When to Take a Pregnancy Test for Accurate Results 73

When can you take a pregnancy test? How early will a pregnancy test be accurate? Do you need to wait for a missed period? These are all common questions relating to when to take a pregnancy test and for good reason. It’s not like knowing if you are or aren’t pregnant is some trivial detail—a baby is a big deal, a life-changing, forever deal.

when to take a pregnancy test for accurate resultsSo, how do you know when to take a pregnancy test?

While many urine pregnancy tests boast they can predict pregnancy 6 days before a missed period, this is arguably inaccurate.

On average, you can get a positive pregnancy test, albeit often faint and with an early result test, 2 days after implantation. Now, implantation can occur 6 to 12 days after ovulation, but in most cases, it’s 8 to 10 days.

So, let’s assume a few scenarios with a 28-day cycle placing ovulation and sex at mid-cycle or cycle day (CD) 14.

Fastest timeline: (DPO 8) (which is quite rare) implantation occurs on CD 20, a test would likely be faintly positive on CD 22 or 6 days before a missed period.

More likely timeline (DPO 12): implantation occurs on CD 24, a test would likely be faintly positive on CD 26, or 2 days before a missed period.

But at the slow end of the spectrum (DPO 14), implantation occurs on CD 26, a positive is possible on the day of a missed period.

Remember, these examples would change with cycle length. For instance, on a 26-day cycle with ovulation at mid-cycle (CD 13) typical 10-day implantation lands on CD 26, so a test wouldn’t likely be positive until 2 days after a missed period. With a longer cycle, such as 30 days with CD 15 ovulation, implantation at CD 25, a positive test would be likely at CD 27 or 3 days before a missed period.

You can use this formula to determine when to take a pregnancy test at the earliest, add about 2 more days for a safer bet:

# Cycle Days/2 + 12
Ovulation Date+12

Keep in mind that the sensitivity of the test you use and the time it takes for implantation can vary greatly, and pregnancy tests can be expensive. Early testing can also lead to concerns over false positives (or negatives).

Looking at pregnancy test data:

To support this, over at Fertility Friend, they did a survey of 93,184 charts where women were tracking their periods, ovulation, and/or temperatures and found the following statistics:

pregnancy test statistics when to take a pregnancy test

17 percent of women received a false negative as a result of testing too early, but an impressive 40.7 percent test too early overall with most testing 10 days past ovulation (DPO) or roughly 4 days before a missed period. The average DPO for a positive pregnancy test is 13.6 days, a whooping half a day before a missed period for most ladies. As you can see from the chart above, even a few days make a huge difference.

This data also correlates with a 2014 retroactive look at pregnancy test accuracy studies published in the National Library of Medicine from 1960 to 2013. hCG levels were found not to exceed 10 mIU/ml (the commonly suggested sensitivity of many home tests) until 10 to 12 days after ovulation or 2 to 4 days before a missed period. Further, the study also found that the majority of home tests were not actually able to detect levels this low, and when they were, home-users often misread the tests (squinters). 25 mIU/ml was a more common sensitivity level. A level not reached until 12 to 14 days after ovulation (around the time of a missed period.) The suggestion based on this data was that a test should not be taken earlier than 4 days before a missed period.

Given all of this, the day of your missed period is a fairly safe bet, but about 4 days after is more ideal, as 100 percent of women who were indeed pregnant got a positive test at that point over at Fertility Friend and data on hCG rises in pregnancy against test sensitivity would support a highly accurate result as well.

All that being said, when to take a pregnancy test, what’s the answer?

For the most accurate results, aim for 4 days after a missed period or 16 to 19 days after ovulation. Do not test any earlier than 4 days before a missed period or 10 DPO.

You may also find helpful:
Calculating Your Chances of Pregnancy
False Pregnancy Test Results: How Common Are They?
Missed Period, Negative Test: What Gives?
Early Signs of Pregnancy Quiz
Period While Pregnant

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73 thoughts on “When to Take a Pregnancy Test for Accurate Results

    • Life with Gremlins admin

      If you don’t know for sure when you ovulated, you can either take your average cycle length and cut it in half, assume that date for ovulation (rough estimate) or just wait 14+ days from the sexual act you suspect may have resulted in pregnancy.

  • Jade

    Hi, so I have a 26 day cycle. I ovulated on 30th October. AF is due today, no show (yet) and no signs AF is coming. No cramps ETC, I really need to stop trolling sites and getting my hopes up I’ll get a positive at 12dpo. Anyway. I tested yesterday which was accidentally an OPK. Which came positive? And tested with a HPT (not morning wee) today and got a BFN. My cycle is very regular. I track OV with OPK. Today would place me at 15dpo. And from what I’ve read I would most definitely get a BFP 15dpo? We’ve been TTC for a year next month. I can’t remember how many days I’d missed AF with my DD. Does it sound like I’m definitely out this month and I’m just ridiculously hoping everything is on the late side of the scale?

    • Life with Gremlins admin

      Unfortunately, a positive OPK so early is actually not a sign of pregnancy. We have a full page on the topic here, but a pregnancy test will show positive for hCG before an OPK (which can pick up hCG, but it takes a lot higher levels). If your pregnancy test was negative, it’s probably a progesterone drop related LH rise. I’m sorry, I know that’s not what you wanted to hear after trying so long. Which, being it’s been a year, you are to the point a fertility specialist would see you. Wishing baby dust your way.

  • Natasha Brown

    I have always had a 28 day cycle, now I am on CD 32, my expected cycle date was 10/3.of course by 10/4 I took a rest and it was negative, tested again 10/5, negative. I’m kind of confused since this has never occurred with me before. I feel like it’s a safe bet that there is no need to test further as most likely I’m not. By the chart it still seems I could be in the 5% who won’t know until I’m 4 days late.

    • Life with Gremlins admin

      Normal period variance is +/-3 days, so the occasional 4-5 days late cycle is not really cause for concern. If your period does show in a few days though, yes, I’d go ahead and test again. If it’s still negative, you may have had an anovulatory cycle.

  • Renee

    Based on my period tracker my cycle is 30days. My last period was September 3rd. Predicted date of ovulation was the 18th. My partner and I used Stork otc on 9/14 and then again on 9/17 each time we left the cc (cervical cap) in for 6 hours before removing. On 9/19 I had a strong metallic taste in my mouth that morning. On 9/20 I had such a bad headache I had to leave work. I also had minimal cramps. On 9/21 I just felt so tired,were it usually takes me a while to go to sleep, i just kept falling asleep. On 9/23 I felt so bloated kind of like if you ate too much yet this was allll day I felt extremely full before I’d eat or drink anything all day. I also was up and down all night peeing. My breasts aren’t sore or changing colors. Even during or before cycles my bbs never hurt. Yesterday when I wiped there was a light yellowish cm on tissue. I woke up this am on CD 23 and took a pt and it was a BFN. My expected start date is 10/3. I’ve never done bbt but the last 4 days I have. First time was 97.5, 97.7, 97.8 and today’s 98.1. I don’t want to get my hopes up. Should I take this BFN as truth and plan to try the Stork otc again in October?
    Thank you for taking the time to read this any help would be greatly appreciated.

    • Life with Gremlins admin

      It sounds like you’re new to TTC, it can be a confusing time. First, to save you lots of grief. Pregnancy symptoms won’t occur until after implantation. After intercourse, that takes a minimum of 6 days with 8-10 being the average. Any time before that, there’s no reason to track symptoms. Personally, I usually tell ladies not to worry about it until after a missed period, because though hormone build starts at implantation, it takes awhile for levels to get high enough to really change anything body wise. Lots of ladies start to notice symptoms they didn’t have before while TTC, but it’s usually because either they just are paying closer attention or they started supplements/made lifestyle changes to conceive and that caused a little hormonal flux (which can cause odd symptoms).

      BBT tracking won’t actually help you unless you have an entire cycle to look at (or at least a good midcycle chunk). I do have a full guide on how to do that here, but there are others online too.

      Finally, it’s also possible you tested too early. A pregnancy test can be positive no earlier than 8 days past ovulation (6 day implantation+2 day hormone build), on a 30-day cycle, that’s likely CD 23 (the day you tested) so you were on the very earliest date possible which has a pretty high false negative rate. I know lots of women who start testing at day 23 and keep going daily until they see AF, but I think it’s easier on tests to wait until 12 days after ovulation at minimum, preferably 14+.

      So basically, no, you’re not necessarily out for the month, but you could be. The average couple tries for about 6 months to conceive, sometimes it takes time. Hope that helps.

  • Tamara

    Hi me and my boyfriend had unprotected sex yesterday (18th of September) and my period ended roughly the (14th of September). He didn’t ejaculate inside of me but he later told me he came that morning (roughly 4 hours before we had sex) and doesn’t remember peeing since. He went to classes and wore clothes for the four hours before we had sex. My periods almost always start the 8th of every month. What are the chances I’m pregnant?

    • Life with Gremlins admin

      Possibility of precum aside, it’s very unlikely you were fertile 4 days after your period unless you have an irregular cycle. This is because ovulation takes time, a very early estimate for folks with a short cycle is day 10-11, typical for those on 28-30 day cycles is closer to day 14. Sperm can only survive up to about 5 days, so at cycle day 4, you were more than 5 days before ovulation no matter how you time it (as long as your cycles are regular).

  • Jana

    Iv been charting for over a year and have a cycle of 28 days with a 5 day period. This month I had ovulation paid on day 25 and didn’t think much about it. I am now on cycle day 36 and no period yet. Iv taking pregnancy tests and nothing. I’m not sure what’s going on but I feel tired, hormonal, and sore boobs. Iv never been late or missed a period. Iv. Been charting for a month and just want to either start or get a ostitice test. Any ideas?

    • Life with Gremlins admin

      Did you have a clear temp shift? how are your post-ovulation temps? My first thought here is you failed to ovulate for some reason, but if you had a temp shift that’s far less likely. You’d likely be seeing sort of erratic temps. If your temps went up and stayed up, I’d try a blood test (though it’s possible to have high temps and not be pregnant if you have high progesterone).

  • Cece

    Hi I have a cycle between 26-27 days my my period in June was the 16th my period in July was on the 12 my next period was due on August 7th my tracker says. And normally it’s pretty accurate or a day earlier. Today is the 10th. No change in anything such as medication or exercise no bc. My breast are enlarged and having slight food cravings nothing outrageous. Normally I see spotting light pink if I am pregnant but nothing this month. WHATS GOING ON???

    • Life with Gremlins admin

      Normal period variance is +/-3 days, so you aren’t really “late” yet. I would give it a day or two more, if you no show, take a test.

  • Ammy

    Hi I lost my twin boys at 26 weeks. Both died in uterus. Now I want to concieve again. But I am worried, is it too early .Should I wait for another few months. Been having unprotected s** but still seems like I m unable to concieve. What should I do. My periods started on 1st march n quite regular. 30 to 31 cycle. It was my first pregnancy but ended like this. I delivered both twins normally on 20 january 2017. Any advice would b appreciated

    • unwirklich admin

      I’m sorry for your loss. Twin pregnancy is always high risk. As for how long to wait, that depends on you more than anything. Most doctors recommend waiting at least one month, but after that it’s more of a mental state than physical issue. Are you ready? Is the real question. If your cycles have returned to a normal pattern, that’s also a good sign fertility wise, but you might look into basal body temping to time intercourse. Fingers crossed you find your rainbow baby.

      • Ammy

        I dont keep a track of bbt .But we do try every third day. Still seems like nothing is happening. I am so worried about it now. What should I do other than tracking basal body temprature??

        • unwirklich admin

          There isn’t much more you can do. If your cycle is consistent, your fertility is probably fine, though the advantage of BBT tracking is that it can help spot cycle irregularities such as luteal phase defects that can sometimes hurt fertility. You can also test those levels through your doctor, but you’d only get a one-time snap shot rather than a view over time.

          Because your loss was a twin pregnancy, in my opinion, it’s unlikely there was anything “wrong” so to speak that can behind some losses, twin pregnancies just naturally have a higher loss rate. Make sure you’re taking a good multivitamin with folic acid, maintain a healthy diet, exercise a few times a week if you can, and just try not to stress, hang in there.

          • Ammy

            I have been taking folic acid. I have just started taking cac 1000. Do you think vit c in cac can prevent pregnancy?

          • unwirklich admin

            Personally, I don’t believe so, no. Though a bit aggressive in tone, this page gives a good overview of what I feel is a myth surrounding vitamin C and miscarriage/abortion. If you personally review the data on this subject and feel it’s a risk, do what makes you feel most comfortable, because that matters more than what any study says.

  • Amon

    Hi, I’ve been searching through the internet for days and I can’t find anything to help me. My cycles are pretty long averaging from about 40-45 days. My last period started March 15th, two days after I had sex. I know it’s unlikely to be pregnant but just to be sure I took a test on April 21st (after my fertile window) and it was negative. Also in April I had sex twice during my “fertile window” (the 14th and the 16th) and as of today (May 8th) I’ve completely missed my period. I took a pregnancy test and it was negative, my periods are never more than 2-4 days late. Is there a chance I could be pregnant from The weekend in April?

    • unwirklich admin

      It’s not impossible, but with long cycles like this, it’s very unlikely. If you’re TTC, I recommend first basal body temping to see what your cycle actually looks like as far as the length of time before and after ovulation, as well as to confirm you’re ovulating. That can help pinpoint what hormone may be causing your long cycles so that you can work towards getting it balanced out.

  • Maia

    Hello! I reay need some help.
    My last period was on Feb 7 2017. I had protected sex on Feb 23. I was expecting my period to come on march 7, on Feb 25 I again had protected sex, before intercourse I saw in my liner a drop of brown but that’s it.

    Now March 26 2017 and I still haven’t gotten my period. I took tests on March 17, 20, 22 and 23 and were all negative. If it helps, I had a gummy like discharge on March 13 and a white wattery didcharge on thr 23rd. What is happening. I never missed a period and it came usually 28-30 days from the last. Not experiencinf any sign of pregnancy to be honest, just mild cramping but nothing like my usual period cramps where I can’t stand. I get headaches too but not sure if it’s because of stress as I usually have only 4-5 hours of sleep or the heat.

    Period history was 30 days last time. And a 16 and 17 day before but I think that was because of ECP.

    • unwirklich admin

      Did you take ECP once, or two months in a row? If twice, there’s a good chance you caused a wee bit of hormonal imbalance, maybe even a small ovarian cyst that prevented ovulation this month (lack of ovulation is the most common cause of a missed period without pregnancy). Chances are your cycle will return to normal after a month or two, but if it doesn’t, see your care provider to help get things back on track.

  • Lola brown

    I had a positive result for a LH surge on 02/06 we had intercourse 02/06,02/07, and 02/10. My period was supposed to be here on 02/18 it has not came yet I went to my Dr office and had a pregnancy urine test done on 02/22 and the result was negative but still I have no period. Could I have tested to early? Thank you .

    • unwirklich admin

      4 days late should have put you in accurate range going by your projected period and your ovulation estimate (2/06+14 is 2/20) but then if you maybe read an almost positive OPK as positive and actually got pregnant from the intercourse on the 10th, then yes, it’s possible that you tested just a smidge too early. A positive OPK usually means ovulation will occur in 24-48 hours and an egg can only survive around 24, so if it was actually positive the 6th pregnancy from intercourse the 10th would be unlikely as O+3 is the likely range for pregnancy. But particularly with the line style OPKs it’s easy to read an almost-positive as positive which would give you another day or two bringing the 10th in to likely range. I know, that was probably kind of confusing and a long answer, but hopefully it helps. The short of it, I would retest in a day or two.

  • Mich

    I hope you can help- feel like I’m going out of my mind thinking about every eventuality! I’m on round 3 of clomid. All three rounds ovulation (if cramps and opks to be believed) has been at day 16. First round I got pregnant but had had what I thought was a five day period before testing (sore boobs remained). This was heavy bleeding like a period not spotting and started at 8 dpo. In all cycles (natural and ovulated or clomid) since then I seem to have started period 8 dpo! In latest cycle, ovulated at CD16, v light, brown spotting 6-9 dpo no cramps at all which I usually suffer from quite badly. I’m urinating frequently and have had a bad headache for the week but all pregnancy tests have come back as negative. I’m at 11dpo now and 6 days after spotting started (none now for 2 days), so was the spotting my period? V v v light no tampons etc vs. Usual heavy flow for a few days. Or am i still in my cycle and waiting to see if period or bfp will arrive? With first pregnancy I had sore boobs which is how I knew to test. I usually get these pre period too but I’ve felt nothing so far. Really confused! Please help.

  • Anonymous

    my last period is dec13 and contact by 27 then i take a test result positive after jan31 blood is coming for almost a week itry to test even if blood is still it is positive .. it is posible that still pregnant???

    • unwirklich admin

      Many women have early pregnancy bleeding, especially in that first month. If the test is still positive after the bleeding has stopped, you should see a care provider to confirm the pregnancy.

  • Piscesgirl

    My periods had been a little off due to taking my mirena out,(9/10/2016), (10/6/2016),(10/30/2016), (11/11/2016), (11/30/2016). Due to my fertility app I was supposed to ovulate sometime between the 5th of December and the 12th. We did the deed on the 7th and everyday in between until the 18th. We took a break and also did it on the 22 of December. The 25th of December ( Christmas) I took a fainted positive pregnancy test. I tested again on the 29th and it was a solid bold line. They are saying that my due date is September 12 according to the ultrasound I had at 6 weeks ( what they determined was 6 weeks). These calculators online say I could have conceived during the 17-25? The sex I had on the 22nd would not make sense being that I tested positive on the 25 right? Help!

    • unwirklich admin

      No, with a positive test the 25, conception could have been no later than the 17th (6 day implantation+2 day hormone build). The average time for implantation is actually 8-10 days though, so I would say between 13-15th is actually more likely. Implantation beyond 14 days is rare if even possible though and ovulation can’t take place before day 9, so you can guarantee your conception was sometime between Dec 9-17th. I’m not sure why the calculators would be giving you about a week later than that. Is that based on the due date your ultrasound gave? There is some room for variance with those as all babies develop at different rates.

  • Alesha

    Hi, i have a question…my son is 7 months old and teething and also on solid foods…i breastfeed him twice a day, sometimes once a day. I feed him in the morning and night and solids the rest of the day. I got my periods back 2 months pp and has a period every month until nov. 16 when it was a weird 4 day bleed, spotting almost instead of a normal 7 day bleed..i haven’t had a period since and my last test was jan.4 and it was negative. I feel as though im not ovulating and i havent been ttc or really worried about it cuz i was driving myself crazy..i wanna test but i dont know if i should..i went on a diet and cleaned up what i eat and i thought i lost weignt but i actually gained weight..i get nauseous and dizzy from time to time but nothing severe. I get abdominal cramps and it feels like pinching sometimes but i feel it and dont think anything of it so im not breaking my own heart with another negative test..what do you think could be the problem ??

    • unwirklich admin

      Changes in diet and activity levels can change your cycles, so there’s a chance that’s what’s to blame here. The breastfeeding shouldn’t have much effect unless you changed the feeding frequency or duration. I’d say just go ahead and take that test to be sure, if it’s negative and your symptoms don’t begin to dissipate after another few weeks, talk with your care provider.