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How Early Can I Take A Pregnancy Test?

Updated on November 10, 2011

How Early Can I Take a Pregnancy Test?

Depending on your point of view, waiting for a pregnancy test can be either very stressful or full of anticipation. In either case, you should know that there are a few options open to you, with varying time periods, levels of accuracy, and costs involved. If you'd prefer to test at home, you should also follow the instructions provided with the test very carefully, as you don't want a false negative or a false positive (this depends on the amount of time that passes, and on the test being used). If you do test at home, and the outcome is positive, it is always a good idea to be tested by a professional in any case - this will eliminate any doubt, and they can then provide guidance on next steps to take.

This article will answer the question that's topmost in your mind: "how early can I take a pregnancy test?" It will give you an overview of the options open to you (essentially two) and their timeframes, as well as (where available) the accuracy ratings and what can go wrong. I'll also be pointing you in the direction of useful resources.

Pros

  • Almost Immediate

Cons

  • High costs
  • Potentially a long wait for a result
  • Lower accuracy than other tests

Testing Short-Term (48 Hrs)

If your urgency for the knowledge of your pregnancy is very high, and you can carry the high costs, the earliest you can take a test is a little after 48 hours of having unprotected sex. This test is administered by a professional, usually a clinic, and is a blood test (called a "rosette inhibition assay for early pregnancy factor"). While it does have some validity, it usually isn't recommended, as some pregnancies can abort prematurely (within 10 days or so), and you wouldn't notice.

This test determines the presence of a specific protein in your blood, which only occurs during pregnancy. This test is quite accurate (relatively speaking - it is not in regular use because it is less accurate than the other option), but it also takes some time to complete, and is usually connected with high costs. Usually, it's simply not worth it to expend the money and effort on this kind of test unless you have a pressing need to do so.

Pros

  • Cheap, and very readily available
  • High accuracy if instructions are followed
  • Immediate results

Cons

  • Lower accuracy if you're not careful
  • Long wait before you can take the test

If you opt for home testing, and you think you might be pregnant, I would strongly recommend taking the test, waiting 2 days, and repeating it. This should reduce your probability of a false result significantly.

Regular Testing

The hCG (human chorionic gonadotropin) test is the most common type of pregnancy test in use today. This is the standard test you can purchase in any pharmacy, or can obtain free of charge in some planned parenthood centers. It is easy to obtain, comes in all shapes and sizes, is usually quite cheap, and usually has a very high accuracy. The test detects the presence of hCG in either your blood or, more commonly, your urine. However, you should note that some care must be taken with this test.

The timeframe for taking this test is important, and is usually provided with the instructions. In order to get the best results, follow these to the letter, and wait at least 21 days (3 weeks) after your last unprotected sex before taking the test. It is possible to take the test earlier if you have a regular period - usually the first day of your missed period.

The advantage of this test is that the results are immediate, and it is very easy and cheap to obtain. A major disadvantage is that, unless taken correctly, the accuracy decreases substantially. If taken correctly, the accuracy is usually over 97% (some tests guarantee 99%), but if it's taken too soon, or if the instructions aren't followed precisely, that can drop to as low as 75%. As a result, you can get both false positives and negatives - and since they're false, you have no way of knowing.

Final Note

If you suspect you're pregnant, and show early signs of pregnancy, it is a good idea to consult with a medical professional. This is advised in any case, as they'll be able to answer your questions better than I can hope to achieve in this short article.

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