The 2-week wait between ovulation and when you take a pregnancy test can feel like an eternity. To pass the time, you may search your symptoms after ovulation hoping to get a glimpse into whether or not you’ll see your BFP (big fat positive) this month.
And through those searches you’ll find that by 12 days post ovulation (DPO), there’s even a chance that you’ll test positive with a home pregnancy test. It’s all very exciting and — at times — unnerving.
Here’s more about the timing of conception and implantation, when you should take your first pregnancy test, and what early symptoms you may (or may not) experience before your missed period.
The short answer to this question is yes, you can test at 12 DPO. And you can possibly get a positive pregnancy test result by 12 days post ovulation. But let’s back up for just a moment and discuss the timing of things and why it’s still early to test.
To get pregnant, a critical chain of events must happen:
- Sperm must enter the uterus in some way (whether through sex or perhaps assisted reproductive measures) and then make its journey up the fallopian tubes.
- The egg must release by the ovary during ovulation and be “picked up” by the fallopian tube for transport. Ovulation generally happens about 14 days before the next menstrual period. You can track ovulation using store-bought test strips (ovulation predictor kits or OPKs) that detect a surge in luteinizing hormone (LH). The amount of this hormone generally peaks about 24 to 48 hours before ovulation.
- The egg and sperm must meet in the fallopian tube for fertilization to occur so the embryo can develop. The egg is only capable of being fertilized for 12 to 24 hours after being released from the ovary, so there’s no time to waste!
- The embryo must then make its way to the uterus and implant in the uterine lining. After implantation, it can continue growing. Implantation may happen as early as 5 or 6 days after fertilization or as late as 11 or more DPO. Older research shows that days
8, 9, and 10DPO tend to be the most common for successful implantation.
- Once the embryo has implanted into the wall of the uterus, the cells around the embryo start to produce human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG), the hormone that will turn a pregnancy test positive. The levels of hCG are very low at first but will increase steadily during the first several weeks of a healthy pregnancy.
While there are many other factors at play — if ovulation, fertilization, and implantation all work together — you may very well become pregnant. But this all takes time. At 12 DPO, those with predictable 28-day cycles are still a couple of days out from missing their periods.
So, whether or not a positive will show up on a pregnancy test this early on has to do with the timing of these events and how much pregnancy hormone has built up in your system.
So while you could potentially test positive at 12 DPO, a negative test doesn’t necessarily mean the end of your chances this cycle.
When should you test?
Home pregnancy tests (HPTs) claim to be up to
Some boast that you can take them several days before your expected period and receive a positive result. Others aren’t quite as sensitive, so be sure you read your labels carefully to see what you’re getting.
Regardless, you will not receive a positive on any test without enough hCG circulating in your system.
Experts recommend waiting until the morning of your next expected period to take a pregnancy test. For those with a regular 28-day cycle, this would be on 14 DPO. For people with a longer cycle, a pregnancy test might not be positive until even later.
Testing earlier isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it may just present some issues, like false negatives. This happens when there’s not enough hCG in your system to detect just yet.
And there’s also a chance you may experience what is called a chemical pregnancy. This is a very early miscarriage and may account for between 50 to 75 percent of all miscarriages.
With a chemical pregnancy, you may see a positive test around the date your period is due to start only to experience bleeding and find the line is lighter or disappears when you test again.
In these situations, a person who is not taking pregnancy tests would most likely never know that fertilization has occurred.
Again, timing is everything when it comes to the symptoms you’ll have at 12 DPO. And what one person will experience during early pregnancy can differ greatly from what another might experience.
Keep this in mind when comparing notes with friends or on trying to conceive (TTC) forums. You may still be in the game, so to speak, whether or not you have signs of pregnancy at 12 DPO.
And just FYI: Some of those “early symptoms” can also be attributed to hormone changes before your normal menstrual cycle (aka PMS symptoms).
Symptoms can happen as soon as when the egg is fertilized, in the days leading up to your missed period, or any time thereafter. Or it’s entirely possible you may not experience any symptoms at all and still wind up pregnant.
The earliest pregnancy symptoms include:
With your changing hormones — including progesterone — your breasts may feel more tender or sensitive than normal. Or if they aren’t sensitive, you may notice that your breasts feel heavier or bigger than your norm.
Not only that, but the area of skin surrounding your nipple (the areola) may also change color or darken. Breast changes tend to be one of the first signs you may experience and generally ease up after a few weeks or by the end of the first trimester.
You may notice some changes with regard to your vaginal discharge in the days leading up to your expected period. Cervical mucus may increase in the early stages of pregnancy. It may be milky white in color, be sticky in texture, but shouldn’t have a bad smell.
The changes go back to your changing hormone levels, increased blood flow to your vagina, and even changes in your cervix.
Some people experience light bleeding or spotting about 10 to 14 days after conception. You may mistake the bleeding for the start of your period, but it’s a potential sign of implantation.
The bleeding happens as a result of the egg burrowing into the uterine lining and may range in color from pink to red to brown/black. It’s typically a smaller amount of spotting than you’d expect to see during a period. That said, this is a less common early pregnancy sign.
Even if you don’t experience implantation spotting, you may feel cramping associated with implantation or early pregnancy in general. The cramping may come from the egg burrowing into the lining and then from the uterus slowly stretching as it grows.
Basal body temperature increase
If you chart your cycles, you may see that your basal body temperature (BBT) increases by around a half to a full degree Fahrenheit after ovulation. Your BBT may stay high if you become pregnant. Otherwise, it tends to take a dive back to baseline right before your period, signaling the start of a new menstrual cycle.
While nausea and vomiting tend to start a month into pregnancy, some may experience this symptom sooner. It depends on how sensitive you are to the hormonal changes happening in your body. And “morning sickness” is a bit of a misnomer, as you may experience nausea any time of the day or night.
If you don’t feel any of this, it doesn’t necessarily mean anything either. Some are fortunate enough to go through pregnancy without getting sick at all.
You may also find yourself making extra trips to the bathroom early on. With the increase of hCG comes an increase of blood flow to the entire pelvic area, including the bladder. Better stock up on some extra toilet paper!
While you’re at it, grab some extra Zzz’s when you can. Fatigue is a symptom some report as soon as one week after conception. The tired feeling may be a result of the higher levels of progesterone circulating in the body.
Higher progesterone and estrogen levels may make you feel bloated or experience things like heartburn or constipation early on in pregnancy as well. These hormones slow digestion, which is what’s responsible for these unpleasant symptoms.
When you hit 12 DPO, you’re in prime territory for early symptoms and a possible positive result on your pregnancy test.
If your test is negative, try not to fret. It’s still most reliable to test the day of or even a few days after you miss your period.
And if you have any questions, be sure to contact your healthcare provider. They may be able to do a blood-draw pregnancy test that can detect lower levels of hCG in your system and give you your BFP sooner than you’d see it on a home pregnancy test.
Your doctor or midwife is also your best resource if you’re having trouble getting pregnant. Make an appointment if you’ve been trying more than a year (under age 35), more than 6 months (over age 35), or if you have other concerns about your reproductive health.
No matter the outcome this month, best of luck to you!