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Seve Starling pregnancy support from experts
Seve Starling pregnancy support from experts

Pregnancy Test Calculator: when can I take a test?

Written By
Jessalyn Ballerano
Certified Childbirth Educator & Doula

You can start with the pregnancy test calculator quiz below to find out if you are likely to have an accurate pregnancy test result using a common at home early detection pregnancy kit.

Quiz: Pregnancy Test Calculator

By using this tool you consent to our terms of service and privacy policy and that you are over 16 years of age. This is a general tool and does not serve as a due date calculator, brand-specific pregnancy test calculator, diagnostic, medical advice, or method for confirming pregnancy. Always consult your specific pregnancy test kit for information on accuracy.

What we’ll cover in this post

Now that you have your pregnancy test calculator quiz results, let’s dive into the details. Are you planning or questioning if you might be pregnant? Below, we take a look at some of the early symptoms of pregnancy, the best time to take a pregnancy test, how to use and evaluate a testing kit and a few ways to calculate your estimated due date. Here’s what we’ll cover in this post:

Signs you might be pregnant

  • What are the most common symptoms of early pregnancy?
  • What if I don’t have these symptoms?

Using pregnancy test calculators

  • When will a pregnancy test be accurate?
  • Quiz: Am I in the window for an accurate test result?

How to take and evaluate an at home pregnancy test

  • How do I use a pregnancy testing kit?
  • What if my pregnancy test result is unclear?

Calculating your estimated due date

  • Why are due dates an estimate?
  • How is my possible due date calculated?
  • What else do I need to know about due dates?

Am I pregnant? Common pregnancy symptoms to consider

Since pregnancy symptoms show up differently for everyone, you may not be able to rely on them to confirm your pregnancy. Factors like the length of your menstrual cycle, variation in hormone levels, existing health conditions, recent use of birth control, and daily lifestyle can influence the accuracy of pregnancy tests or the degree to which you notice symptoms.

For those actively trying to conceive (TTC), early pregnancy symptoms might be eagerly awaited. For others, they may be surprising, uncomfortable, or mistaken for something else. You might experience some, all, or none of the symptoms below, so read on for more ways to confirm if you are pregnant.

What are the most common symptoms of early pregnancy?

  • Your period doesn’t come when you expect it to. A missed period, or “amenorrhea”, is a very common signal that someone might be pregnant, but it can be caused by other factors, like a change in medication, lack of sleep, or emotional stress, so do not consider this a definitive sign.
  • You have to pee all the time. Frequent urination is caused by an increase in blood flow to the pelvic area with hormonal changes. This triggers the bladder to become more active, even expelling very small amounts of urine more frequently, and this can happen as early as a week after conceiving. However, infection can cause frequent urination too, so if you experience painful urination or have a history of urinary tract infections, it may be worth seeing your health care provider in case treatment is needed, regardless of your pregnancy status.
  • You are tired or fatigued all the time. High levels of hormones like progesterone can make someone feel sedated, and a pregnant person’s metabolism speeds up to support a developing embryo, requiring more energy in all of the body’s systems. This is a helpful adaptation to supporting a healthy pregnancy but it can be difficult for someone accustomed to having more energy.
  • Food tastes funny and smells seem stronger. Hormonal changes in the bloodstream impact the content, and thereby taste, of your own saliva - which can, in turn, affect the taste of food. A heightened sense of smell can make you more sensitive to foods, fragrances, and body odors that didn’t bother you before - which is helpful if you come across food that has turned or a noxious chemical - think of it as a protective alert system!
  • Nausea in the morning, nausea in the evening. “Morning sickness” is a bit of a misnomer - this uncomfortable feeling can hit any time of day but tends to be strongest on an empty stomach. Causes of morning sickness are not precisely known, but it seems to be a good reminder to keep pregnant people nourished and restful as needed. It’s okay to use a sick day in early pregnancy!
  • Your boobs are….changing. Tenderness, lumpy swelling, sensitivity, and even changes to the color of your nipples and blood vessels are a common indication that pregnancy has started.

What if I don’t have these early pregnancy symptoms?

Every person’s body, health history, and physical awareness are a little different, and some people may not notice or experience early signs of pregnancy at all. If you suspect you may be pregnant for other reasons, you have a few options, including:

  • Waiting another week or so to see if anything changes in your physical symptoms
  • Take an at-home test anyway, using the calculator info in the quiz to make sure you are in the window for the most accurate results
  • Scheduling an appointment to get a blood test through your primary health care provider

If you experience any symptoms to a severe level, such as constant vomiting, pain with urination, or other concerning signs like fever or non-menstrual bleeding, seek medical care.

Using a pregnancy test calculator to identify when to take a test

Get your personalized results with our pregnancy test calculator quiz at the top of this post

At-home pregnancy kits can be costly, and personal preferences around confirming and sharing a positive pregnancy test might influence your decision about when or if to take a test. Confirming a pregnancy early on may help you to navigate first trimester symptoms, get appropriate prenatal care, and start addressing any decisions or major lifestyle shifts that may come with a positive test result.

Whether you have been actively planning for pregnancy or unexpectedly find yourself experiencing some of the symptoms above, a pregnancy test is only useful if it’s used effectively. A pregnancy test calculator uses information about your menstrual cycle to predict if enough time has passed for the chemical changes of pregnancy to be picked up by an at-home urine test.

When will a pregnancy test result be accurate?

Kits vary in accuracy and testing timeline recommendations, so it’s important to follow the guidance on the brand of pregnancy kit you purchase. Our online calculator uses your cycle length and the amount of days since your last cycle to estimate the earliest range in which you might consider taking a common early detection at home pregnancy test. In general, these tests suggest waiting until at least 5 days before your missed period to test and will become much more accurate if you wait until the day of your missed period to test.

Why do I have to wait so long to take a pregnancy test?

It takes about a week from conception - or when a sperm meets and penetrates an ovum (egg) - for the fertilized egg to travel the length of the Fallopian tube and implant itself in the protective and nourishing lining of the uterus. It is after this implantation that your body starts to release the hormone that most at-home pregnancy kits test for, called hCG (human chorionic gonadotropin).  

This delay between fertilization and chemically-detectable pregnancy means that an at-home urine testing kit won’t be accurate if it’s used too early. These tests are generally considered most reliable (up to 90% or more, depending on the brand) two or more weeks after conception, but for many that can be hard to calculate because sex or exposure to semen isn’t the only factor. When an egg is released from the ovary into the Fallopian tube (ovulation), there is only a 12-24 hour window in which it can be fertilized….yet sperm can “hang out” for a few days, seeking a viable egg. This means that factors influencing both conception and implantation dates include:

  • The average length of your menstrual cycle. Day 1 is the first day of your period, the number of days that pass before your next period starts is your cycle length, typically 25-35 days.
  • The day ovulation occurs in your cycle. Many people ovulate around Day 14 but this is not universal; if you’ve been tracking your temperature and other cycle symptoms you may have an idea of when you ovulate.
  • Your last period date. This is used in combination with the factors above, to estimate your current ovulation window.
  • When fertilization may have occurred. This could be dependent on the frequency of sex and fertility-supported processes such as IVF and at-home insemination.

How to take and evaluate an at-home pregnancy test

Once you’ve decided to test for pregnancy with an at-home urine test, you might find yourself faced with some options. If you’ve never used one before, or if emotions are high, the short period of time between purchasing and using your pregnancy test can feel intense, so it’s important to give your careful focus to make the most effective use of your test.

How do I use a pregnancy testing kit?

Many brands offer multiple kits in one package, but all rely on accurate use of the test. The best time to use an at-home test is in the morning when pregnancy hormones are most concentrated in urine. Read the instructions carefully, with the expectation that you will need to:

  • Position the test strip as directed.
  • Urinate directly onto the strip or urinate into a cup and submerge the strip.
  • Wait for the allotted time before expecting a clear result.

What if my pregnancy test result is unclear?

Sometimes people report unclear results, often represented in a color or shape that shows up after the allotted number of minutes. Others may find that one test shows one result, and a second shows another. If there is any indication that the test is positive, or if you have persistent symptoms despite a negative test result, it is recommended to follow-up on at-home pregnancy testing with a blood test through your healthcare provider. These are more precise tests that also detect hCG, and can usually be used reliably within two weeks of conception.

Calculating your estimated due date

As you can probably imagine if you read the section above, due dates are an estimate for good reason. Menstrual cycles, ovulation windows, and conception activity vary - as does gestational development! There are a few ways to estimate your due date, and they all include room for error. Even though there is no way to predict with 100% accuracy when a baby will be fully developed and ready to be born, estimating when that will be can help you, your family and your health care providers plan for baby, help you both get appropriate medical care, and make work and lifestyle changes with less stress.

Why are due dates an estimate?

The most commonly used standard length of average human gestation is 280 days, or 40 weeks. However, the actual length of a healthy pregnancy can vary by as much as 5 weeks! Typical full-term pregnancies include babies born between 38-42 weeks, and most babies are not born on their due date.

This 40-week mark will be estimated by your care provider using the information you provide on the same factors that are used to calculate the best time to use a test kit.

  • The average length of your menstrual cycle.
  • The day ovulation occurs in your cycle.
  • Your last period date.
  • When fertilization may have occurred.

How is my possible due date calculated?

  • A common method is to assume a Day 14 ovulation (if it is not known otherwise) and count out 40 weeks from the first day of your last period. There are variations on the exact formula used.
  • Another very casual estimate is using the estimated date of conception and counting back three months. In the past, providers and their clients did not discuss exact due dates so much as general periods of expectation, such as ‘late October or early November’.

What else do I need to know about due dates?

Your family’s history may be an indication of obvious trends in gestational length - for example, if your mother, grandmother, aunts, and sister all had their babies at 41 weeks, you and your health care provider might discuss a higher likelihood that you too will have a pregnancy of about that length.

  • Occasionally, an early ultrasound may be used to help confirm pregnancy, as early fetal development shows some clear marks of gestational age. Such an ultrasound could also confirm a multiple pregnancy or other unique features.
  • Only ultrasounds before 22 weeks are considered accurate enough in assessing developmental milestones that can help to calculate gestational age; after that they are rarely used for estimating dates because they become less accurate.
  • Depending on the methods used, you and your health care providers may have different estimates of when your baby will be due. If healthcare decisions are made based on these dates you have the right to discuss your options, get more information, and be the final decider in what happens with your body and your baby.

This content includes general information and tools, and does not serve as medical advice, diagnosis, or method for confirming or treating pregnancy and related conditions. Consult your medical health care provider for advice relevant to you. In an emergency always call 911 or seek appropriate medical attention.

Jessalyn Ballerano
Certified Childbirth Educator & Doula
Jessalyn (she/her) is a Childbirth Educator and Doula serving families in the San Francisco Bay Area, nationwide, and in her new home of Eugene, Oregon. She started studying birth in 2010 as an anthropologist, and often brings a systemic approach to helping birthing people to understand their options, experiences and possibilities. She integrates evidence-based training and research with a holistic mindset and an activist’s passion for reproductive empowerment. Jessalyn serves on the board for the Oakland Better Birth Foundation, where birthworkers, birthing people, and care providers work together to end preventable maternal and infant mortality and address racial disparities in health care. Jessalyn is a CAPPA-Certified Childbirth Educator, SMC Full-Circle Doula.

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