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How Long After Having Sex Should I Wait to Test for Pregnancy?

By MomMed | 18 July 2022 | 0 Comments


Waiting to test for pregnancy after having unprotected sex can sometimes feel like one big waiting game...with pretty high stakes! How long after sex can you take a pregnancy test and expect it to be accurate?

Whether you are trying to conceive or have been experiencing suspicious symptoms, here are a few things to know about how home pregnancy tests work, and how long you need to wait before they are able to detect a pregnancy.  

Types of Pregnancy Tests and How They Work

The most common way to test for pregnancy is with a simple home pregnancy test. These tests are able to detect a hormone called hCG in urine. This hormone is only produced in the body once a fertilized egg has implanted in the uterus. One hCG has built up enough in the body to be detected in the urine, a home pregnancy test will show as positive.

Pregnancy can also be confirmed and more closely tracked by the use of blood tests to detect specific levels of hCG, instead of just showing if it is present or not. A pregnancy blood test is ordered by a medical professional to either confirm a home pregnancy test result, or track the progress of rising hCG levels in early pregnancy.  

Tracking Your Cycle for a More Accurate Result

If you are trying to conceive, you will already know that tracking your cycle can help you understand when you are ovulating. You can track your cycle via a number of different methods, or use home ovulation tests that can give you an idea of your most fertile days of the month.

Tracking your cycle or using home ovulation test strips can give you a more accurate timeline for how long you should wait after having sex to take a pregnancy test. Women who have long or irregular cycles will especially benefit from tracking their cycle in order to know when they can test for pregnancy after sex.

The “Two Week Wait”

The time period between conception and a positive pregnancy test is sometimes referred to as “the two week wait” by those trying to conceive. But does that mean you need to wait exactly two weeks after having sex in order to take a pregnancy test? Not necessarily.

Let’s do a little math to help you know how long after sex you can take a pregnancy test.
After an egg is fertilized, it will take 3-4 days to enter the uterus, where it will implant and begin to produce hCG 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.

If you have unprotected sex during ovulation and the egg is fertilized within 12-24, it is possible that an early detection home pregnancy test might detect a pregnancy within 10-11 days after having sex. However, because there is such a variation in normal during early pregnancy, some pregnancies will not be detected until up to a few days after a missed period, when hCG has had a chance to adequately build.

Possible Outcomes

If you do decide to take a pregnancy test a few days before your expected period, there are a few common outcomes when testing prior to your missed period.  

  1. You’re pregnant and get a positive test result. Congratulations!

  2. You’re pregnant, but don’t have enough hCG to see a positive result. You will need to test again in a couple of days, or after you have missed your period, in order to get a positive test result.

  3. You are not pregnant. However, if you have tested early, it is impossible to know if you are not pregnant or if it just too early to know.

Other outcomes of testing before your missed period, such as faulty tests or chemical pregnancies (when an egg implants but the pregnancy miscarries in the first week) are rare, but can happen.


Next Steps

If you have waited an appropriate amount of time since having sex and have a test result that is concerning or confusing in any way, contact your care provider. If needed, they will be able to order you a blood test to find out more and decide on a care plan or next steps.

If you have tested a few days before your missed period and have a negative test result, try to be patient and wait a few more days to test again. HCG builds up rapidly in the body during a normal early pregnancy, doubling about every two days.
You can begin taking early detection home pregnancy tests as early as 10 days after having sex, but keep in mind that not every pregnancy will be able to be detected as early as that. If you know that you will have a hard time waiting until after your missed period to take a home pregnancy test, try to have several on hand in case you need to test again!

Be prepared to wait until after you have missed a period to see a positive test, and do not hesitate to call your care provider if you have concerns during this time.

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