worried about pregnancy after sex

How Soon After Unprotected Sex Can I Test for Pregnancy

This is one question that a lot of people keep asking. After having unprotected sex, how soon can I test for pregnancy and get accurate results? Other variants of this question that people also ask include:

  • Can I test for pregnancy 72 hours after having unprotected sex?
  • Can I detect pregnancy in 3 days?
  • Can I take a pregnancy test 2 weeks after sex?
  • How long does it take for hCG to show up in urine?

In fact, there are many more variants of these questions that people keep asking and you will find the right answers from this article. The essential part is for you to understand the concept of conception and how it comes about.

What is unprotected sex?

Unprotected sex is also known as risky sex is having sex without protection (condom or contraception). This (without using a condom or any barrier method) can lead to you contracting sexually transmitted infections (STI) such as syphilis, gonorrhea, AIDS, etc.

Unprotected sex can also lead to unplanned or unwanted pregnancy.  

How does pregnancy occur after sex?

Pregnancy occurs after sex when semen (the fluid that contains sperm) is ejaculated in the vagina during sexual intercourse. The sperms swim through the cervix into the uterus (womb) of the female. One sperm fertilizes the egg released by the ovary and this results in pregnancy. 

Pregnancy occurs in stages which will be explained in detail below

Transport of sperm

After ejaculation, millions of sperms are released but it only takes one sperm to meet with an egg for pregnancy to occur. The transport of sperms depends on many factors some of which include:

  • The sperms must have the ability to propel themselves through the vagina and cervix
  • The sperms must have the capability to penetrate the cell membrane of the egg
  • The cervix must be favorable to take in sperm without killing them

Fertilization 

Once the semen is in the vagina, the sperm swims through the cervix into the uterus and joins with the egg as it moves through the fallopian tube from the ovary to the uterus. (fertilization). Following ovulation, the egg is capable of fertilization for only 12 to 24 hours. Contact between the egg and sperm is random.

Implantation 

The fertilized egg then begins to divide into 2 cells, then four cells leading to more cell division. This then forms a ball as it grows (also known as a blastocyst). The blastocyst then attaches itself to the lining of the uterus (endometrium) about 3 to 4 days after fertilization. This attachment process is also known as implantation. This is now when pregnancy officially begins. 

After implantation, pregnancy hormones like estrogen and progesterone are released which prevents the lining of the uterus from shedding (this is why women do not get periods when they are pregnant).

The release of the hormones leads to the thickening of the endometrium which provides nutrients essential to the growth of the blastocyst which eventually develops into a baby. 

How soon does conception take place after unprotected sex?

Conception (when the egg is fertilized by the sperm) can take place as soon as three minutes after unprotected sex or it may take up to five days.

How soon should I test for pregnancy after unprotected sex?

The best time to test for pregnancy is the day your period is supposed to start or after you realize your period is late. If your results are still unreadable or inconclusive, you can retake one the next day.

For more accurate results, take a test when you first wake up. The hCG (Human chorionic gonadotropin, a hormone normally produced by the placenta and detected in the urine of pregnant women) hormones are higher and more concentrated in the morning.

Most home pregnancy tests can be done from the first day of your missed period. If you are not sure when you are having your next period or if your period is irregular, you can take the test at least 10 days after you had unprotected sex.

What leads to missing  period or no menstruation when one gets pregnant

When one gets pregnant, it is impossible to get your period. This is because during pregnancy you usually do not ovulate or release an egg.

During pregnancy, the egg released by the ovary is fertilized by the sperm whereas, with menstruation,  the egg together with the endometrium travel out of the uterus and is shed through the vagina as menstrual blood.

Can the pregnancy test results be wrong if I test too early?

An early pregnancy test can increase your chances of getting a false negative result. This means that the test will read negative when you are pregnant. Health experts recommend waiting until you have already missed your period to avoid false-negative test results. 

The reason for waiting is to give your body enough time to produce the hCG (Human chorionic gonadotropin) hormone.

The hCG hormone is higher and more concentrated in the early mornings.

How do I take the pregnancy test at home?

Taking pregnancy tests at home gives you privacy and secrecy. Home ingredients such as salt, sugar, vinegar, etc can be used to take a pregnancy test at home.

There are many ways that one can take a pregnancy test at home some of which include;

Pregnancy test kit 

Using a pregnancy test kit is the best and effective way to know if you are pregnant or not.

This test should be done early in the morning.

  • Collect the urine in a clean and dry container.
  • Do not touch the test window (the middle part of the strip)
  • Use the dropper given with the test kit to put urine over the strip.
  • Wait for 5-10 minutes (or any period indicated on the pregnancy test kit) to see the results.
  • The test should not be evaluated after 30 minutes.
  • If one coloured line appears on the strip, the test is negative and you are not pregnant.
  • If two coloured lines appear, the test is positive, which means you are pregnant. Even if the lines are light in color, you may assume you are pregnant.

Sugar method

This method is the easiest way to test for pregnancy at home when there are no scientific test kits readily available. To perform this test

Take one tablespoon of sugar in a bowl and add one tablespoon of urine to it. 

Take notice of how sugar reacts after you pour urine on it. 

If the sugar starts forming clumps, it means you are pregnant and if the sugar dissolves quickly, it means you are not pregnant.

The hCG hormone released from the urine does not allow the sugar to dissolve properly.

Vinegar

White vinegar is needed for this test. White vinegar is used because it gives more accurate results. 

Take two tablespoons of white vinegar in a plastic container. 

Add your urine to it and mix it properly. 

If the vinegar changes its color and forms bubbles, you are pregnant and if there is no change, you are not pregnant.

Salt

Using salt works similarly to sugar. The same steps can be followed when taking the pregnancy test. 

Urine and salt are to be mixed in equal parts. Wait for a minute. If the salt forms a creamy white clump of sorts, it means a positive result. If no such effect is seen, it might mean you are not pregnant.

Other home ingredients can be used to take a pregnancy test at home. Home ingredients such as toothpaste, bleach, and baking powder can also be used.

What time is best for me to take the pregnancy test at home?

The best time to take a pregnancy test at home is first thing in the morning. This is because, during that time, your urine is highly concentrated with hCG. Taking the pregnancy test later in the day can lead to a higher chance of getting a false-negative test result. This is because your urine will be diluted during that time.

What may lead to a false-positive result when I take the pregnancy test at home

A false positive on a pregnancy test means that the test detected the hormone hCG in your urine when there virtually was no hCG in your urine. A false-positive can happen if you had a pregnancy loss soon after the fertilized egg attached to your uterine lining.

A false-positive result can also occur if you take a pregnancy test too soon after taking a fertility drug that contains HCG. An ectopic pregnancy, menopause, or problems with your ovaries also can contribute to giving false-positive test results.

What may lead to a false-negative result when I take the pregnancy test at home

A false negative pregnancy test is when you are pregnant but the test comes up negative. The most common reason for a false negative is that you took the test very early.

Another cause of a false negative is using an expired test kit. Storing the pregnancy test improperly (in a damp, hot bathroom cabinet) can also lead to a false negative pregnancy test.

WRITTEN AND EDITED RESPECTIVELY BY:

Michael Sarfo
Content Creator at Wapomu

Michael Sarfo is a graduate of the University of Ghana, Legon. He is a content creator for enochkabange.com and a writer for Wapomu

Chief Editor at Wapomu.com

MPSGH, MRPharmS, MPhil.

Isaiah Amoo is a practicing community pharmacist in good standing with the Pharmacy Council of Ghana who has meaningful experience in academia and industrial pharmacy. He is a member of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society, England, UK and currently pursuing his overseas pharmacy assessment programme (MSc) at Aston University, UK. He had his MPhil degree in Pharmaceutical Chemistry at Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology. He has about 5 years’ experience as a community Pharmacist and has also taught in academic institutions like KNUST, Kumasi Technical University, Royal Ann College of Health, and G-Health Consult. He likes to spend time reading medical research articles and loves sharing his knowledge with others.

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