A pregnancy test is one of the most meaningful tests you’ll ever take, and if you think you’re pregnant, you want a definitive answer. More importantly, you want it now.
At the same time, the industry is rife with products that produce agonizing false positives or even produce even worse false negatives.
Thankfully, improvements in technology and medicine took some of the guesswork out of figuring out whether conception is on the cards or your period is just late. Even better, these improvements are inexpensive and available for use at home.
Whether you intend to take the test once or you are actively trying to conceive, follow our guide to find the best pregnancy test for early detection and accurate results.
How We Made Our Choices
Pregnancy test manufacturers make a lot of claims about their accuracy. Often, that’s just what these statements are—claims.
We didn’t take the manufacturer’s claims at face value. Instead, we looked for independent research that backed up their claims. We also combined it with customer feedback on the accuracy and ease of use. We combined customer feedback with published investigations because customer feedback in this area isn’t necessarily an indicator of accuracy.
We also included a broad selection of pregnancy test options suitable for women who intend to take the test once or twice and those working with fertility specialists to improve their chances of getting pregnant.
Roundup: Our Picks for the Best Pregnancy Test for Early Detection and Accurate Results
Home pregnancy tests scan your urine for the pregnancy hormone human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG). hCG starts appearing right after the fertilized egg implants or becomes attached to the wall of your uterus.
Implantation usually happens six days after fertilization, which may or may not be the day you last had sexual intercourse. Although, the egg may implant earlier or later than six days, too.
Once implantation happens, hCG snowballs, which is how home pregnancy tests determine whether you are pregnant.
We reviewed our picks for the best pregnancy test for early detection and accurate results here.
The First Response manual test is the best over-the-counter test currently available by a long shot.
It retains the manual style reading, but it doesn’t take a genius to decipher it. More importantly, it’s the most accurate test you can buy outside of your doctor’s office.
You might know First Response because it has an excellent marketing team and the budget to boot. But it’s more than flashy advertising. Peer-reviewed studies investigated the validity of First Choice’s claims and found them to be true.
One study used the at-home test among forty urine samples from women in the early stages of pregnancy. First Response detected 97 percent of the 120 pregnancies tested on the first day the woman missed her period.
The same study compared the results of the claims made by two other at-home pregnancy contenders: EPT and ClearBlue. Both brands also claim to detect greater than 99 percent of early pregnancies, but scientists found that EPT detected only 54 percent of pregnancies on the manual test and 67 percent of pregnancies on the digital test. The ClearBlue manual and digital tests came in at 64 percent and 54 percent respectively.
We like First Response because it doesn’t just test for the presence of hCG. Unlike almost every other test, it also looks for all of the early pregnancy hormones:
It also allows you to double and triple-check your result. Instead of trying to decipher colors or lines, one package includes two line tests and one digital test to take on the same day or across multiple days—whatever works best for you.
Finally, it’s worth noting that First Response comes in several variations.
First Response Early Result Pregnancy Tests come with two or three pregnancy tests include a line test that detects pregnancy six days before you miss your period.
First Response Gold Pregnancy Test is a digital test that comes in a two-pack. It also identifies pregnancy hormones six days before the first day of your missed period.
First Response Rapid Result Pregnancy Test is a line test that starts detecting pregnancy from the day of your missed period. Although it detects pregnancy later, it provides the results in one minute instead of three.
The gold-standard test described in our review is the First Response Test & Confirm Pregnancy Test. It includes an Early Result Pregnancy Test and a Gold Digital Pregnancy Test for ultimate clarity. It also picks up pregnancy hormones as soon as six days before a missed period.
The bottom line: if you want to know whether you’re pregnant on the first day of your missed period and you want the best chance at an accurate result, then First Response should always be your first choice.
It’s harder to make a compelling case for another pregnancy test when research results declare First Response the clear winner in the category the best pregnancy test for early pregnancy and accurate results.
ClearBlue claims to offer an accurate detection rate of over 99 percent. However, as noted in the independent study earlier, ClearBlue only detected early pregnancies 64 percent of the time when using the manual test and 54 percent of the time with the digital test.
Strangely, accuracy isn’t everything. If you struggle to use or read your pregnancy test, then you automatically skew the results.
ClearBlue offers something First Response doesn’t: a more user-friendly design for first-timers. The ClearBlue tests come with a big sponge tip, which means that the accuracy with which you provide your sample allows for some leniency and claims to offer a “no-mess” experience. It is also a digital test, which offers clear answers when the reading is ready.
The wide sponge tip is a big selling point. Whatever the inherent accuracy of pregnancy tests, user error plays a role. By minimizing the amount of room for error, it improves the likelihood that you will get an accurate result on the first test.
ClearBlue products come as either the Rapid Detection Pregnancy Test or the Digital Pregnancy Test with Smart Countdown. Both tests detect pregnancy beginning on the day you expected your period to start.
The Digital Pregnancy Test with Smart Countdown reassures you that the test isn’t faulty by counting down as it works to decipher your results.
At the same time, ClearBlue may produce more false positives than the First Response test, mainly if you buy the digital version. Digital tests, in general, are the most erroneous tests of the bunch, so we recommend sticking to manual whenever you can.
E.p.t. Early Pregnancy Test
E.p.t. is the final best-known early-detection pregnancy test. Again, it does not come with the peer-reviewed accuracy found in First Response, but it is a well-reviewed test.
E.p.t. claims to have 99 percent accuracy, but it does not allow you to test as early as First Response does. It only has the sensitivity to detect pregnancy from the first day of menstruation. E.p.t. says you can try to use it before you begin menstruating, but if you do, only use it right away in the morning when you use the bathroom for the first time.
It’s easier for the test to detect hCG right away in the morning because the hormone appears in a greater concentration.
The benefit of buying e.p.t is its commitment to making the process simple. It’s a mid-stream test, but using it is fairly straightforward. To use the stick, you remove the purple cap and point it downward and be careful to avoid pointing the tip upwards.
We like that you can also use it in a urine cup if you struggle with the dexterity required for a midstream test.
The test also produces easy-to-read results. If you are pregnant, a plus sign appears in the display window. If it does not detect pregnancy hormones, a dash shows up in the window.
PREGMATE Pregnancy HCG Test Strips
PREGMATE Pregnancy HCG test strips are new to the game, but the brand offers a stepping stone between the mid-stream sticks and the basic strips provided in budget packs.
PREGMATE claims to detect pregnancy as soon as five days before you miss your period. The manufacturer also says the results are 99.8 percent accurate and the product has FDA approval.
However, it offers the same sensitivity level as most other brands—25 mIU/mL. The sensitivity also happens to be the minimum FDA standard.
To use the test, you must first urinate into a sample cup. Then, you’ll place the strip into the full cup and remove it after three seconds.
Lay the strip flat on a surface and wait five minutes.
Reading the results is straightforward. You’ll see two color bands in the control and test zones if you are pregnant, and only one color band in the control zone if the test does not pick up a pregnancy.
You may notice that the intensity of the color bands doesn’t match what you’d expect. The color indicates how much hCG appears in your urine, and it might be stronger if you are further along or fainter if it is still very early in your pregnancy.
If you find that there’s no visible band or a band appears in the test side but not in the control zone, then your test is invalid. In that case, you’ll likely need to take another one to get a result. The box comes with 25 test strips, so that’s not a problem.
ClinicalGuard HCG Pregnancy Strips
Are you buying pregnancy tests on a regular basis and want to save some cash? The ClinicalGuard HCG Pregnancy Strips are by far the least expensive pregnancy test according to each use. At half the price of other name-brand tests, these work well when you’re on a strict budget.
Plus, you can buy these in a box of 20, 25, or 50, whereas most tests come in packs of two to five.
These strips differ from the sticks found among premium brands like ClearBlue or First Response. Instead of urinating directly on the stick, you’ll need to use a urine test cup. You’ll then place the strip into the cup to test your urine.
If the strip detects pregnancy, it shows a positive by displaying distinct color bands in the Test and Control Zones. Should the test come back negative, you’ll see only one color band in the control zone.
What You Need to Know About At-Home Pregnancy Tests
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At-home pregnancy tests make a lot of claims in the name of marketing, but they do not necessarily explain why their tests allegedly work better than their competition.
We break down the science of the pregnancy test so that you can better understand what you’re buying from the beginning and make an informed decision.
HCG: What It Is and Why It Matters
Human Chorionic Gonadotropin (HCG) is the pregnancy hormone that appears as soon as you conceive. It is the hormone that at-home tests measure to determine a positive or negative result. HGC is also why test sensitivity makes such a significant difference in test accuracy.
As soon as the embryo implants, the level of HCG in your urine increases from its basal level, or what you carry all the time, and grows slowly to 5 mIU/mL, which occurs right after implantation. The amount of HCG in your urine increases at a rate of double every 48 hours during the first few weeks that you are pregnant.
So, from implantation, your HCG level is five mIU/ML, but two days later, it is around ten mIU/ML. After four days, it is 20 mIU/ML.
Your pregnancy test uses a strip that is sensitive to the concentration of HCG in your urine. As a result, pregnancy tests become more accurate as your pregnancy advances because you have a much higher level of HCG as time passes.
Assuming you have a 28-day menstrual cycle, you will identify hCG in your urine around two weeks (or 12-15 days) after you ovulate.
The FDA requires pregnancy tests to be sensitive to as little as 25 mIU/mL.
When Should You Take a Pregnancy Test?
If you take a home test, you should wait until seven days after you miss your period to get the most accurate results. It will avoid a false positive, and if you are pregnant, you will have significantly more hCG in your blood than you will during the first few days of your missed period.
Are you actively trying to conceive? You don’t have to wait until you miss your period, but you should wait a minimum of a week after you have unprotected sex before trying the test. Your body needs time after conception to develop enough hCG that’s detectable by a home test.
If you feel anxious and want to test early and often, avoid it as long as you can. Resist the temptation to avoid the emotional ups and downs that come with early testing.
Why Do I Have Mixed Results?
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If you take multiple tests either as part of a recommended pack or for your own piece of mind, you may find that your tests provide conflicting results.
Why could this happen? False-positives do occur, but if you are pregnant, you may find that some of the less sensitive tests aren’t suitable for multiple tests within a few hours or even the same day.
When a test looks for a minimum threshold of 25 mIU/mL, it may detect it the first time you take the test. However, the concentration of pregnancy hormones may drop after you urinate, especially if you are still early along. As a result, your first test could be positive but your second could result negative.
Try to avoid rapid-fire pregnancy testing and using a confirmation test at least a day after you take your initial test.
Should I Choose a Blood Test?
Are you having a difficult time with your home pregnancy test or want to double or triple-check that your home test didn’t produce a false positive?
Your next step awaits at your general physician’s office.
Doctors may use urine or blood tests, but if you have already taken a urine test at home, you’ll generally receive a blood test in the office. Blood tests also look for the level of hCG in your system, but it searches your blood instead of your urine.
A blood test can detect your pregnancy earlier than anything you can buy at home. At-home tests can detect pregnancy usually from the first day of a missed menses. Blood tests can tell around a week after you ovulate, but doctors may only order them ten days after your missed period. However, the results may take longer to get, so you may not get the results faster than you would with a home test.
There are two blood tests. If you want confirmation of a pregnancy, you’ll receive a qualitative hCG test, which merely offers a yes or no answer. A quantitative-style test measures your hCG levels precisely. Quantitative tests better serve women who are miscarrying or who might have an ectopic pregnancy.