For many women who have been trying to get pregnant, seeing a pink positive line on a pregnancy test is an exciting moment. Oftentimes, the three to five minute wait for the test result can feel like forever, but seeing the result is a life-long memory. If you’ve been wondering if you should take a pregnancy test, or how accurate pregnancy tests are, keep reading.
When should you take a pregnancy test?
Many women who are anxious to find out if they’re pregnant often wonder when the best time to take a pregnancy test is. While it’s easy to succumb to curiosity and take a pregnancy test soon after you think conception might have occurred, it is possible to take a pregnancy test too early. In these cases, you will likely get a negative result — but that doesn’t mean you aren’t pregnant, only that it’s too early for the test to tell.
Modern at-home pregnancy tests are more accurate than ever, and often can give you an answer earlier than tests from decades past. Still, many pregnancy test manufacturers will recommend that you don’t begin using pregnancy tests until approximately two weeks past the date of ovulation. Many women refer to this period as the “two week wait,” and counting down the days can feel like forever.
Can a pregnancy test be wrong?
Many women wonder if they can trust the results of a home pregnancy test. Most home pregnancy tests offer high levels of accuracy, but it’s not unusual for women to get false negatives — that is, a test showing that you aren’t pregnant when you are. False negatives most often occur from taking a pregnancy far too soon (before two weeks after ovulation occurs), from using an expired pregnancy test, or not following the directions.
While it is possible to get a false positive — a test that says you are pregnant when you are not — it is much more rare. That’s because pregnancy tests are based on the level of human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG) hormone in your urine. This hormone is only produced by the body after a fertilized egg has implanted in the uterus. For women using fertility medications to get pregnant, it is possible to have a false positive if you take a test too soon after using medications such as hormone injections.
If you believe that your pregnancy test could be wrong, experts recommend:
- Checking the expiration date on your test to make sure it hasn’t passed
- Take another test, and be sure to follow the instructions to ensure you waiting the correct amount of time before reading the results (and reading the results accurately)
- Waiting 1 to 2 days before taking another test
- Taking the test first thing in the morning before using the bathroom, since this urine is less diluted and could have a higher amount of HCG hormone
Overall, many doctors will agree that the longer you wait to take a pregnancy test, the more accurate your test results will be. If you’re unsure about the accuracy of the test, and have yet to get your period, it’s smart to hold off on drinking or smoking until you’re sure that you’re not pregnant (either confirmed by a period, another negative pregnancy test, or a visit to your doctor’s office).
What should I do after getting a positive pregnancy test?
After taking a home test (or two!), you’ll want to call your doctor, midwife, or OB/GYN to schedule an appointment. At this visit, your provider will confirm your pregnancy either by a blood test, urine test, or through an ultrasound. Every provider prefers a different method, and may also want to see you at a certain time based on your health history. It’s not unusual for some health care providers to see you in six to 10 weeks from the date of your last period, though for women who have had previous pregnancies with complications, or with particular health concerns, your doctor may want to see you sooner to monitor the health of you and the fetus.
In the meantime, your doctor may recommend that you begin taking prenatal vitamins that contain folic acid and iron if you haven’t already been taking one daily. You’ll also want to start following health guidelines for pregnant women, such as:
- Quit smoking and drinking alcohol
- Focus on healthier, more balanced meals packed with vegetables, fruits, protein and whole grains
- Avoid unpasteurized foods and some seafood
- Reduce your caffeine intake to less than 200 milligrams per day
After getting a positive on a pregnancy test, you may also want to start brushing up on the journey you and your baby are preparing to undergo. For some women, that means downloading apps that guide you through pregnancy week by week, or by picking up several popular pregnancy books that outline pregnancy and labor.
While it’s still early to be writing a birth plan or thinking about baby announcements, you may want to start exploring your health care options for the duration of your pregnancy, from your first prenatal appointments all the way through the kind of experience you may want to have.