How soon after ovulation can you test for pregnancy?

It's probably best to hold your horses and wait a little while.
Written by
Marni Dixit
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Last updated on
October 16, 2023
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While trying for a baby is exciting, it can also be incredibly stressful as there is so much to think about — from tracking your menstrual cycle and planning the best days for timed intercourse.

And, understandably, after all of this, you want to find out if it's actually all gone to plan as soon as possible.

As a result, you might be tempted to do a pregnancy test as soon as possible after ovulation to find out if you have managed to fall pregnant. But don't go wasting your at-home pregnancy tests just yet!

It can take a couple of weeks after ovulation before your hormone levels are high enough to be detected in your urine, so it's probably best to hold your horses and wait a little while.

Unsure exactly how long you should wait? Don't worry, we're here to fill you in! So, let's look at everything you need to know about how long after ovulation you can test for pregnancy.

How do pregnancy tests work?

You can buy urine-based pregnancy tests over the counter to use at home, or you can visit a nurse or GP and get a blood or urine test done there.

Tests done in a laboratory are generally more accurate at detecting early pregnancy than home test kits. However, a positive result from a home pregnancy test is almost always correct, while negative results are not so reliable [1].

Most pregnancy tests work by detecting a pregnancy hormone called human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) in your urine, which is usually only found in pregnant women [2].

The placenta, which provides oxygen and nutrients to the baby, produces this hormone, and it can be detected in urine on the first day of your next expected period.

Home tests will work by detecting hCG levels and can do so from around the first missed period. However, blood tests done at the GP are more sensitive and can detect pregnancy much sooner, from about one week after conception.

Taking a home pregnancy test is simple, remove the plastic cap to expose the absorbent section, and point the tip directly into the urine stream.

You'll want to hold the test in place for 7-10 seconds to ensure you've got an adequate sample. Put the plastic cap back on and place it horizontally on a flat surface and wait for the test to process.

If only one line appears on the test strip, you have either received a negative result, or it may be too early for you to test positive as you're in the very early stages of pregnancy.

How many days after ovulation can you test for pregnancy?

It can take about two weeks after ovulation for your hCG levels to be high enough to be detected in your urine using home pregnancy tests [3]. Testing earlier could produce an inaccurate result.

An at-home negative test result may not be entirely accurate, especially depending on how soon you're testing after having unprotected sex and where you are in your menstrual cycle and your next expected period.

But if you visit a doctor, they'll be able to detect the hCG in your urine from around 8-11 days after conception.

If you have a regular period, it'll be easier to find out if you may be pregnant, and you can test the day after you miss your period. But if you don't, you may be more inclined to track ovulation.

In this case, you may want to test 14 days, or the first few weeks, after ovulation or from when you last had sex. If you need to do the former, you can do an ovulation test to see where you may be in your cycle, which is more accurate than measuring your basal body temperature.

Your hCG levels will change drastically over the course of the pregnancy, peaking at the end of the first trimester and then gradually declining over the next two trimesters.

These levels can help share more information about the pregnancy and the baby's health. It's also how some pregnancy tests can indicate how far along in the pregnancy you are.

For example, if you have higher than expected hCG levels, you may have twins, or there may be abnormal uterine growth.

If the levels are falling, it may indicate the risk of miscarriage. If levels are rising slower than expected, it could be an ectopic pregnancy.

Signs of early pregnancy can also include:

  • Missed period
  • Nausea and vomiting (also known as morning sickness)
  • Bloating
  • Breast tenderness and enlargement
  • Fatigue
  • Needing to urinate more often than usual, including at nighttime
  • Craving certain foods, or a sour or metallic taste even when you're not eating [4].

Of course, some of the above symptoms could be down to other factors such as stress, so take a home pregnancy test or chat to your GP if you're curious.

What is the best time to take a pregnancy test?

You can take a pregnancy test at any time of the day, but to improve the accuracy, it's best to do the test as soon as you wake up in the morning when your urine is more concentrated and has higher levels of pregnancy hormones than at other times of the day [5].

How accurate are pregnancy tests?

Most home pregnancy tests claim to be 99% accurate at delivering an accurate pregnancy test result [6]. However, home pregnancy tests can differ in their ability to provide accurate results in women who have only recently missed their period.

If you've taken a test after a missed period and it was negative, repeat the test a week later in case your hCG hormone levels have risen.

Or, if you need to know sooner, see your GP and get a blood test, as they can detect pregnancy early and have more accurate results.

Trying to conceive can be a stressful time, especially if you have been on the journey for a while.

Kin Fertility's Conceiving Essentials has everything that you need to start your conceiving journey, including ovulation and pregnancy tests.

With a proven accuracy rate of 99%, we’ll help you to take the guesswork out of knowing when to conceive and the accurate and easy-to-use midstream test that detects early pregnancy (within 7 weeks of the last menstrual period).

Is it possible to get a false negative pregnancy test?

False positive and false negative results are rare, but they can happen. The number one reason you may receive a false negative result is if you take the test too early, as it's harder for an at-home test to detect hCG in your urine if it's a very early pregnancy.

You may also get a false negative if you simply check the results too soon or don't do the test correctly in the first place, with up to 30% of women getting false negatives this way [7].

However, when used correctly, you should rarely have a false negative result.

Another reason you may receive a false negative could be that your urine is too diluted. As we mentioned earlier, taking a urine test at the beginning of the day when you've just woken up is best.

However, even if you've drunk a lot of water, the pregnancy test should still be able to detect hCG in your system and deliver a positive result.

What are the chances of a false positive pregnancy test?

False positive results are rarer than false negatives, still, they can happen. For example, if you have blood or protein in your urine, or perhaps you use a particular type of drug, that can also trigger a false positive result.

It could also happen if you have experienced a pregnancy loss soon after the fertilised egg attached to your uterine lining or you take a pregnancy test too soon after taking a drug that contains hCG.

Ectopic pregnancies and menopause can also cause a false positive pregnancy test result, as can problems with your ovaries or other health conditions.

If you are in the process of fertility treatments such as egg retrieval or IVF, you may also experience false positive pregnancy tests as your body will create hCG, which will disappear in a few weeks.

False positives can also come from a faulty test kit, a recent birth or miscarriage, a dirty urine collection cup, an ovarian tumour or another type of hCG-producing growth.

If you get a positive test result, no matter how faint the line is, you should see your GP for confirmation with a blood or urine test.

Why do I have pregnancy symptoms but negative tests?

Feeling like you're pregnant, but getting a negative test can be very confusing and emotional when you're actively trying to get pregnant. And it does happen every now and then.

Here are a couple of reasons you might test negative while feeling pregnant:

  • You are expecting, but it's early days and the test can't get an accurate reading of the pregnancy hormone hCG.
  • You're pregnant, but you've drunk a lot of water, and your urine is too diluted to get accurate results.
  • You're pregnant but have followed the test instructions incorrectly, or the test is faulty.
  • If you're undergoing fertility treatments, you may also feel as though you're pregnant due to changing hormones.
  • You're ovulating, and your hormones have you feeling unwell.
  • You're not pregnant, but you have PMS symptoms, which can sometimes feel like pregnancy symptoms. This could be tiredness, cramping and bloating.
  • The reason for this is that progesterone, which causes all that lovely stuff we just mentioned, increases just before your menstrual period begins and at the beginning of a pregnancy.

As always, if you have any cause for concern, it's best to seek professional medical advice and double-check that everything is as it should be and all the early signs are leading to a healthy pregnancy.

Photo credit: Getty Images

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