When you’re trying to conceive, you don’t want to wait a single moment to find out that you’re pregnant. You’re anxiously counting down the days until your next menstrual cycle is due, and you find yourself wondering when can you tell if you’re pregnant.
Even if you aren’t purposefully trying to conceive, knowing for sure that you are or are not pregnant is essential. Women need to make specific changes to their lifestyle upon learning that they’re pregnant, such as stopping alcohol consumption.
Since we don’t have little cameras in our uterus to give us a green flag when conception happens (if only), we have to wonder how early can a woman know that she is pregnant.
The answer is that it varies, and that might not be the answer you hoped to have. Depending on how you determine your pregnancy, when you conceived, and when the egg implanted into your uterus, the time in which you can determine pregnancy differs.
Don’t worry; we’re going to clear it all up for you.
The Science Behind Conception
Before we look at when you can get a positive pregnancy test, you have to understand how conception takes place, and that requires some science.
When you have sexual intercourse, sperm goes through your cervix and brings the race to be the first sperm to fertilize the waiting egg. The egg is only available for 24-48 hours, and this is the only period each month that you can get pregnant.
Fertilization of an egg can take place a few hours after sexual intercourse or up to five days later. Seriously – sperm can live for up to five days inside of your uterus, which is crazy! It depends on when ovulation takes place and if the egg is ready and waiting or if the sperm needs to wait for the egg.
Now that the egg is fertilized, it has to move down the fallopian tubes to reach the uterus. At this point, you cannot get a positive pregnancy test.
The journey down the fallopian tubes takes 4-5 days, but sometimes it’s as short as three days. Once the fertilized egg leaves the fallopian tubes, it reaches its final destination – the uterus – but you still cannot find out that you’re pregnant.
The fertilized eggs to successfully implant into the walls of the uterus, a process called implantation. Upon successful implantation, your body starts to generate a human called human chorionic gonadotropin, which is abbreviated to HCG.
HCG is the pregnancy hormone, and it’s how you will get a positive test. Soon, your pregnancy test will show a positive result.
Why Does Implantation Matter So Much?
Implantation is the key to determining how early you can detect pregnancy. Implantation can take place any time from six to 12 days after ovulation. Studies show us that 85% of the time implantation takes place between eight and 10 DPO, but it only takes place 0.5% of the time at six DPO.
Once implantation takes place, your HCG levels start to increase. It takes 48 hours to double, so it does start slowly. Your baseline HCG levels, early pregnancy HCG levels, and your doubling time vary from woman to woman and pregnancy to pregnancy. It can be different for each pregnancy for a single woman.
When Can You Tell If You’re Pregnant?
You cannot get a positive test as soon as the egg implants because there isn’t enough HCG in your body system. Pregnancy tests only work when the HCG has built up enough in your system, and it also depends on what pregnancy test you use. Some tests need a higher amount of HCG to display a positive result.
In most cases, the earliest you can detect pregnancy is 10-12 days post ovulation. Most women get their period around 14 days post ovulation.
How Soon After Ovulation Can I Take a Pregnancy Test?
If you track your ovulation, you might be able to take a pregnancy test earlier, but you shouldn’t take a test earlier than eight days post ovulation. Before that time, your body hasn’t had enough time to take the egg down the fallopian tubes, implant into your uterus, and generate enough HCG to receive a positive test.
Are False Negative Pregnancy Tests Possible?
In most cases, home pregnancy tests are highly accurate, but that’s only if you wait until you missed your period to take your test. Testing earlier than the day you expect your menstrual cycle to start leaves some room for error and increases your chances of receiving a false negative result.
There are some reasons why you might receive a false negative pregnancy test result.
1. Testing Too Early
If you test earlier than 12-14 days after ovulation, you have a higher chance of receiving a false negative. If you aren’t too sure about when you ovulated, wait until the day that you expect your period to arrive.
2. Testing At The Wrong Time of The Day
The best time to take a pregnancy test is with first morning urine. It’s at this time that the concentration of HCG is the highest.
3. Testing with Diluted Urine
Drinking too much liquid shortly before testing could lead to diluted urine because it increases the volume of urine in your body. Diluted urine can dilute the amount of HCG in your urine, making it too low to measure. This is mainly an issue in early pregnancy when your HCG levels are already low.
4. Using a Test That Isn’t Sensitive
If you want to test before your period is due, you need the right type of pregnancy test. You’ll need a more sensitive pregnancy to detect these lower amounts of HCG in your system. If you pick a test that requires an HCG level of 75 and your levels are at 30, it won’t register, but you are pregnant. Any measurements above five mIU/ml indicate a positive pregnancy test.
5. Not Testing The Urine Immediately
This isn’t a common reason for a false negative, but if you collect your urine in a cup and let it sit around without testing, it can lead to a false negative.
The best thing to remember is that you don’t want to test too early. You can start testing at 8-9 DPO, but the chances are receiving a positive result is low. If you wait a few more days and take a test around 12-14 DPO, you’re more likely to have an accurate result. While the answer to when can you tell if you’re pregnant varies woman from woman, the recommendation to wait longer to test applies to all.