Worrying about pregnancy after unprotected sex is normal. It can be incredibly scary not to know whether you’ll become pregnant after sex.
One common question is how soon you can start testing for pregnancy after sex, and it deserves an answer. Testing too soon may lead to false negatives, so you’ll want to carefully track your timeline. Keep reading to find out all about testing for pregnancy after unprotected sex.
Short Answer: How Soon Can I Test?
The recommended time to wait is two weeks after having unprotected sex.
We know this can be nerve-wracking to wait so long with the possibility weighing on your mind. Even so, be patient. If you test sooner, you’ll have to test again anyway because you may face a false negative test.
Some people prefer to wait until the date of their next period. If your period doesn’t arrive as scheduled, then you can take a pregnancy test. Pregnancy tests should also be effective a few days before your scheduled period.
Things to Consider Within a Five-Day Timeframe
If you have unprotected sex and you do not want a pregnancy, consider emergency contraceptives. You can find them over-the-counter, sold at drug stores or grocery stores. There are many generic ECs out there, and Plan B is a common brand name. Note that despite price differences, they typically work the same.
Is your BMI over 30 or do you weigh more than 165 pounds? If so, emergency contraceptives may not work. One EC called ELLA does work for people over these thresholds. Another alternative, should you need one, is the Paraguard IUD. It’s a copper IUD that prevents pregnancy for up to five days after unprotected sex.
Track Your Periods to Help With Pregnancy Tests
Keeping track of periods can be a little easier – or a lot easier – using an app. Many fitness apps now have options to log your period. If you’ve been using one or manually tracking your flow, great! If not, consider starting. Knowing when to expect your next period can ease some of the anxiety that comes with worrying about a potential pregnancy.
Having a calendar with your upcoming period date also helps you understand when you can take a pregnancy test. As mentioned, you can take a pregnancy test a few days before the expected start of your period. Take another test to confirm the result twelve days later if your period still has not arrived.
Pregnancy Testing Details
Let’s get into a bit more detail about pregnancy tests and which type you should take.
How Pregnancy Tests Work
A hormone called human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG) is what tests use to detect pregnancy. But how does it work? When does it appear?
HCG isn’t instantly noticeable after unprotected sex. That’s why testing for pregnancy immediately after the act does no good. Basically, egg fertilization takes time. It’s a process. Once the sperm fertilizes the egg, it latches onto the uterine wall.
Then, the egg divides, forming the placenta. It’s only after this stage that HCG is produced and would be picked up in a urine test. However, blood tests may pick up a pregnancy sooner.
Now, that brings us to our next point. There are a few options for pregnancy tests. Let’s take a look at blood and urine tests so you understand the differences.
Right off the bat, you should know doctors are not likely to give you a blood test for your pregnancy. While they’re more accurate than urine tests and can confirm pregnancies earlier, they’re expensive. Plus, they take much longer to determine the result.
Blood tests are always done in a healthcare setting. They measure exactly how much HCG is in the blood. It’s certainly nice to have that level of accuracy as you track your pregnancy’s progression. This less common testing method is more accurate, but you probably won’t take a blood test to determine your status.
These are the most common method of testing for pregnancy. You can buy them cheaply, anywhere from $1 to $20, from a drugstore. No prescription is necessary, and you can take urine tests in the comfort of your own home.
Normally, urine tests detect pregnancy a few days before your period or on the day of your missed period. While they don’t offer an exact measurement of HCG as blood tests do, the simple “yes” or “no” answer is usually enough.
Since they’re less sensitive than blood tests, they may give false readings if you take them too soon after unprotected sex.
For low-cost testing options, consider the cheapest at-home urine tests. They work just the same as the more pricey ones. You can also check out community centers that offer free or low-cost testing. If you have a Planned Parenthood location nearby, they offer low-cost testing and other resources, like covid tests if you are pregnant.
What to Do With Test Results
False Negative Results
If you get a negative test result, you may have taken the test too soon, read the results incorrectly, or used diluted urine. So, it’s helpful and may give you peace of mind to wait and do another test.
False Positive Results
It’s possible to get a positive reading that’s incorrect. If there was any blood or protein in your urine while doing the test, it could cause a false positive. Some medications like fertility treatments, anticonvulsants, or tranquilizers may also cause false positive readings.
Not sure about your reading? If so, consider another at-home urine test. Of course, you can make an appointment with your doctor if you continue getting positive readings to discuss your options.
After unprotected sex, it can be highly emotional and scary to learn about an unplanned pregnancy. It’s important to cover all of your options with your trusted healthcare professional before moving forward.
If you find yourself navigating a new pregnancy, understand that you don’t have to do it alone. Utilize your community centers or a local Planned Parenthood for cost-effective resources to receive the help and support you need.