“Am I pregnant?” If you’re asking that question, it can feel like an eternity as you wait for the answer.
Or perhaps you took a pregnancy test, and you aren’t sure if you can trust the results. You’re looking at the test stick and wondering if the pregnancy test result is accurate. You may ask yourself questions like, “Is this result wrong? Should I take another test?”
These are good questions that women ask every day. Keep reading to learn more about how pregnancy tests work and how soon pregnancy test results are accurate.
How Do Home Pregnancy Tests Work?
After an egg is fertilized, it travels through the fallopian tube for about three to four days on its way to the uterus. When the fertilized egg reaches the uterus, it implants into the lining of the uterine wall. After this implantation happens, the placenta begins producing hCG, and the hCG levels double every two to three days.
Home pregnancy tests determine if the human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) hormone was detected in your urine. If the test does detect hCG, it will read positive. But if the test doesn’t find hCG in your urine, you will get a negative result.
High-quality home pregnancy tests can be up to 99% accurate if you follow the instructions precisely . To get the most accurate test result, follow these tips:
- Wait until the first day of your missed period to take the pregnancy test. Early tests advertise the ability to detect a pregnancy as early as five days before your missed period, but you are more likely to get a false-negative test result.
- Take the test first thing in the morning or after you haven’t had anything to drink in about six hours. If you are pregnant, but your urine is too diluted, your hCG levels could also be too diluted for the test to detect, resulting in a false-negative result.
How Soon Pregnancy Test Results Are Accurate
A positive pregnancy test result is more likely to be accurate earlier than a negative pregnancy test. A positive pregnancy test can be correct as soon as five days before your period is due.
However, that’s not the case for a negative test result because you can still be pregnant but get a false-negative test result. For the most accurate results, take a pregnancy test after you have missed your period.
If you don’t have pregnancy symptoms and a week has passed since your period was due, chances are something other than pregnancy is causing a delay in your period. If that’s the case, make an appointment with your healthcare provider to be examined.
If you do have pregnancy symptoms or pain, still see a physician right away to be sure you don’t have a condition requiring immediate medical attention, such as an ectopic pregnancy.
Next, we’ll discuss reasons a pregnancy test result could be wrong.
What Can Cause an Inaccurate Pregnancy Test Result?
Inaccurate test results do occur sometimes. A false-negative pregnancy test result is more common than a false-positive test result.
A false-positive pregnancy test is quite rare but happens . It can happen with a very early miscarriage, also known as a chemical pregnancy. A false-positive pregnancy test can also occur if you still have hCG in your system from fertility medications or a recent pregnancy. It takes about four to six weeks for your hCG levels to drop after miscarriage, abortion, or giving birth.
A false negative pregnancy test occurs when you are pregnant, but the pregnancy test reads negative . There are several reasons this can happen, including:
- Testing too early
The most common reason for a false negative pregnancy test is taking the test too early for hCG to be detected in your urine. You may have miscalculated when your next period was due, so recheck the calendar for accuracy. It’s also possible that something caused a delay in ovulation. This delay would also cause conception and implantation to occur later than expected in your menstrual cycle. When this happens, you won’t get an accurate test result until later in your cycle.
- Making a mistake performing the pregnancy test
You can also get a false test result if you made a mistake on the pregnancy test directions. They are all a little bit different, so even though you are anxious to get answers, take the time to read the directions thoroughly before you test.
- A defective pregnancy test
Although it’s not common, it is possible for a pregnancy test to be defective, causing it not to work correctly. So if you’re gut is telling you the test isn’t working, take another one. And check the expiration date on the test before you use it to be sure the test hasn’t expired.
- Checking the results too soon or too late
Set the timer on your phone and check the results then. If you read the test too early, you could get a false negative. On the other hand, if you read the result after the designated time, you can get an evaporation line which makes your test look like a faint positive when you’re not pregnant.
- Your urine was diluted
As we discussed earlier, if you have too much fluid to drink before taking a pregnancy test, it will dilute the hCG level in your urine. If you are early in your pregnancy, that could cause a false-negative result because the test won’t detect the hCG.
Get the Accurate Answers You Need
You don’t have to remain anxious about pregnancy test results or wonder if you’re pregnant — or not. Pregnancy Care Clinic offers no-cost services so you can get accurate answers to all your questions.
At Pregnancy Care Clinic, we understand that making an appointment for an unexpected pregnancy can be scary. But you can trust that you will receive expert care in a safe and judgment-free environment. So if you think you might be pregnant, take the first step and contact us today for your confidential appointment.
 Mayo Clinic Staff. (2021, February 24). Home pregnancy tests: Can you trust the results? Mayo Clinic. Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/getting-pregnant/in-depth/home-pregnancy-tests/art-20047940.
 Causes of a false positive pregnancy test. Cleveland Clinic. (2021, October 15). Retrieved from https://health.clevelandclinic.org/false-positive-pregnancy-test/.
 Gurevich, R. (2020, October 1). Reasons your pregnancy test is negative but your period is late. Verywell Family. Retrieved from https://www.verywellfamily.com/missed-period-but-negative-pregnancy-test-1959885.