Pregnancy tests.... They’re never fun to talk about. But your sexual health is super important, and the more you know about exactly when and why to take a test, the better. Knowledge is power. Every scenario is different, but there are a few specific circumstances in which you probably don’t need to take a pregnancy test at all.
Sometimes, even the thought of whether you might be pregnant can trigger all kinds of questions — you're not alone in this. But that’s why staying aware of your body's status can be so empowering. If you've been sexually active recently and are concerned that your birth control method failed or that something about your body doesn't feel quite right, a quick trip to your nearest drugstore or pharmacy to pick up a pregnancy test could be useful. But believe it or not, gynecologists suggest three scenarios in which you actually don't need to worry about taking a test at all.
So before you rush to your nearest Walgreens and buy 10 pregnancy tests in a daze, read through the circumstances below. If you fall into any of these categories, chances are a pregnancy test won't reveal much.
You’ve Never Had Sex
This might go without saying, but you don’t need to take a test if you’ve never been sexually active. This is actually the only instance when you 100 percent cannot get pregnant! Yay! So rest easy knowing a pregnancy test is a total non-necessity — unless you’re the Virgin Mary or Jane Villanueva, but that’s another story.
You've Gotten Your Period Since The Last Time You Had Sex
You also don’t need to take a pregnancy test if you’ve just gotten your period, and you haven't had sex since then. This is your body’s natural way of telling you that you’re child-free! The time of the month when you’re most fertile is during ovulation, which typically occurs about 14 days into a 28-day cycle. It’s slightly different for everyone, however — Dr. Angela Jones notes that ovulation "depends on her [your] menstrual cycle length; i.e., the number of days in between periods.” So if your cycle is normally 32 days long, you likely ovulate at around day 16. If you're not sure how long your cycle is, you can always use a period tracker to map it out.
That being said, it's common for bleeding and spotting to occur during the early stages of pregnancy, so if your period doesn't seem normal (i.e. early or late, lighter or heavier) you might want to take a test. Dr. Zitao Liu says that knowing your body is key. "In general, if a woman’s cycle and flow are normal, no extra signs of cramping or pain, then she may choose to wait on a pregnancy test," he says. "If she does not have a second regular cycle after, she should look into testing." But of course, if your second cycle hasn't rolled around yet and you're feeling worried, you can always take a test to calm your fears.
Remember that you can still get pregnant if you have sex while on your period — it's uncommon, but it definitely happens. "It is a misconception that you cannot become pregnant when you have your period or are bleeding," Liu says. "Sometimes it is possible to conceive during this time." Be proactive about protection during every phase of your cycle.
You Literally Just Had Sex, Like, Last Night
OK, so I know that the minute you have unprotected sex, you might start immediately thinking you need to take a test. But pump the brakes, because it’s going to be a few days before a positive result could show up. “Don’t do it on the day after sex,” Dr. Janelle Luk advises. “It’s going to be negative.” Instead, wait for at least a week. “For eight to nine days after ovulation, it’s too early to know,” Luk says. After that point, you can take an early-detection pregnancy test, but keep in mind that it will be most accurate beginning on the first day of a missed period.
In any scenario besides these three, it’s probably smart to take a test if you’re concerned about pregnancy. This can give you peace of mind knowing that you’re staying in the loop about your health. No matter how diligent you are, it’s impossible to be perfect when it comes to contraception — but the best thing you can do is arm yourself with knowledge so you feel confident and comfortable no matter the circumstance.