The realization that you’ve missed your period can occur at the worst time — like after having one too many cocktails.
But while some people might sober up before taking a pregnancy test, others want to know as soon as possible — even if it means taking a pregnancy test while still tipsy.
Does alcohol affect a pregnancy test? And can you trust the results if you’re drunk? Here’s what you need to know.
Over-the-counter home pregnancy tests involve peeing on a stick and waiting for a symbol indicating yes or no.
They’re fairly accurate when taken a day after your missed period. But there’s always the possibility of error. So it’s important to follow the instructions carefully.
Pregnancy tests can often detect this hormone within 12 days of implantation of an egg. So if you’ve recently missed a period, taking a pregnancy test on the first day of your missed period could provide an accurate result — although you should retest again a few days later if you still haven’t gotten your period.
So we’ve established that pregnancy tests detect hCG — and hCG isn’t in alcohol.
If you’ve had booze — but want to take a pregnancy test as soon as possible — the good news is that the alcohol in your system won’t likely affect the accuracy of a home pregnancy test.
Since alcohol on its own doesn’t increase or decrease the level of hCG in blood or urine, it won’t directly change the results of a pregnancy test.
But while alcohol doesn’t have a direct effect on a pregnancy test, it can have an indirect effect if your body has only just started producing hCG. In theory in this scenario, alcohol — as well as a lot of other factors — could possibly result in a false negative.
Hydration levels do have a small effect on home pregnancy tests, since the concentration of hCG in your urine matters.
After drinking, you might feel thirsty and slightly dehydrated. Because you’ve heard all the good advice about keeping your body hydrated during and after a few drinks — and to fight your thirst — you may choose to increase your water intake.
Drinking too much water can also dilute your daytime urine. In this case, a pregnancy test might have more difficulty detecting the hCG hormone. If so, your test might come back negative when you’re actually pregnant. (Home pregnancy test instructions typically say to use your “first morning urine,” when you’re slightly dehydrated and your pee is most concentrated, for a reason.)
This false negative isn’t due to the alcohol itself, but rather the amount of water you’ve consumed. This would only happen during a small window of time before your hCG has built up enough to produce a clear positive, regardless of how hydrated you are.
Keep in mind, too, that taking a pregnancy test while drunk means you’re less likely to follow the instructions. If you’re dizzy or unsteady, you might not get enough urine on the stick. Or you might check the results too soon and think you’re not pregnant when you actually are.
Over-the-counter and prescription drugs
For the most part, the use of medication — whether over-the-counter or prescription — isn’t likely to affect the results of your pregnancy test, either.
On the other hand, there’s the risk of a false positive if you take medication that contains the pregnancy hormone. A false positive is when a pregnancy test mistakenly says that you’re pregnant.
Medications that contain the hCG hormone include infertility drugs. If you take medications for infertility and get a positive test result, follow up with another test in a few days, or see your doctor for a blood test.
If you receive a positive test result after drinking, there’s nothing you can do about alcohol already in your bloodstream. From this point forward, though, stop drinking.
Drinking alcohol while pregnant can affect your baby’s growth and development. We cannot recommend any alcohol once you are pregnant, as even occasional use can cause problems. So the sooner you refrain from alcoholic beverages, the better.
If you’re trying to have a baby, you should also stop drinking now. It might seem like it’s OK to drink up until conception. Keep in mind, though, that you might not learn about a pregnancy until you’re at least 4 or 6 weeks. You don’t want to unknowingly expose the growing fetus to alcohol.
If you’re drunk or you’ve been drinking and suspect that you’re pregnant, the best approach is to wait until you sober up before taking a pregnancy test.
It’ll be easier to follow the instructions, and you’ll be able to face the results with a clear head. But rest assured, alcohol won’t change the results.
If you take a test and it comes back negative but you suspect you’re pregnant, wait a few days and retest.