How soon can you take a pregnancy test?

Susan Fernandez November 11 2021

Most women will wait until they have missed a period before taking a pregnancy test, but in some cases, a woman is unsure of when her last cycle was and wants to know if she can take an at-home test.

How soon can you take a pregnancy test?

First, keep in mind that the only way to be 100% certain is to see your doctor for confirmation. If you just want to find out quickly and easily without going through the hassle of waiting for an appointment with your doctor or using blood tests, we can help you out here. You might be surprised to learn there are effective at-home options available so early after implantation. But if you really need an answer ASAP, this option may not be for everyone.

Professional tests (sold over the counter at pharmacies and drug stores) won't be accurate until your missed period or later, but here's how you can find out sooner:

Option #1: Check for implantation bleeding.  If you're pregnant and about six to twelve days past conception, implantation bleeding may occur in which a small amount of blood will flow from where the embryo has attached itself to the uterine lining.

This happens because when the fertilized egg burrows into the lining of your uterus it causes stress on tiny blood vessels which sometimes break and bleed just enough to cause spots of brownish discharge. This sounds like a little bit of a "duh" statement, but some women don't realize implantation bleeding is even a thing.  It's common, though, for many women to mistake it for an early period or some other type of vaginal bleeding.  

Option #2: Check your cervical fluid. Around the time you are ovulating, your cervix will produce high-quality cervical fluid that looks and feels exactly like raw egg whites - clear, sticky, stretchy, and wet. If you check this fluid around the time you would expect to see your period if you weren't pregnant, chances are it will be dry or at least much less abundant than normal. This is one of the most accurate methods besides seeing a doctor because it can detect actual pregnancy hormones in your body before a home test could possibly show positive results.

Option #3: Do an over-the-counter test. As we mentioned above, the only way to be 100% sure is to see your doctor and get a blood pregnancy test... but if you don't want to wait until then and simply want to know sooner than that, pick up an at-home test from your local pharmacy or supermarket. These work by detecting the presence of hCG (human chorionic gonadotropin), a hormone released immediately after embryo implantation which prompts your body to create the uterine lining necessary for a successful pregnancy.

The best part about this option is it's super cheap compared with other available tests and there's no waiting involved; these can give results within minutes using urine or shortly after if you decide to use a vaginal swab. It still can't detect hCG earlier than implantation, though, so the only reason to use this prior would be for peace of mind or confirmation later on.

Based on this information, it's possible to find out as early as implantation but no sooner unless you have super sensitive pregnancy tests available over-the-counter at pharmacies or drug stores. Implantation happens around 6 to 12 days past conception which means you could test positive anywhere from six days away from all the way up until your expected period if that is already overdue.

If there is not enough hCG in your body yet to trigger positive results on an at-home test, it's just to wait until the day of or after your missed period.  Most women test positive between 8 and 12 days past conception. How soon you can take a pregnancy test without getting false results is limited to that window of time, depending on how sensitive the tests are available over-the-counter at pharmacies, grocery stores, etc.

Why do you need to wait for this period?

The medical community has opted to wait until around this time frame because early on, hormone levels can vary more and can result in false positives or negatives.  If you test too soon (<6 days past the missed period), your body might not have enough of the pregnancy hormone (HCG) to trigger a positive result and also won't be able to detect it if there is one present.

On the flip side, if you test too late (>12 days after the expected period), you could receive a false negative depending on how sensitive those tests are; again, some women don't realize implantation bleeding is even a thing and therefore never notice when such spotting occurs, which results in an incorrect assumption they not pregnant only to find out later (usually around the time they would be expected to get their period) that they are indeed pregnant.  

Additionally, some women don't begin producing high-quality cervical fluid until around this time frame, complicating things further by making hCG detection more difficult if not impossible without an over-the-counter test specifically designed for such use (there are different types of tests available for at-home pregnancy testing so you'll have to check what type is available in your area).

Is there anything else you should know?

Some women experience implantation spotting (bleeding) before the time frame listed above and therefore may wonder - what does having implantation bleeding mean?  

Implantation spotting can be a bit confusing because it's often mistaken for a regular period; however, the two are not the same.  Spotting is usually lighter and less red in color than menstrual blood and tends to be mild in terms of cramping (if any at all).  On the flip side, if you do get your usual period during this time frame or after, don't start panicking. Many women believe they've experienced a phantom pregnancy when all they did was mistake their regular period for something else - always better to err on the side of caution by checking hCG levels though!

The bottom line

To answer the question about whether or not it's possible to take a pregnancy test too soon, there is no specific timeframe specifying how long after implantation it becomes accurate on average because every woman has a different hormone pattern and therefore responds differently to pregnancy.  It is, however, possible to take a test too soon (<6 days) and receive a false negative result if you don't have super sensitive tests available over-the-counter at pharmacies or grocery stores.  

On the other hand, it is also possible to take a test too late (>12 days past the expected period), which will also lead to a false-negative result depending on how sensitive those tests are. That's why most medical professionals recommend waiting until after your missed period (or testing positive with an early detection type of OTC test) for more accurate results, although some patients claim they were able to learn they were pregnant as early as 5 days post ovulation/5 days post-conception with urine tests.  

Please keep in mind that 10 days post-conception is considered the earliest you can accurately take a pregnancy test so doing so before then has a much higher risk of false-negative results.