For sexually active hetero couples who don't want to conceive, avoiding pregnancy is a task that requires constant diligence. No matter which type of birth control you’re using, nothing is going to be 100 percent foolproof, so both partners should communicate clearly at all times to make sure you’re taking the proper precautions. No matter how careful you are, things happen, and sex doesn’t always go as planned. What should you do in these situations? Suddenly, you find yourself wondering when you should take a pregnancy test and whether this means you should low-key start to panic.
Taking a pregnancy test might not sound fun, but sometimes it’s a necessary step to protect your health. After all, knowledge is power, and if you do happen to be in the early stages of pregnancy, you’ll want to know sooner rather than later so you can start researching your options. There are several surprising scenarios that could result in a pregnancy, and when they happen to you, it can be scary sometimes. But we've all been there! You’re definitely not the only one who has had these worries, no matter how alone you might feel. We're all in this together. As surprising as it sounds, almost half of pregnancies in the United States are unintended, according to the Guttmacher Institute — what? So, taking control of your health and your body, and taking the time to check in with yourself, is super empowering. Here are some scenarios when you should probably take a pregnancy test, according to experts.
You Missed Your Period
This is the most telltale sign that something unusual might be happening in your body. Especially if your periods are usually pretty predictable, you’ll want to take a test as soon as you notice something is off. “It’s useful starting on the first day of your missed period,” says Dr. Janelle Luk, so go ahead and pick up a test once you notice the issue. It’s likely that things are totally normal and your cycle is just a bit late, but it’s always a great option to take the test and stay up-to-date on your health.
If your period is typically irregular, try downloading a period tracker app so you can keep track of your cycle each month. This way you'll know exactly when to expect Aunt Flo — no guesswork needed.
You’ve Been Having Unprotected Sex
Whether the condom broke or you just didn’t use one in the heat of the moment, it’s smart to take a pregnancy test in this scenario. “They may have had a condom break during sex, and perhaps they used a morning-after pill but are still anxious,” explains Dr. Mary Jane Minkin. “They might want to do a First Response kit." First Response kits are early pregnancy tests that can be taken as soon as six days before your period is supposed to start. You can order them on Amazon ($13 for a pack of three) or pick them up at your local drugstore. If you can wait to see whether you miss your period, the test will likely be more accurate if you wait until the first day after your missed period. But even so, First Response is a great option for when you’re feeling anxious AF and just want to get some peace of mind. Then, if your period ends up being late, it's smart to take another test just to be sure.
Also, remember that even one instance of unprotected sex can cause a pregnancy. “One common myth is that having just one episode of unprotected intercourse will not get you pregnant,” Dr. Shahin Ghadir notes. “That is completely false, especially because good sperm can last inside the body anywhere between two to five days.” Stay attentive, people! Protection is crucial!
You’ve Got A Big Party Coming Up
Even if you’ve been using birth control, it’s never guaranteed to work perfectly, and you may want to take a pregnancy test before a big night of drinking. Alcohol is extremely harmful for a developing fetus, so it's best to be safe in this situation. “A woman has been using contraception faithfully, but it’s time for an office party, at which she knows there will be a significant amount of alcohol,” Minkin considers. “She may want to take a pregnancy test to prove to herself she isn’t likely to be pregnant.” You wouldn’t want to be drinking if you happened to be pregnant, so a test can provide some clarity in this scenario.
You’re About To Start A New Medication Or Treatment
“Some acne medications [such as Accutane or Retin-A] are bad for babies,” Luk warns, so she suggests taking a pregnancy test before you were to begin a new form of treatment. You can also wait a few weeks until you get your period. “Start [a new medication] at the beginning of the post-menstrual cycle,” Luk suggests. If you wait until your new cycle begins — on the first day of your period — that’s an easy way to ensure that you’re not carrying a kid. But if you need to start the meds ASAP, take a pregnancy test to cover your bases.
No matter the scenario, pregnancy tests are useful tools for when something seems off with your body and your brain is spiraling out of control with worry. Before you panic, head to the drugstore to pick up a test! It’s completely valid that you might feel nervous, but remember that staying informed is a positive thing. When you’re aware of what’s happening in your body, you can have sex with confidence, knowing that you’re prepared to handle any unexpected plot twist.