It used to be that you had to wait for your period to NOT start before you could even suspect pregnancy. Even then, due to irregular periods, it might not be obvious for several months. These days, there are fairly accurate pregnancy tests that can detect hCG (the pregnancy hormone) within days of the missed menstrual cycle.
Pregnancy tests no longer need to be taken once you have missed your period, although the closer you get to your expected menstruation date, the less likely you are to receive a false negative. In order to know the best date to test you should determine the date of ovulation and track your DPO (days past ovulation) to know when the test is most likely to be accurate.
Keep reading to learn what DPO is, why it is important for pregnancy testing, and how long you really need to wait.
What is DPO?
DPO is the common abbreviation for Days Past Ovulation. That is, the day the egg is released from a woman’s ovaries is ovulation day. In order for her to get pregnant, this egg only has a small window in which it can be fertilized. Knowing this day can make it easier to begin (or avoid) a pregnancy.
If you’ve spent any time in pregnancy forums, you’ve probably come across some posts that seem like they were written in code! There’s a wide world of fertility, pregnancy, and baby language that you may need to know to understand what the posters are saying.
Here are a couple more helpful abbreviations explained:
hCG – Human Chorionic Gonadotropin. This hormone is made by the placenta of a growing baby. It is detectable in a pregnant woman’s blood and urine long before she starts growing a baby bump. Pregnancy tests (both at home and the doctor’s office) test for this.
OPK – Ovulation Predictor Kits. These are usually sets of strips that detect Luteinizing hormone (LH). This rises significantly just before an egg is released, so high levels indicate ovulation will occur within 12 to 36 hours.
BBT – Basal Body Temperature. This is resting baseline temperature, usually taken upon waking in the morning. It can fluctuate during the day due to activity levels, so it’s important to measure first thing in the morning. This will stay consistently lower before ovulation, and stay elevated from the time the egg is released until menstruation occurs.
Menstrual cycles generally fall into a 28-day rhythm (though there is a huge amount of variability due to health and individuality). According to this pattern, ovulation (the day the egg is released from the ovaries) occurs around day 14, and fertilization and implantation within the few days following. hCG levels are detectable between 6 and 14 days afterward. But the day often varies from cycle to cycle, and immensely from person to person, so simply assuming the day you ovulate can miss the mark significantly.
Pinpointing the day you ovulate can mean knowing (or avoiding) pregnancy more accurately than guessing based on the calendar.
Does DPO include ovulation day?
When figuring days past ovulation, start counting the day after you ovulate.
Ovulation day is figured as Day 0, the first day DPO is Day 1.
How to determine DPO
Because there are no outward signs that ovulation is happening it can be a bit tricky to figure out your DPO.
The first thing you need to do to figure your DPO is to actually determine the date you ovulated. There are several ways to do this at home, including through ovulation predictor kits (OPK) or tracking your basal body temperature (BBT). Once you know the date of ovulation, the next day is 1 DPO, the day after that is 2 DPO, and so forth.
For example, if you ovulate on Monday, Tuesday is 1 DPO, Wednesday is 2 DPO, and so on.
Determining DPO with OPK (ovulation predictor kits)
Of course, there are some products out there that can help you determine your ovulation dates.
Ovulation predictor kits are the most accurate way of tracking your ovulation, but it is possible to receive a range of positives across a 2-3 day period. In that case, you will want to use the day that your ovulation kit displays the strongest positive as 0 DPO.
There are many ovulation predictor tests (OPKs) on the market, such as the Clearview Advanced Digital Ovulation Kit or the Easy@Home Ovulation Test Strips. You may want to consider trying different types of tests if you are regularly getting an inconsistent test result, or you might want to try coupling the test kit with tracking your BBT to determine the exact day of ovulation.
Tracking DPO through BBT (basal body temperature)
Traditionally, many women have used their basal body temperature readings to track ovulation to get pregnant or avoid pregnancy.
Prior to ovulation, baseline body temp (BBT) stays constant. On the day of ovulation, it rises several incremental points and stays elevated until menstruation begins the next cycle.
The trick to catching the change is to check temperature daily, the moment you wake and before movement affects the baseline. Tracking this over time can give women a solid evidence-based hypothesis for when ovulation day will occur.
A simple thermometer and piece of paper to chart the changes can be sufficient. There are also great apps (like Kindara or Fertility Friend) that do the graphing if you insert the temp. Some even have thermometers that communicate with the app themselves!
Some wearable thermometers take all the guesswork out of temp charting as well. The Ava bracelet and the Tempdrop armband are two such devices that monitor your temperature all night. Some of these even have an accompanying app, so all you have to do is glance at your phone to check for ovulation day! As these are relatively new tech, the jury is still out on their accuracy.
Why is DPO important?
If you want to get pregnant then you must figure out when your ovulation happens so that you can time intercourse correctly and have the best chance of conceiving.
Ultimately, the chances of knowing you’re pregnant as soon as possible increase if you’re aware of what’s going on in your cycle. Tracking methods coupled with testing get the earliest results. Being aware of fluctuations in your normal cycle is a great way to be in tune with your health and hormones.
How many DPO for BFP (big fat positive)?
Many women use a combination of the methods above to track fertility.
The generally accepted advice is to wait about 2 weeks – or around the time of your missed period – to test for pregnancy. But once you can pinpoint ovulation, it may be less than a week until you can potentially take a positive pregnancy test!
Let’s check out a day-to-day comparison:
Can you test at 4 DPO?
You can test, but the fertilized egg (if there is one), is probably only just reaching the uterine lining about now. Try to wait a few days for the hormones to increase. Once implantation occurs, the placenta will begin to release hCG (human chorionic gonadotropin), some of which will be released into mom’s blood and urine. This is what pregnancy tests measure.
Can you test at 6 DPO?
At this point, even if you are pregnant, you have a 96% chance of a false negative.
The hCG hormones, if they’re there, are difficult to detect. Only about 1 in 28 pregnant women will see a faint positive sign.
Can you test at 7 DPO?
It’s early, but maybe! You have a 92% chance of a false negative a week after ovulation. But one in 13 women will see a faint positive on a pregnancy test.
Can you test at 9 DPO?
Almost even potential today! 52% of women will get a false negative; about 47% will see a positive! hCG hormones double every day after implantation, so some tests may be able to detect it.
Can you test at 10 DPO?
One-third of women will still get false negatives at 10 days, but 66% will see that faint pink line!
Can you test at 11 DPO?
At this point, your doctor can order a blood test that will detect a pregnancy. But you’re getting close at home – nearly 80% of over-the-counter pregnancy tests will show positive now.
Can you test at 12 DPO?
One in seven pregnant women will still get a false negative, but the likelihood of a positive is growing by the day. Some women will begin to experience light, early pregnancy symptoms.
Can you test at 13 DPO?
About 10% of women will still see a false negative, but the chances of positives are high. If your cycle is less than 28 days, your missed period is a major clue.
Can you test at 14 DPO?
Chances are in your favor; 92% of pregnancies are detectable now. Pregnancy symptoms may be increasingly noticeable.
Can you test at 15 or more DPO?
The longer you wait, the more pregnancy hormones will increase, making a positive test more likely. If you are pregnant, the absence of your period will be a big indication that major life changes are in your future.
Testing for a BFP (Big Fat Positive) at different DPO (Days Past Ovulation)
|DPO (Days Past Ovulation)||Chance of Accurate Positive||Chance of False Negative|
Here is a big chart showing how your likelihood of getting either a false negative or confirmed positive changes day-to-day!