The Best Way to Take a Pregnancy Test When You're Trying to Conceive

Have you been taking your pregnancy tests all wrong? Taking a test properly is more than just peeing on a stick (or into a cup.) This step-by-step tutorial will tell you the best way to take a pregnancy test, from start to finish.

Stay Calm Mom: Episode 2

Watch all episodes of our Stay Calm Mom video series and follow along as our host Tiffany Small talks to a diverse group of women and top doctors to get real answers to the biggest pregnancy questions.


A Positive Pregnancy Test: Now What?

Gather Your Supplies

You need…

  • pregnancy test
  • A disposable cup (if you’re using the dip stick kind of pregnancy test)
  • A timer (probably got one on your phone)
  • A pleasant morning hour (You really should take the test in the morning.)
  • Your calendar or fertility chart
  • Your favorite chocolate (Just in case… we won’t talk about why, so we don’t jinx it, but I know you know why.)

Since it’s best to take the test in the morning with your first morning urine, you might want to consider gathering these supplies the night before you take the test.

Just set them up in your bathroom or on your bedside table or dresser.


Check the Date

Pregnancy test sitting on a calendar
Taking a pregnancy test on the right date -- and not too early -- is half the battle. Resist the urge to test early. numbeos / Getty Images

Take the pregnancy test one day after your period is late. What does that mean?

If you expect to get your period Wednesday, then Thursday is one day late.

Not sure how to know when your period is coming? Hopefully you’ve been keeping a fertility calendar with your menstrual cycle dates, at the very least. Look at the longest normal cycle you’ve had, and you should wait at least that many days before testing.

Ideally, take the pregnancy test in the morning, with your first urination. The pregnancy hormone—if there is any—will be higher then, making it more likely the pregnancy test will detect it. While you can take many pregnancy tests in the middle of the day, especially if your period is a few days late.

Resist taking the pregnancy test early. One sign you’re taking the test too early is that you can’t bear to wait until the next morning. You've been trying to conceive and your period isn't even really overdue. Can’t resist? Well, at least make sure your fertility treatments (if you’ve had any) won’t interfere with the result. If you had a trigger shot, that means waiting 10 days.


Read the Directions on the Test

Woman reading pregnancy test directions
Don't skip reading the directions. There's information you need in there. BSIP:UIG / Getty Images

This is a necessary step. Unless you’ve taken this particular brand and kind of test before, read the directions.

Things to take note of include:

  • Do you need to pee on a stick or into a cup?
  • For how long do you need to hold the stick in the urine stream?
  • Is there a cap to remove on the test stick?
  • Do you need to replace the cap on the stick after taking the test?
  • If you dip a strip into a cup, for how long do you need to do that?
  • If a cartridge test, where do you put the urine drops?
  • How many minutes should you wait before reading the results?
  • After how many minutes should you NOT read the result? (Reading a result significantly after the recommended max time can lead to seeing a false positive, or an “evap” line.)
  • How do you know the test is working properly?
  • What does a negative result look like? (Just one line? The words Not Pregnant?)
  • What does a positive result look like? (A plus sign? An extra line? The word Pregnant?)

Pee on a Stick or Into the Cup

Woman taking the cap off a pregnancy test
Don't forget to take the cap off! Many people forget when they're feeling nervous. Thinkstock Images / Getty Images

Now, time to take the test. If you’re peeing into a cup, grab your cup and go.

If you’re peeing on a stick, remember to take the cap off the test, if it has one. (This is a very common step people skip when they are nervous.)

Take a quick peek at the directions again and note how long you need to pee on the stick and how you should hold the test when taking it. Then do it.

If you peed into a cup, and you’re ready to dip the strip in, take note of how long you should do this for.

If you have a cartridge style test, you may need to use a dropper to drip the urine into the test well. (Don’t drip it into the test window, where the results show up.)

Once you’re finished, set the test aside and wash your hands.


Set the Test Aside and Set Your Timer

Woman setting her timer on a phone
Setting a timer allows you to distract yourself while anxiously awaiting the pregnancy test results. AstronautImages / Getty Images

Now, take a quick look back at the directions and see how long you’re supposed to wait before looking at the results.

It’s probably about 3 minutes. Set your timer and walk away. It is tempting to watch the test change colors, but all you will do is go through 1,001 moods in those 181 seconds. But don’t walk away from the test without setting a timer. If you do that, you might stay away too long.

Reading a test significantly after the maximum wait time (usually about 10 minutes) can result in false positives or negatives.

What can you do while you wait, without losing your mind? How about...

  • Watch one of your favorite funny YouTube videos.
  • Call up a friend for a quick three-minute chat. (I know it’s early, but you can call your best friend even early in the morning, right?)
  • Go make yourself a cup of tea. 
  • Put in a load of laundry or load/unload the dishwasher.
  • Turn on a song that makes you happy, do a little dance. No sad songs, please! Don’t torture yourself.

Read Your Results

Woman reading her pregnancy test results
Make sure you read the results within the time frames recommended for your pregnancy test. AndersenRoss / Getty Images

Has your timer gone off? Time to read the results. Hopefully, you read the directions and you know what a negative or positive is supposed to look like.

If you took a digital test, reading the results will be easy. It will say the words Pregnant or Not Pregnant.

If it's the kind of test that shows lines, usually...

  • One pink line means negative
  • Two pink lines mean positive
  • No lines means the test didn't work

That lonely line that means negative isn't there just to tease you. That line also lets you know that the test is working.

Depending on which test you took, two pink lines (for positive) may be parallel or they may be perpendicular, making a plus sign (for positive!). 


Process the Results

Woman holding positive pregnancy test result and cup of tea
Find support for your results online, whether you get a negative or a positive. Alexey Tkachenko / Getty Images

Just because you read the results doesn’t mean you’ve accepted them or even believed them. This can be true with both a positive or negative result.

If the test is negative:

Got that chocolate I told you to have nearby, when you collected your supplies?

Take it out now. While you munch, keep reading.

Getting a negative pregnancy test result can be heartbreaking, especially when you get them month after month. It’s even more painful if you’ve had fertility treatments.

But remember... until Aunt Flo (ie, your period) arrives, the month isn’t officially over. You may have taken the test too early, or there may not be enough pregnancy hormone in your urine yet.

Don’t give up hope yet.

If the test is positive:

If you’ve got a positive result, congratulations!! 

You can take out that chocolate too. I bet you can use it.

Getting a positive result can be exciting and scary, especially if you’ve been trying for months or years.

In this moment, though, try to enjoy it.

Just for this moment, you’re pregnant… yay!

If you think the test is positive, but you’re not sure:

If you think you’ve got a positive, but you’re not sure, well, welcome to the club.

You either have a very positive result but can’t believe you’re finally pregnant.

Or there’s no second line there, and you’re just imagining it.

Don’t feel bad if this describes you. We’ve all been there.

Show the test to a friend or to your partner. Ask them what they see.

You can also take a picture of the test and post it in any number of fertility forums, or on social media. Someone will be happy to read your result and offer comfort or reassurance

By Rachel Gurevich, RN
Rachel Gurevich is a fertility advocate, author, and recipient of The Hope Award for Achievement, from Resolve: The National Infertility Association. She is a professional member of the Association of Health Care Journalists and has been writing about women’s health since 2001. Rachel uses her own experiences with infertility to write compassionate, practical, and supportive articles.