When you are trying to become pregnant, there can be a lot of anxiety around knowing when to take a pregnancy test.
Furthermore, if you have been trying for some time, you are no doubt aware that if you take the test too early, the test may be negative, even if you are pregnant. So, what advice do I give women?
Understand how pregnancy tests work
Pregnancy tests calculate detect a hormone called human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) through your urine or blood.
The hCG is produced after the embryo implants into the endometrium, usually on or around the 6th day after the sperm and egg fertilise. This is why home pregnancy tests will not pick up any hCG if you take the test too early, even if you are pregnant.
When should I take a home pregnancy test?
If you want to circumvent false ‘negatives’ or ‘positives’, the best time to take a pregnancy test is after your period is late. Whilst it can be tough if you’re anxious to find out whether you’re pregnant, allowing at least a week before testing after your missed period will give you a higher degree of accuracy when taking a pregnancy test, as hCG levels rise rapidly in pregnant women.
If you do not chart your cycles or your cycle is irregular, take the test after you have past the longest menstrual cycle you usually have.
Common pitfalls to avoid when taking a pregnancy test
Taking a pregnancy test too early
Many women will not get a positive pregnancy test result on the day they think is just after their missed menstrual period, even if they are pregnant, because they are testing too early.
Understanding your menstrual cycle and ensuring your period is late is important to avoid any unnecessary disappointment.
Testing too often
If you think you are pregnant and receive a negative result it’s difficult to stop yourself from wanting to test again that day or even the next. If the test is negative, try to wait at least two to three days before you retest to avoid further disappointment.
Follow instructions carefully
If you are using a home pregnancy test, it is important to read and follow the instructions carefully. Specifics vary for different tests including collection methods, length of time you need to urinate on the stick for and the symbols used to indicate whether you are pregnant or not.
What if you are not sure about the result?
Blood tests can be done with your GP or a fertility specialist to measure the specific level of hCG in your blood.
With a blood test, we can detect very low levels of hCG that may be helpful to diagnose pregnancy and evaluate any problems during early pregnancy, such as an ectopic pregnancy or to monitor women after a miscarriage.
Pregnancy testing during IVF
If you are seeing a fertility specialist and undertaking IVF, listen to the advice from your doctor and nurses to wait until your blood test two weeks after embryo transfer.
We know the two week wait is hard, though some of the drugs we use in an IVF cycle contain hCG that can produce a false ‘positive’ if you test too early, which is why it is best to wait until the day of your scheduled blood test at your fertility clinic.
What are the common symptoms of early pregnancy?
If you are unsure about whether you should take a pregnancy test and find yourself wondering about some of the signs to look out for in the very early stages of pregnancy these usually include the following. Be aware, however, that not all women experience classical pregnancy symptoms and that their presence or absence is not an indicator of the viability or health of the pregnancy.
In the early stages of pregnancy, your breasts may become quite tender, swollen and start to enlarge. This is the most common and normal change to occur because of your elevating hormone levels and the implantation of the embryo.
It is very common to feel sluggish and overwhelming tired during the first twelve weeks of pregnancy as your body is going through significant hormonal changes to adjust to the pregnancy.
Nausea & vomiting
Some women experience nausea and vomiting as early as one week into their pregnancy. Some experience illness in the morning and others in the afternoon or continuously throughout the day.
It is important to remember that everyone is different; some women may not experience any nausea, whilst for others it can continue up to thirteen weeks and beyond.
What if I am having trouble getting pregnant?
If you are concerned about your fertility, or have been trying unsuccessfully to conceive for six months or more speak with your GP.
Your GP can perform a basic assessment including ovulation and hormone testing, and pelvic ultrasound examination for you, and a semen analysis for partner, to determine why you may be experiencing pregnancy delay. They can then recommend referral to a fertility specialist for further investigation if required.