How Soon After Unprotected Sex are Pregnancy Tests Accurate?
If you have recently had unprotected sex, you may be wondering when you will be able to test for pregnancy. Especially when you are trying to conceive, it can be hard to wait! Knowing a bit about how pregnancy tests detect pregnancy and when they will give an accurate result can help make the wait a little more bearable.
It’s not JUST about when you had sex.
While it certainly matters, the date that you had unprotected sex is not the only determining factor in when you can take a pregnancy test. Sperm can live inside the body for 2-5 days, meaning that conception could occur anytime in the few days after having sex.
The important date in tracking your cycle is the date of ovulation, or when your body releases an egg from the ovaries into the fallopian tube. Once sperm and egg meet, it can take up to 24 hours for fertilization to occur.
Tracking your cycle will help you know when to test.
Tracking your ovulation is a great way to know when you’ll be able to test for pregnancy. There are several ways to track ovulation, including fertility apps, manual tracking, or using ovulation tests. If you are trying to conceive, ovulation tests can be a simple way to get an accurate idea of when will be the best time to have unprotected sex.
Once you know when you ovulated, you can count the days from there so that you know when to test for pregnancy. After the egg is fertilized, it will take 3-4 days to enter the uterus, where it will implant and begin to create the pregnancy hormone, hCG, in the body.
How long after implantation can you test?
When the egg implants in the uterus and hCG starts to develop in the body, it will take an additional 7-12 days before there will be enough to be detected in the urine by a home pregnancy test.
Many women will choose to simply wait two weeks from the date of ovulation to test for pregnancy. This often will account for the required time between unprotected sex and a positive pregnancy test. However, this process can vary based on the length of time that each stage takes.
What if you get a negative test? Should you test again?
If you have waited two weeks from ovulation or unprotected sex and see a negative test result, you may feel disappointed or perhaps confused. Is it possible that you are pregnant and should test again? Or is a negative test accurate at this time?
Because of the variation that can occur in the stages of fertilization and implantation, a negative test at two weeks is not necessarily accurate. Sometimes, hCG builds slowly, or maybe implantation happened a little later than you thought.
If you have not started a period, you can always wait a couple of days and test again. HCG doubles about every 48 hours in early pregnancy, so there is a chance that waiting for just a few more days will allow your body to build up enough to be detected.
If we think about everything we know about sperm, fertilization, and implantation, we can do some math to find out when the soonest possible positive pregnancy test could be taken.
If you have unprotected sex as an egg is already in the fallopian tube, it could take as little as 12-24 hours for fertilization. Three days later, the egg could implant in the uterus and begin producing hCG in the body. If your body builds up hCG very quickly, a home pregnancy test could detect it about a week after implantation.
That means that the soonest you might be able to test for pregnancy would be about 11-12 days after having unprotected sex. But keep in mind, most home pregnancy tests are more accurate the longer you wait. Waiting until after you have missed a period will give you the most accurate results.
Waiting is tough...even for experienced moms!
If you find yourself unable to wait to take a pregnancy test, you aren’t alone! The wait between unprotected sex and taking a pregnancy test can seem incredibly long, especially if you are hoping for a positive.
Try to remind yourself that if you get an early negative, it may just be that your body hasn’t yet produced enough hCG to be detected. The longer you are able to wait to test, the more accurate your results will be.
With that said, you wouldn’t be the first hopeful parent to take a pregnancy test early even though you know it might not be time yet. Having a few extra tests on hand might be a good idea if you know you’ll get impatient and start testing early.
Plan for the wait.
If you are actively trying to conceive and know the wait will be tough, try planning some fun activities for yourself in the weeks between ovulation and when you plan to test. Being able to distract yourself with enjoyable things to look forward to may help you wait until you know you can accurately take a home pregnancy test.
Trying to conceive can be a stressful time. Remember to take care of yourself and plan for the wait!