Pregnancy Test: The Best Time to Take It and How It Works

By Ashley Danielle
Edited by Taj Schlebusch

Published September 23, 2021.

Pregnancy Test: The Best Time to Take It and How It Works main image

So, you have arrived at the situation where you need to take a pregnancy test? The decision of when and how to take a pregnancy test can be a major source of anxiety for most people. Maybe the anxiety is because they want to be pregnant, or perhaps it’s because they don’t want to be. In any case, there are optimal methods and times for you to take a pregnancy test most accurately.

When Should You Take a Pregnancy Test?

You're Experiencing Pregnancy Symptoms

You should get a pregnancy test mainly if you are experiencing early pregnancy symptoms or have recently had unprotected sex.

These symptoms can include:

  • Missed period
  • Increased need to urinate
  • Swollen and tender breasts
  • Fatigue
  • Nausea, more commonly referred to as morning sickness
  • Bloating
  • Aversion to certain smells or food

Wait One Week After Missed Period

We know, the wait is hard! However, for the most accurate results, you should wait to take a pregnancy test at least a week after your missed period. If you don't want to wait until you've missed your period, you should wait for at least one to two weeks after you had sex.

If you are pregnant, your body needs time to develop a detectable concentration of hCG, 'human chorionic gonadotropin' is the pregnancy hormone detected by most pregnancy tests. Results have shown to be more accurate if you do the test first thing in the morning when your urine is most concentrated.

If you take a pregnancy test before you have missed your period, you increase your chances of getting a false negative result. The same goes for taking the test too early; the earlier after a missed period that you take a home pregnancy test, the harder it is for the test to detect hCG.

How to Use a Pregnancy Test

Should You Take a Pregnancy Test in the Morning or Evening?

Remember, the morning tends to be the best time to take home pregnancy tests. This is because the hCG levels in urine are concentrated after a night without much drinking or peeing. If you're still very early in your pregnancy and hCG levels are only starting to rise, it may not be detectable in the nighttime hours.

How Do You Take a Pregnancy Test?

To properly take a pregnancy test at home is easy. Make sure to read the instructions thoroughly for whichever brand of test you choose. You can also decide whether you want to dip or pee on a pregnancy test.

The general method of using a pregnancy test goes as follows:

How to pee on a pregnancy test:

  1. Simply pee on the tip, make sure to hold the tip in the urine stream for 5 to 10 seconds.
  2. Replace the cap and wait to read the results. This typically takes 5 to 15 minutes.

It is crucial to make sure that you’re completely saturating the absorbent tip or strip of the pregnancy test to increase your chances of getting an accurate result.

How to dip the pregnancy test:

  1. Pee in a cup/container
  2. Dip the absorbent end down in the cup for the recommended 10 - 15 seconds.
  3. Replace the cap and wait to see the results. Again, it takes around 5 to 15 minutes.

A common misunderstanding is that the longer you leave a test in urine, the more accurate the results will be. This is not so. Overexposure to the urine can damage the accuracy of the results. While you do want to ensure that the test is fully saturated, it’s important to follow the time guidelines set by your test.

How Do You Read a Pregnancy Test?

Reading the result is simple. The pregnancy test result may show up as a line, a color, or a symbol such as a "+" or "-" sign. Digital tests show the words "pregnant" or "not pregnant."

Double-check the instructions on your test for what symbol represents which result. If you get a positive result, you’re pregnant, and it will be true no matter how faint the line, color, or sign is. Your next step would be to call your doctor to talk about what comes next.

If you get a negative result, you’re probably not pregnant. Getting a false-negative pregnancy test is extremely rare. Getting a false-positive is also rare, but it does happen on certain occasions.

A False Positive Result

A false-positive result means you're not pregnant, but the test says you are. You could have a false-positive result if:

  • You have blood or protein in your pee.
  • Use certain drugs, such as tranquilizers, anticonvulsants, hypnotics, and fertility drugs.
  • The pregnancy test was past its expiration date
  • Taking the pregnancy test the wrong way.

A False Negative Result

If you get a negative result where you expect it to be positive, try retesting within about a week to double-check. Some home pregnancy tests suggest doing this no matter what your first results are.

Are Pregnancy Tests Always Accurate?

The pregnancy tests you get at the drugstore work 99 out of 100 times. They're just as accurate as a urine pregnancy test that you'd get at a doctor's office.

If you read the instructions carefully, most tests promise 99% accuracy on the day of your missed period—but not for early results. The accuracy of a test can also depend on several variables, such as the time of day when you take the test, the timing of your ovulation, and how closely you follow the directions.