For those trying to get pregnant, the wait can be excruciating. Too many couples barely wait six days after ovulation to take a test to see if they are pregnant. The problem with this is that the body simply hasn’t had enough time to go through the completely natural process of fertilization and implantation, and then build up enough hCG to register on a pharmacy test.

So how long do you have to wait before taking a pregnancy test?

The truth is that there is no hard and fast rule about when a test will show up as definitively positive or negative. Each body behaves differently and hormones will build up at different rates for different people.

However, there are general guidelines that you can follow in order to get the best chance of a definitive result. The best thing to do is to wait for 16 days after you ovulate and have sexual intercourse. Basically you should wait for your luteal phase to be over and for the time when menstruation should begin.

For most women, the luteal phase is 14 days. However, anywhere between 12 and 16 days is considered normal. Obviously, the more regular your cycle is, the easier it is to work out when you’ll likely get a definitive result from a pregnancy test. This is because you’ll know exactly when your menstrual period is due to start and, therefore, how long it has been delayed.

You can take a pregnancy test on the first day of delay. However, you may not get a definitive result for a number of reasons. Your cycle may have altered this time round due to stress or anxiety. Alternatively, your body may need more time to build up sufficient amounts of hCG for the test to register.

The longer you wait, the more likely you are to get a definitive answer. Try to wait until your menstrual period is five days late – or your best estimation of this time period. If you get a negative result but still don’t start bleeding, wait another five days and take another test. This will give your body time to settle and hopefully give you the result you are looking for.

How many days should you wait if your cycle is irregular?

This is quite a tricky question to answer properly. An irregular cycle means that you don’t know when you ovulated and how long after that your menstrual period should start.

For most women, an irregular cycle means that your follicular phase varies in length. This is the time when an egg grows to maturation prior to being released from the follicle – ovulation. After ovulation, the time period for almost all women is about two weeks and usually doesn’t vary from cycle to cycle.

The phases of your cycle:

Follicular phase: This is when the ovum are stimulated by hormones to grow and mature. This phase can vary in length from cycle to cycle.

Fertile period: The stage when the dominant egg is released and travels from the ovary towards the uterus. This can last about 7 days.

Luteal phase: This is the phase when the uterus lining thickens in preparation for housing a fertilized embryo. This is usually the same length of time in all cycles.

Menstruation: If a fertilized egg is not successfully implanted in the endometrium, this lining breaks down and is expelled through the vagina as a menstrual period. Once this phase is over, you start with the follicular phase again.

If your cycle is irregular, you can still work out a date that should give you a definitive answer on a pregnancy test. Work from the longest delay you’ve had when it comes to menstruation and then assume that your current cycle won’t be any longer than that. You can then estimate roughly when your menstruation is due to start based on that timeline.

Taking the test too early

Remember, if you take the test before your body has had a chance to implant the egg, you will get a false negative. Always wait until the luteal phase is finished and you should be due to start menstruating.

Not sure when that is? Watch for the signs of the different phases in your cycle. Ovulation can be painful for some women and cause bloating and cramping. During your fertile period, you’ll likely get a thick discharge. Once this ends, you’ve reached the luteal phase and you can count 16 to 20 days from this point.