How Many Days After Sex Will I Know If I’m Pregnant?

Many women experience symptoms like spotting and breast tenderness before they get a positive pregnancy test. These early symptoms are usually due to hormonal changes that happen during a pregnancy.

There is only a short time (known as the “fertile window”) when you can get pregnant from unprotected sex. This is because the egg must be fertilized by sperm within that window.

1. The Fertile Window

You’re most fertile the day of your ovulation and in the days leading up to and including it. During this window, estrogen levels are rising and cervical mucus can become slippery and stringy — characteristics that make it easier for sperm to get through to the egg. If sperm can reach and fertilize the egg, pregnancy can result. Fertile windows are different for every woman, and can even be different from month to month in the same woman.

Knowing your fertile window can help you plan when to have sex, though it’s not entirely foolproof. There are no completely accurate methods to predict ovulation, and even the most reliable tools like ovulation predictor kits, basal body temperature charts, and cervical mucus tracking can give you slightly different ovulation dates.

One way to determine your ovulation date is to track your period for a few months using a menstrual diary or smartphone app. But the only definitive way to know for sure is through a blood test, which can detect the presence of human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) much earlier than a urine test. hCG is produced when a fertilized egg implants itself in the uterus, which usually happens six to 12 days after ovulation. If you’re trying to conceive, your doctor can also inject hCG in order to trigger ovulation and create a more predictable fertile window.

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2. Symptoms

Pregnancy symptoms start when the fertilized egg attaches to the lining of your uterus, which usually happens six to 12 days after you’ve ovulated. This is when you may begin to experience cramps (often felt in the lower back or abdomen) or have a light pink or brown spotting. Spotting is usually mild and doesn’t fill up a pad or tampon, but it could be the earliest sign of pregnancy for some women.

You may also notice a sudden, increased desire to pee, which is due to the pregnancy hormone hCG. This increases blood flow to your kidneys, helping them flush out waste more efficiently. You may also notice a change in your appetite or an increased sensitivity to certain smells.

Most women will have one or more of these symptoms in early pregnancy. But remember, not everyone experiences these signs of pregnancy, and there are plenty of women who conceive and never get their period or experience no symptoms at all. If you are concerned about an unplanned pregnancy, a gynecologist can test your urine for the pregnancy hormone hCG. They can tell you whether or not you are pregnant, and they can give you information about a variety of options to prevent a pregnancy after unprotected sex. These include the ELLA IUD, the Paragard IUD, and generic Plan B medications.

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3. Taking a Pregnancy Test

A pregnancy test checks a sample of your urine (pee) or blood for a specific hormone called human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG). hCG levels increase after a fertilized egg attaches to the wall of your uterus in a process called implantation. Pregnancy tests can detect hCG in your body up to ten weeks after conception, but they’re more accurate when you take them a week or two after you think you might be pregnant.

Most tests can only tell you whether hCG is present, but some can also give you a number of how much hCG is in your sample. These are called quantitative hCG tests and require a blood sample from your arm. Blood samples are collected at a doctor’s office or hospital and sent to a laboratory for testing, which can take up to a couple of days.

Urine tests can be taken at any time of day, but it’s best to test in the morning so you can get a more accurate reading. You can also dilute the concentration of hCG in your urine by drinking a lot of water before taking a pregnancy test. A negative result means that no hCG was detected in your sample, but if you’ve had a positive test and your period hasn’t started, it may be a sign of an ectopic pregnancy, which can be life-threatening.

4. Pregnancy Options

Whether you’re trying to conceive or worried about an unplanned pregnancy, it’s normal to want to know as soon as possible. But getting accurate results depends on your menstrual cycle and the timing of your ovulation, and not every pregnancy test is exactly the same.

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The earliest most pregnancy tests can detect a positive result is about 10 days after you have unprotected sex. But for more accurate results, you should wait until your missed period (or about 21 days after ovulation) to take the test.

That’s because the fertilized egg needs to develop and then implant itself into the lining of your uterus to start a pregnancy. Once that happens, your body starts to produce the hormone hCG, which is what most pregnancy tests look for. You’ll only begin to produce hCG once your fertilized egg has implanted in the uterus, which typically takes about two weeks after you have unprotected sex.

If you’re concerned about an unplanned pregnancy, you can use emergency contraception within five days of unprotected sex to reduce your chances of pregnancy. The morning-after pill, also known as Plan B or ella, works the same as any other birth control and can be bought over-the-counter at drug stores without a prescription in all states. You can also go to a clinic or health center for a permanent form of birth control, like the Paragard IUD or ella or generic Plan B medication.

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