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For couples who are trying to conceive their first baby, everything is new and exciting from coming off birth control to taking folic acid, and from knowing that your intimacy can now create life to debating whether to go back to work after you have a bab

There is nothing quite like the period some women call the "two-week wait", though. You know, those weeks between ovulation and expected menstruation where you know you could be pregnant, but can't yet tell if you really did get lucky this month.

 Are you post-ovulation and feeling a little tired, experiencing some cravings, or actually vomiting? Of course you are wondering if you are pregnant, and of course you want your speculations and hopes to end with a positive pregnancy test as quickly as possible. So, when can you take a pregnancy test? What is the earliest time at which you can take a pregnancy test?

Ovulation, fertilization and implantation

To understand when we can take a pregnancy test, we'll first have to go back to some basic biology. After ovulation, the time a mature egg is released from the ovaries, that egg remains viable for 12 to 24 hours. This is the short window during which conception, or fertilization of the egg, can take place. You may have had intercourse right before that egg was released, or sperm may still be present in your reproductive tract when ovulation happens.

Because of sperm's ability to stay alive in the female body for up to seven days, the fertile window itself lasts around a week. After fertilization, the egg will make its way down to the uterus and implant there. This implantation happens between seven and 1o days after fertilization, with some exceptions. A component of the egg (the same component that will later become the placenta) will start emitting the hormone to which a pregnancy test reacts at that point. Human Chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) is first produced in minute quantities, but the levels will rise as pregnancy continues.

Can you tell you got pregnant right away? Is there any such thing as conception symptoms? Some women swear they have symptoms almost immediately, but you can never quite know for sure until you miss your period.

HCG and pregnancy tests

That is where pregnancy tests come in. Pregnancy tests show a negative result if they do not find hCG in the urine, and a positive result if they detect hCG. Pregnancy tests come at various sensitivity levels, meaning that not all pregnancy tests react if there is only a tiny amount of hCG in the urine.

This is the reason why most pregnancy tests are not going to be accurate until the day of the missed period. There are some pregnancy tests on the market that are more sensitive. This means they can show a positive pregnancy test even right after implantation when the levels of hCG are still low. Using the most concentrated urine you produce the first morning urine, because you didn't take in any fluids while you were sleeping is most likely to get a positive result early on in the game. Should you use a very early pregnancy test, or should you wait until you miss your period after all?

There are two things to take into account when you make this decision. First off, the chances are that you are pregnant and still test too early for your test to figure that out. This results in a waste of money and unneeded disappointment. More importantly, though, as much as 50 percent of very early pregnancies end in miscarriage.

These pregnancies are known as chemical pregnancies, and though an egg was fertilized the woman won't realize it because the very early miscarriage looks no different than a normal menstrual period does. Taking an early pregnancy test may mean you catch a pregnancy that won't continue, and will cause confusion, sadness, and worry for the future. Besides, there is something quite special about waiting for that missed period to see if you really are pregnant.

Why say no to this exciting period of anticipation by taking a very early pregnancy test? While you are waiting until you miss your period and the time is right, you may like to speculate about those really early pregnancy symptoms. Read: Think you may be pregnant? Signs to watch out for!

  • Photo courtesy of 123rf (stock photos)
  • Photo courtesy of 123rf (stock photos)