We’ve all been there, whether we’d like to admit it or not: finding yourself frantically Googling “how soon can I get a positive pregnancy test?”, looking for any ounce of encouragement to go ahead and test sooner rather than later. Suddenly, you are knee-deep and hours into scouring “POAS” (pee-on-a-stick) message boards looking for the people who posted joyfully that they got a positive test (albeit a squinty, is-it-or-isn’t-it positive) 3-days post embryo transfer. You head to the bathroom to take yet another test, while your partner is telling you that you’d agreed to wait. “That was then, and this is now babe!”

Testing early can cause more anxiety than it’s worth, especially considering that the two-week-wait is already a time in life that’s filled to the brim with nerves - but let’s be real, it’s such a challenge not to do it anyway! So when it comes to trying to conceive, what’s the real-deal on the earliest you can get a positive pregnancy test? 

How Do At-Home Pregnancy Tests Work?

At-home pregnancy tests work through the detection of the hormone human chorionic gonadotropin, or hCG, which is produced by a person’s body during pregnancy. However, this doesn’t happen right away - hCG needs time to build up in your body. This can cause very early pregnancy tests to read as negative, even if you are pregnant. Most home pregnancy tests will boast 99% accuracy when taken as instructed on the day of your missed period. This means that even if hCG begins to appear in urine a week prior to your expected period in a natural cycle, accuracy can be unreliable at best when testing that early. 

How Early Can You Get a Positive Test After Ovulation? 

Home tests have now advanced to the point of claiming the ability to detect pregnancy as early as eight days post-ovulation. However, this is dependent upon a vast number of variables when it comes to TTC in a natural cycle through intercourse. 

First, this assumes that you know definitively when you have ovulated. This can be done through ovulation predictor kits, another type of at-home urine test. While the “norm” in a 28-day menstrual cycle is stated to be around day 14, every body is different, and every cycle can be different as well. Because at-home pregnancy tests work through the ability to detect hCG in your urine, testing too early can lead to a false negative. If your cycles are irregular or you haven’t been charting them, the best time to take an at-home test with accurate results will be once you have passed your average cycle length.

How Early Can You Get a Positive Test After an IUI?

In an Intrauterine Insemination or IUI cycle, sperm are injected directly into the uterus using a small catheter after the use of frequent monitoring has been done in order to pinpoint the optimal time of insemination. 

When undergoing an IUI, your clinic will likely schedule you for a pregnancy blood test at the 12-14 day mark, leaving you to weather the dreaded “two-week wait”. While it’s best to follow your doctor’s instructions to wait until your blood test, which will be much more accurate than at-home urine tests, getting a positive home test prior to 14 days is possible. 

It can take anywhere from 6 to 12 days after a successful IUI for a fertilized egg to implant, at which point hCG will begin being produced. If implantation occurred at 6 days, you may be able to see a faint positive at-home test on day 9 or 10 following the IUI. 

At-home tests for medicated IUI cycles that include “trigger shots” could also receive false-positive results if the trigger shot has not yet left the body. Trigger shots generally contain anywhere from 5,000 or 10,000 IUs of hCG - meaning it’s best to wait for that blood test to confirm the most accurate results, one way or the other.

How Early Can You Get a Positive Test After an Embryo Transfer?

In an IVF transfer, an embryo is inserted directly into the uterus of the intended carrier after a period of medication and monitoring appointments to determine the optimal window for transfer. However, once the embryo transfer occurs, it still takes a few days for the embryo to implant and the production of hCG to begin.

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Certain early-detection home pregnancy tests may be able to detect a positive result as early as 4-5 days after the transfer of a 5-day embryo. Unfortunately, the same caveats apply to testing early with IVF as they do in a natural or IUI cycle. The risk of false negatives are extremely high if testing too early, while on the flipside you may also receive a false positive due to fertility drugs still existing in your body’s system. 

I Know I’m Going To Test at Home: When Is the Best Time? 

In a natural cycle while not undergoing fertility treatments, your best bet for an early positive will be at least 8 days post-ovulation. If you’ve undergone IUI, the earliest you may see a faint positive indicating a successful procedure is likely 9-10 days following insemination. And if you’ve just made it to the other side of your IVF transfer, the absolute earliest a positive at home test might detect success will be 4 to 5 days post-transfer. 

But while the temptation to test as early as possible is a strong one, the real-deal answer might be the one that we don’t want to hear: it’s best to wait out the two-week wait for your blood test, or wait until your missed period, for the most accurate results.

Lindsey Williams is a library worker and writer who lives in Arizona with her husband and their dog, Peaches. After 5 years of trying to conceive with dual-factor infertility, she is currently expecting her first child conceived with the help of IVF.