Am I pregnant? How early can I take a pregnancy test?

If you think you might be pregnant, it can be excruciating waiting until the first day of your missed period to test and find out. But just how early can you test? I am currently 17 weeks pregnant, and while I was waiting to see if I’d conceived, I experimented with different tests to try and find out as quickly as possible. Because of the expense, and the plastic, I didn’t want to start testing too early and waste a branded shop-bought plastic stick, so instead, I purchased some simple One Step pregnancy test strips from Amazon for only £3.29 for 20, so that I could test daily without worrying about the expense, or the plastic waste!

These simple (and cheap!) strips do the same thing as the bulky plastic ones, but cost much less and waste far less plastic. Win win!

These little cardboard strips can be dipped in urine and will detect hCG if you’re pregnant, displaying two maroon/pink lines for a positive result. They are the same ones that your GP will use if you visit them for a pregnancy test (I can vouch for this as I have seen them do it!). They’re pretty easy to use if you read the instructions carefully.

I had been monitoring my ovulation with Ovusense and knew that I had ovulated on day 12 of my cycle. All the advice online seemed to agree that with sensitive tests, you can test from about 10 days after ovulation (10DPO or ’10 days post ovulation’). On day 23 of my cycle, 11 days after I’d ovulated, and 5 days before my expected period, I used one of the One Step hCG strips, and found that if I looked really, really carefully in the right light, I could see what I thought was a line; an almost completely invisible line, that is. Was it my imagination? I couldn’t be sure either way, because of the possible confusion with an ‘evaporation line’ (more on that below!), so I tested again the next day, and for a few days after that. Here were my results:

The Ovusense monitor, which I was using to track my ovulation.

-Cycle Day 23 (11DPO): Practically invisible test line, almost entirely undetectable to the naked eye.

-Cycle Day 24 (12DPO): Almost the same as Day 23, but a ghostly-faint, colourless, almost invisible test line which can be detected when photographed and turned into a negative (see here for how to do this!) is present.

-Cycle Day 25 (13DPO): Very little change, but the test line today is every so slightly more visible than Day 24, especially its top left hand corner.

-Cycle Day 26 (14DPO): The test line is now visible, especially at its top left, where the ink meets the edge of the strip. The left hand side of the line is defined and straight, but it’s still hard to make out any pink colour.

-Cycle Day 27 (15DPO): The left hand side of the test line is now obvious and its right hand side is more defined.

-Cycle Day 28 (16DOP): The test line is now unmistakable, especially on the left border, where some colour is visible. The positive result is confirmed with a First Response test.

On the strips above, the maroon line on the right is the ‘control’ line and the fainter lines on the left are the ‘test’ lines. The presence of a visible test line indicates a positive result.

So what is an evaporation line and why should you beware?! An evaporation line is a really faint line that can show up where the test line would be if you leave it sitting around for too long after you’ve weed on it. It’s NOT a positive result, but equally, it isn’t a confirmation that you’re not pregnant. You should discard the test, re-test on subsequent days and make sure you read the result in the time specified.

I used one of my First Response tests the previous month, a day or so before my period was due. When I didn’t see a test line appear at first, I put the stick aside, still (mistakenly) convinced that I might be pregnant. The next day I looked at it again (yep, obsessed!) and saw what I thought was an extremely faint positive result line showing up, which made me wonder if it was in fact positive after all. When I called First Response to ask them, they told me that you should never read a test after the time limit specified in the instructions, and that what I was seeing was most likely an evaporation line, which is where the urine evaporates off the test line and leaves a faint, colourless mark. Sure enough, my period arrived the next day on that occasion!

You can avoid the confusion by reading the test within the time window specified in the instructions, and also, by taking a photo of your test, and using an app to turn it into a negative. This method is quite useful also if your test line is really, really faint, as mine were on the first days I was testing. Read how to do this here.

So there you have it, my verdict on testing early! If you’re (impatient!) like me and you want to avoid the expense and planet-destruction of using loads of plastic branded pregnancy tests when you’re testing every day, then I highly recommend the One Step pregnancy test strips. Then, if you really want confirmation from a well-known brand, you could get one test stick just to make sure. I chose the First Response test.

Good luck!

Found this article helpful? You may also be interested in my related blog Pregnancy Tests: Is there a line or am I imagining things?! , where I explain how to read a really faint result on an early pregnancy test.

Freya is one half of The Amateur Parents. You can follow her on Instagram @the_amateur_mama . Rob can also be found there @the_amateurdad

Author: The Amateur Parents

The Amateur Mama and The Amateur Dad embark on their journey as first-time-parents in their 40's. Join Freya, Rob and their baby son Odhrán as they make their way through the labyrinth that is parenthood.

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