Think you might be pregnant? 

What's the Likelihood?
A sexually active woman around age 30 has a 20 percent chance of getting pregnant each month.

Even with the most effective birth control methods, there’s always a chance for error. After all, it takes just one sperm to fertilize the egg. Finding out whether or not that’s happened is as easy as taking an over-the-counter pregnancy test.

According to Cleveland Clinic, most tests are 99 percent effective if taken after a missed period. The best part is that you can do it in the privacy of your own home. Simply open the test, place the tip under your urine flow, and wait for the recommended amount of time to view the results.

A negative result may be false if the test is taken too early in your cycle. False positives are rare and can indicate a defective test. According to Obria Medical Clinics, it can take 7 to 10 days from successful implantation until the pregnancy hormone (hCG) is detectable in urine.

Here are some signs that you should take a pregnancy test.

1. You’ve Missed Your Period

Missed Period

One of the first and most reliable signs of pregnancy is a missed period.

If you don’t track your cycle closely, it might be hard to determine whether or not you’re late. Many women have a 28-day menstrual cycle. Consider taking a test if it’s been more than a month since your last period.

Keep in mind that your period can sometimes be delayed or skipped due to stress, diet, or certain medical conditions.

Also pay attention to your flow if you suspect pregnancy. It’s common to experience light bleeding or spotting in the early weeks as the egg buries deeper into the uterine lining during implantation. Take note of any difference in the color, texture, or amount of blood.

Contact your doctor if you have bleeding and a positive pregnancy test.

2. You Have Cramps


Implantation can also produce a feeling similar to menstrual cramps. In early pregnancy, you may feel this discomfort and think your period is just around the corner, but then it never comes.

Sound like you? Take a test. Hormone levels vary by woman and by pregnancy. If your test is positive, you should notice the line darkening every 48 to 72 hours as the levels double.

3. Your Breasts Hurt

breast pain

As your pregnancy produces more and more estrogen and progesterone, these hormones start to make changes in your body to support baby’s growth.

Your breasts may feel tender and appear bigger due to increased blood flow. Your nipples might hurt and the veins might look darker under the skin.

Since many women also experience breast discomfort in the days leading up to their period, this symptom isn’t always indicative of pregnancy.

4. You’re Feeling Different


Along with cramps and sore breasts, early pregnancy can produce:

  • nausea
  • food aversions
  • exhaustion
  • frequent urination

As the weeks go on, these symptoms may get stronger before your hCG levels even out late in the first trimester. You know yourself, so pay attention to your body. Anything out of the ordinary should prompt you to take a pregnancy test.

5. Your Contraception Failed


Birth control pills, condoms, and other types of contraceptive devices don’t provide 100 percent protection from pregnancy. In other words, there’s always a slight chance of pregnancy, no matter how careful you are to prevent it.

Despite your birth control preferences, consider taking a test if you experience any of the signs on this list.

Human error or defects can also result in unplanned pregnancy. Birth control pills can be difficult to remember to take each day. According to Planned Parenthood, 9 out of 100 women on the pill will get pregnant if they don’t take it as directed.

Condoms can break and tear, and nearly 18 in 100 women get pregnant each year with imperfect use. Ask your doctor about alternative contraceptive methods, like an intrauterine device (IUD), where the rate of pregnancy per year is less than one in 100 women.

When in Doubt, Test!

Sexually active women in their reproductive years have a chance of pregnancy every month, even when using protection. There are certain signals your body might send that should prompt you to take a pregnancy test.

For the best results, take the test after you think you’ve missed your period. Test during your first morning bathroom visit, or hold it for several hours to increase the concentration of the hCG hormone that the test measures.

Testing early helps to ensure that you get proper care for yourself and prenatal care for your baby, if applicable. In the event you get a positive result, contact your doctor as soon as possible to set up your first appointment.

You asked, we answered

  • How accurate are at-home pregnancy tests?
  • Home pregnancy tests (HPTs) are quite accurate. They work by detecting the presence of human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) in the urine, which is produced when pregnancy occurs. However, different brands of tests are able to recognize different amounts of the hormone. Levels of hCG are very low in the beginning of a pregnancy, causing some HPTs to give a false negative result. If you get a negative result and still don't have your period within a few days, you should retest.

    - Nicole Galan, RN