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The days (or weeks or months) of wondering if you are pregnant can feel like some of the longest of your life. There are a lot of emotions that come with anticipating pregnancy, and with good reason — your life may never be the same.
Using a reliable at-home pregnancy test can give you a fast answer to the big question you’re asking. It can also let you know if you need to schedule an appointment with a doctor or midwife (and put the cocktails on pause).
Home pregnancy tests detect a hormone in your urine called hCG (short for human chorionic gonadotropin). When a sperm and an egg join and start growing, some of the cells (that will soon become the placenta) start producing hCG.
Levels of hCG rise rapidly in early pregnancy, and this is what home pregnancy tests are checking for.
At-home pregnancy tests usually work one of two ways: You either hold the stick in your stream of urine (preferably first thing in the morning, when your urine hCG levels will be the most concentrated), or you pee in a cup and dip the stick in.
You then lay the stick or strip flat and wait the amount of time given on the box (typically 1 to 5 minutes, depending on the test).
For the most accurate results, it’s best to wait at least until after (a day, ideally the week after) your period was due to start. Before this, there just might not be enough hCG in your urine to be detected on a pregnancy test.
If you get a negative result on your pregnancy test, it might just be too early to tell. Try waiting a few days, then check again. It’s more common to get a false negative on a pregnancy test (due to testing too early, using an expired test, or not following the instructions), but false positives do occasionally happen.
If you have been sexually active (even using contraception) and your period is late, it’s probably a good idea to take a pregnancy test. While there are other reasons your period could be late, an at-home pregnancy test is a good place to start.
You may also want to take a pregnancy test if you’ve been experiencing any early pregnancy symptoms, such as:
- breast tenderness
- heightened sense of smell
- food aversions
For this list we polled several physicians and midwives to get their expert opinions, read research studies, asked some parents, and in fact peed on a few sticks ourselves. We particularly focused on accuracy
While many brands claim 99 percent accuracy, that depends on when you test. We compared those results to those in a large, third-party study which shows that for some mainstream tests, it can be lower depending on when you test in relation to a missed period. The most accurate time to test is starting on the day of your missed period and the week after.
While the above study was conducted in 2011, it’s the most recent research to compare mainstream tests. It’s important to consider that some brands may have changed their technology since.
What the pros said
The consensus from healthcare professionals across the board was that it doesn’t really matter what home pregnancy test you use — they all work more or less the same way, it just depends on your preferences.
If that’s the case, what does matter when taking a home pregnancy test? They had a few key suggestions:
- Make sure the test isn’t expired.
- Wait until after you’ve missed your period to test (don’t test too early).
- Follow the instructions on the box exactly.
- Call your doctor or midwife if you get a positive test result, or if you get a negative result but your period still doesn’t start, or you have other symptoms that concern you (severe abdominal pain, nausea, etc.)
Additionally, there are some key differences that can make one test a better choice for you than another. We’ve selected our top home pregnancy test options based on sensitivity, convenience, speed, and cost to help you pick the best pregnancy test for you.
- $ = under $5 per test
- $$ = over $5 per test
- Best overall pregnancy test: First Response Early Result Pregnancy Test
- Best pregnancy test for fast results: Clearblue Rapid Detection Pregnancy Test
- Best digital pregnancy test: Clearblue Digital Pregnancy Test
- Best pregnancy test strips: ClinicalGuard Pregnancy Urine Test Strips
- Best budget-friendly pregnancy test: Pregmate Pregnancy Test Strips
- Best pregnancy test kit: Easy@Home Ovulation & Pregnancy Test Kit
- Best pregnancy test for assurance: First Response Triple Check Pregnancy Tests
- Best pregnancy test subscription: Stix Pregnancy Tests
- Best pregnancy test with app integration: Modern Fertility Pregnancy Tests
Best overall pregnancy test
Pros: It delivers fast results up to 6 days before your missed period, and has been shown to be the most accurate on the day of your missed period compared to other mainstream brands.
Cons: Some reviewers have reported false positives and false negatives, but that’s a risk with all at-home pregnancy tests.
Results time: 3 minutes
Display method: Line test
In the largest study of over-the-counter pregnancy tests to date, First Response proved to be 97 percent accurate from the day of your missed period. Easy to find online and in stores, this simple, accurate, and affordable test is by far a user favorite (and can be a great choice if you just want to know — NOW!). It comes with three tests per pack, and you can buy a two-pack.
In addition to being the most sensitive at-home test, First Response Early Result has an ergonomically designed handle that’s easy to hold (you’d be amazed how many sticks we almost dropped in the toilet). You can hold it under your stream urine as you pee; no need to pee in a cup and dip. It’s also available in a digital format if you’re concerned about reading the results correctly.
Best pregnancy test for fast results
Pros: Line results display in separate windows with a clear guide that makes results easy to read.
Cons: It may not be as accurate in the days leading up to a missed period.
Results time: 1 minute
Display method: Line test
If 3 whole minutes feel like a lifetime to wait for a result, the Clearblue Rapid Detection Pregnancy Test might be for you — the test delivers results in just 1 minute. However, while the results are speedy, you should still wait to test a week after your missed period (the 2011 study mentioned above showed only 64 percent accuracy on the day of the missed period).
And while this test is widely available and easy to use, we found more reports of false positives with this test than any of our other choices (based on online reviews). A false positive on a test can be an emotional roller coaster, so it may be worth waiting a few extra minutes with one of the tests better known for reliability. This pregnancy test comes two per pack.
Best digital pregnancy test
Pros: The smart countdown feature flashes at you when the results are ready, and the display window shows a progress bar, so you can test and then relax (or try to). No timing or counting is necessary.
Cons: It may not be as accurate in the days leading up to a missed period according to external studies, despite claims it can detect pregnancy up to 5 days prior.
Results time: Not advertised, but the smart countdown makes this clear during testing.
Display method: Digital word display
One common complaint with pregnancy tests is that they can be confusing to read — how many lines mean positive again? Is that a second line or just a reflection?
It’s not fun to play the guessing game at what is likely already an emotional time. That’s why the Clearblue Digital pregnancy test can be super helpful. It has a flashing countdown timer so that you know exactly when it’s ready to read, and it spells your results out in words, rather than lines.
This test also claims to be sensitive enough to test 5 days before your missed period (and certainly may be in many cases), but will be most accurate if you wait until after your period should have started — in fact, in the 2011 study we referenced earlier this digital test detected only 54 percent of pregnancies on the day of a missed period. But Clearblue may have improved its technology since.
This test comes five per pack.
Best pregnancy test strips
Pros: These come 20 per pack for under $10, so they’re extremely affordable. They also contain a control display alongside the results to make for easier interpretation.
Cons: Strips make for messier testing.
Results time: Under 5 minutes
Display method: Colored lines
While not quite as user-friendly, test strips tend to be much less expensive and just as accurate when used correctly.
Pregnancy test strips are smaller and flimsier than test sticks, and typically designed to be dipped into a cup of urine. You can also hold them under the stream, but they’re a little more difficult to handle (i.e., not drop in the toilet) and may not absorb the urine properly, which in turn may not give an accurate result.
If you’re fixated *raises hand* on finding out if you’re pregnant and want to test every single day after you ovulate (or test 10 times even after you get a positive just to be sure) these strips are a great way to go! Inexpensive, accurate, and fairly easy to use are the big pros for the ClinicalGuard test strips.
Best budget-friendly pregnancy test
Pros: This test is the most affordable for buying in bulk.
Cons: Some reviewers commented that the lines are faint which may lead to false negatives.
Results time: Under 5 minutes
Display method: Two lines equal pregnant, one line means not pregnant.
Another solid test strip option, the Pregmate pregnancy test strips are a bargain at about 30 cents per test. If you are trying to conceive and will be taking a lot of tests, this can be a good way to go (some of the tests with more bells and whistles can add up fast!). These simple strips are fairly easy to use, easy to read, and accurate if taken near your missed period.
They can work up to 5 days before a missed period, but for the most accurate results, it’s probably best to wait until after a missed period. However, because they are budget-friendly and come 50 in a bag, feel free to test away.
Best pregnancy test kit
Pros: This kit comes with both ovulation and pregnancy tests, and you can track your results in the app (access included) to better predict ovulation.
Cons: Some users may find the line method less reliable and more difficult to decipher. Reviewers have noted negative results with these strips when other tests like First Response and Clear Blue show positive results.
Results time: 3 to 5 minutes
Display method: Line test
If you’re TTC and want a little more info at your disposal, you can actually purchase a pregnancy test kit. This one, from Easy@Home, includes 10 pregnancy test strips and 40 ovulation test strips.
Ovulation test strips work just like pregnancy tests, but they check for a rise in luteinizing hormone (LH). This tells you if you’re likely to ovulate in the next 24 to 48 hours so you know when to get the baby-making on. Then, two weeks after doing the deed, you can use one (or a few) of the pregnancy test strips to see what happened.
This is a budget-friendly option if you are going to be doing a lot of testing for ovulation and pregnancy, without having to buy a bunch of separate (and more expensive) tests. You can also download the company’s free app, which helps simplify tracking your cycle.
Best pregnancy test for assurance
Pros: The kit comes with three types of tests so you can test before, the day of your missed period, and after your missed period.
Cons: It will only last you one cycle if you use all three, so this pack isn’t as economical as some of the test strips.
Results time: Varies per test
Display method: Line test
It can be a little hard to believe your results (positive or negative) the first time, so if you want to be really sure, this variety pack from First Response may be a winner. With three separate sticks, you can test early, at your missed period, and after your missed period.
It includes our all-around favorite, the First Response Early Detection test, as well as their digital test and their rapid (1-minute result) test. If you like more information, this could be a great kit choice for you.
Best pregnancy test subscription
Price: $$ (but the cost per test can vary based on subscription)
Pros: The brand is women-owned and has an easy subscription model.
Cons: A couple of reviewers commented that the results window was too small.
Results time: 5 minutes
Display method: Line method, with a control window
Stix joins the ranks of modern women’s health brands selling direct to consumers, and they offer the most customizable subscription option for at-home pregnancy tests. Tests come two per pack, and delivery options include every 2 weeks, 4 weeks, 8 weeks, 12 weeks, and 16 weeks. You can include up to four boxes per shipment (8 tests total).
The company confirmed these tests are 99 percent accurate on the day of a missed period. Like other over-the-counter tests, Stix tests are HSA/FSA eligible.
Best pregnancy test with app integration
Price: $(but the cost per test can vary based on subscription)
Pros: The company offers an easy subscription model with a built-in app to help you track your cycle.
Cons: Some reviewers commented that the test themselves were small and not as long as other tests they buy over the counter.
Results time: 5 minutes
Display method: Line method, two lines equals pregnant
Modern Fertility tests claim 99 percent accuracy from the day of your missed period. They come in petite, discreet packaging, which some reviewers did not like. However, it does make testing in public places much easier. They fit into your back pocket — no need to announce your pregnancy test to the world or carry your purse into the bathroom with you.
You can track your results in the accompanying app, which is very user-friendly. It also allows you to track results from ovulation tests so you can better predict your most fertile days over time. You can also tag possible conception days.
Tests are HSA/FSA eligible.
Whether in strip or stick form, at home or at the doctors’ office, urine pregnancy tests all test for the presence of the pregnancy hormone hCG.
If you go to your midwife or doctor’s office, they may also choose to do a blood pregnancy test, which looks for the presence of the same hormone, hCG, in your blood.
Urine pregnancy tests alone are typically very accurate, so blood pregnancy tests are mostly used only if there is a need to know the exact level of hCG in your system (for example, if there is a concern for a miscarriage or other pregnancy complication).
What is the most accurate pregnancy test?
In the largest study of over-the-counter pregnancy tests to date, First Response proved to be 97 percent accurate from the day of your missed period for both its digital and manual line tests.
However, the study was conducted in 2011 and only compared six over-the-counter tests from three major brands. Many brands may have changed their technology since. Newer direct-to-consumer brands that have burst onto the scene, as well as other brands not included in the study, may prove to be just as accurate.
Which pregnancy test provides the earliest results?
First Response and Modern Fertility can both detect pregnancy up to 6 days before, however, it’s important to note that the accuracy isn’t as high. It’s still ideal to test after your missed period as well for the best results. Most at-home pregnancy tests can be up to 99 percent accurate on the day of a missed period.
Which week in my cycle should I take a pregnancy test?
For the most accurate results, take a pregnancy test the week after a missed period. Some home pregnancy tests can detect pregnancy earlier, but there’s a higher chance for false negatives during this window if your body hasn’t built up enough HCG. Even if you test early, it’s best to take another the day of a missed period and the week after a missed period.
Whether you’re excited to be pregnant or hoping you aren’t, the waiting period can be agonizing. There are several great at-home tests you can choose from to get the big answer you’re waiting for.
The good news is that these tests have a high rate of accuracy if you use them properly, so you won’t have to wonder long!