Home pregnancy tests are tests carried out to confirm if you are pregnant or not. They are not randomly done but are indicated if you have had unprotected sex to get pregnant or when you exhibit any of the symptoms of early pregnancy. At such times, anxiety is high and you really want to know whether you are pregnant or not.

There are two types of pregnancy tests. The home pregnancy test works on your urine and the blood test works on your blood. Both these tests look for a special hormone – human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) – that is developed in a woman’s body only when she becomes pregnant. Each has its indications on how and when to do the tests for better accuracy. 

The home pregnancy test has the advantage that you can do it yourself at home and you don’t have to suffer the pain of a needle prick, which is required when you do the pregnancy blood test.

How accurate are home pregnancy tests?

Home pregnancy tests are very reliable and accurate and boast of 97% accuracy when used correctly. They work very well to inform you of your pregnancy status.

A negative pregnancy test indicates that you are not pregnant and it can happen in spite of being pregnant if you test too early.

Ideally, you should carry out the test:

  • one day after your missed period or
  • at least two weeks after your ovulation day or conception day or
  • one week after implantation

This post tells you how early you can test for pregnancy for the most accurate results. Follow the testing tips given herein.

There are different brands of over-the-counter urine pregnancy test kits and each can be used at different times. Some claim to give early results. But, the earlier you take the test, the accuracy decreases.

For example, First Response Early Response recommends that their test can be used to detect pregnancy five days before your period is due.

At that point, the accuracy is only 62%, which is as good as not testing at all. Testing before the missed period will not be such a good idea because of the inaccuracy involved.

But, as you go further in your cycle, the accuracy reaches 99%, if you test on the day after your next period is due. Therefore, the earlier you test, the accuracy of the test diminishes.

Indications and symptoms for the pregnancy test

The following symptoms of early pregnancy are indications for a pregnancy test if you have had unprotected sex.

The appearance of these early pregnancy symptoms differs from woman to woman and from pregnancy to pregnancy in the same woman. It is, therefore, hard to say.

But, the earliest you can experience pregnancy symptoms is one week after conception, which can occur only on the ovulation day.

Symptoms that can tell you are pregnant:

  • A missed period
  • Morning sickness, which includes nausea and vomiting
  • Breast tenderness
  • Fatigue and exhaustion
  • Cravings for unusual foods
  • Increased urination
  • Increased vaginal discharge
  • Heightened sense of smell

How to use the home pregnancy test strips?

  • Test on your first-morning sample
  • Lay it flat on the midstream of the urine for the stipulated time as shown in the instructions. It could be 5 seconds
  • Or, collect your urine in a plastic container and dip the strip provided into the urine in the container for the stipulated time.
  • Or, you could use a dropper to place a dropper on the absorbent end. Each brand will have different instructions.
  • Wait for the testing time. It could be 1 to 5 minutes though some kits may want you to wait for 10 minutes.
  • Check for the results as indicated. Even a faint line indicates pregnancy.

How do pregnancy tests work?

Urine and blood pregnancy tests detect pregnancy by identifying a hormone called human chronic gonadotropin (hCG).

The hCG hormone is produced only after the fertilized egg has implanted itself on the uterine wall. It is produced by the cells in the placenta, which connects the embryo to the uterine wall.

After hCG starts being produced, its blood and urine levels are quite low in the earliest stages and may not be detected by pregnancy tests.

The levels start rising rapidly as pregnancy progresses doubling every 48 to 72 hours in most women. At two weeks post-conception, the hCG levels are sufficiently high in most women for the tests to confirm pregnancy.

The rising hCG levels reach their peak at 8 to 11 weeks of pregnancy and then start to fall and level off for the remainder of the pregnancy.

Some pregnancy kits are more sensitive and can detect pregnancy earlier.

How soon can you take the home pregnancy test?

According to the American Pregnancy Association, most experts agree that the ideal time to take the pregnancy test is a day after you have missed your period. For example, if you had expected your period to come on the first and it did not, you should take the test on the second.

Recommendations vary. Healthline, for example, indicates that for the most accurate results you should wait for a week until you have missed your period, which is 3 weeks after your ovulation day. You can do it earlier, but you may be in for disappointment and may have to test again.

But, there are a few more options.

  • You can take the test on the first day of the missed period. If you have been having regular periods, you should be able to know when the period was due.
  • If you are not sure about this date, you could go in for a pregnancy test 21 days after you last had unprotected sex.
  • Blood tests for pregnancy are more sensitive and will detect pregnancy even 6 to 8 days after the ovulation date if you have conceived – that means 20 to 22 days after the last period (in a regular 28-day cycle).
  • The home pregnancy test is best taken a week after you have missed your period. This is when the test will be most accurate. And it is ideal to do it in the morning with your first urine sample because it is the most concentrated.

How soon you can take the test also depends on the home urine testing kit you are using. Some pregnancy testing kits are more sensitive and can detect lower concentrations of hCG in the urine.

The hCG hormone is measured in milli-international units per milliliter (mIU/ml). An hCG level of less than 5 mIU/ml is considered negative for pregnancy, and a level above 25 mIU/ml is considered positive.

For example, a pregnancy testing kit with a sensitivity of 20 international units per liter (IU/L) will be more sensitive than one with a sensitivity of 50 IU/L and will detect pregnancy earlier.

Most pregnancy tests available today are able to detect pregnancy at around 20 – 25 mIU of hCG.

When to take the test after a missed period?

Ideally, the best time to take the pregnancy test is a day after the missed period was due. This ensures an accurate result. However, new tests are available, which allow you to test earlier. But, accuracy is best one day after the missed period.

Secondly, always test the first urine in the morning because it is the most concentrated.

List of the different pregnancy urine testing brands

Here is a list of the different pregnancy urine testing brands available online and how early you can test with them. You can choose the best one that suits you. Always read the instructions carefully that come with the testing kit.

  • First response early response pregnancy test – 5 days before your period is due. According to CBS news, this test emerged as the most reliable and sensitive test to determine pregnancy. It detected hCG presence in the urine at concentrations as low as 6.5 mIU/ml  – that’s almost soon after implantation.
  • Clearblue – 4 days before your period is due
  • ProMatris Highly Sensitive 10mlU pregnancy test strips – 3 days before your period is due
  • True First Signs pregnancy test strips – 3 to 4 days before your period is due
  • Boots 4 days early pregnancy test – 4 days before your period is due.

Is it possible to have a positive pregnancy test at 3 weeks?

You should know that your pregnancy duration is calculated from the first day of your last menstrual period (LMP).

In a normal menstrual cycle of 28 days, ovulation occurs on the 14th day and so does conception.

The earliest you can test for pregnancy for an accurate result is the first day after your missed period, which will be the 30th day after your last period had begun.

Therefore, it may not be possible to test positive for pregnancy at 3 weeks.

However, if you have a short cycle with your luteal phase of 10 days and more, you might just test positive at three weeks.

What should you do if you have pregnancy symptoms and the test is negative?

Your symptoms such as those given above positively indicate that you are pregnant but the home pregnancy test comes negative indicating that you are not pregnant.

This could well happen and the reason for that is you have tested too early for the test to detect the hCG hormone levels in the urine.

You should wait for at least three days till after your period was due and perform the test again. If you are pregnant, the hCG levels will be sufficiently high at this time for you to test positive.