 20 tests.
  • Pregmate: These tests are user-friendly, easy to read, and accurate when administered correctly. Each package contains 50 tests.
  • Easy@Home: This kit has a few interesting components. It includes ten pregnancy tests and 40 ovulation tests. The ovulation tests work just like the pregnancy tests. Rather than detecting HCG, they detect the luteinizing hormone (LH). This hormone triggers ovulation. With this kit, you can determine where you are in your cycle. Easy@Home also has a free mobile app that can help simplify the process of tracking your period
  • Clearblue Digital: A common problem with pregnancy tests is that they can be hard to read or interpret. Clearblue Digital tests include a countdown clock that clearly explains when the test is ready. It also displays a written result (“pregnant” or “not pregnant”) rather than symbols or lines. Each kit includes five tests. Due to its advanced technology, this is one of the most expensive tests on the market.

Signs That You Might Be Pregnant

There are different signs and symptoms that appear during pregnancy, some as early as the first month. The most common are:

  • A missed period
  • Light spotting
  • Tender or swollen breasts 
  • Nausea (with or without vomiting)
  • Fatigue
  • Increased urination frequency
  • Mood swings
  • Abdominal bloating (similar to what you might feel before or when starting your period) 
  • Aversions to certain foods and/or smells
  • Uterine cramps
  • Nasal congestion
  • Constipation

Keep in mind: Most of these signs and symptoms don’t just occur during pregnancy. Some may indicate that your period is about to start or even be the sign of another medical condition. You may also be pregnant even if you don’t have a lot of these symptoms. If your period is late and you're experiencing one or more of these symptoms, it’s always a good idea to take a pregnancy test. 

The Importance of Consulting an Obstetrician

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Your body will experience a series of physical and hormonal changes during pregnancy. In order to transit each stage safely and to ensure healthy fetal development, it’s important to start prenatal care as soon as possible. 

Prenatal care is the medical care required during pregnancy. Regular doctor’s visits ensure that any problem or complication that may arise is detected and treated right away. During each visit, different tests and analysis will be run to ensure that everything is going well. This includes taking your blood pressure, measuring the size and shape of your uterus, and collecting urine and blood samples to test for any illnesses. 

There are plenty of healthcare professionals who specialize in pregnancy and childbirth and can offer prenatal care: 

  • Obstetricians
  • Family doctors
  • Licensed nurse midwives (working with a doctor during childbirth in case a patient needs a cesarean section) 

Frequently Asked Questions

Should I take a pregnancy test in the morning or at night? 

The best time to take a urine test is in the morning. This is when the HCG hormone concentration is higher, resulting in a more accurate sample. Blood tests, on the other hand, can be taken at any time. You also won’t have to fast before taking a blood test to detect pregnancy.

Can I find out if I’m pregnant without taking a pregnancy test?

There are plenty of at-home tricks that promise to tell you if you’re pregnant. Unfortunately, none of them are reliable. While a late period, nausea, and fatigue can be signs of pregnancy, they can also be signs of another medical issue. The only safe way to know is to take a pregnancy test, whether it’s a urine or a blood test.

What will I feel in my abdomen during the first few days of pregnancy?

Sometimes the hormonal changes during early pregnancy can cause bloating, pain, or stomach cramps. These symptoms are similar to what you might experience before your period. However, they’re not always directly linked to pregnancy and can be confused with starting your period.

Take Care of Your Health! 

If you think you might be pregnant, take a pregnancy test as soon as possible. Whether it’s planned or unexpected, remember that your health always comes first! Consult your doctor to discuss your options. Our PODERsalud program grants you access to unlimited virtual medical consults as well as discounts on medications and lab tests for just $16.95 a month.