Can Alcohol Affect a Pregnancy Test? Yes and No
When taken correctly, pregnancy tests are estimated to be 99% accurate. While this means that they are incredibly reliable, it also means that there are certain factors that may impact their reliability.
In this article, we’ll be covering one of those factors… and that’s alcohol! Read on to learn all about how alcohol may indirectly affect the accuracy of a pregnancy test, why that is, and what’s going on in your body when you drink. We’ll also share a few practical tips for how to take a pregnancy test correctly in order to maximize your chances of receiving an accurate result.
Can alcohol affect a pregnancy test?
Alcohol on its own does not directly affect the accuracy of a pregnancy test.
However, drinking too much alcohol can lead to dehydration which may indirectly affect a test’s accuracy if you are in the early days of pregnancy. This is because dehydration can lead to increased water consumption, which may dilute the amount of hCG (human chorionic gonadotropin) in urine and cause a false-negative result.
Drinking and your body: what’s going on
How drinking alcohol or excess fluids can affect pregnancy tests
Before we dive into how alcohol can affect the accuracy of your pregnancy test, here’s a quick recap of how exactly pregnancy tests work.
Urine pregnancy tests are designed to detect the hormone human chorionic gonadotropin (also known as hCG).
Everyone’s body produces hCG, with the normal “baseline” hCG level for non-pregnant individuals being less than 5 mIU/ml. For pregnant individuals, hCG levels are much higher (up to 100+ mIU/ml). In fact, from the moment implantation occurs, hCG levels rise rapidly and double every 2-3 days throughout the first month of pregnancy.
Once hCG levels are above the baseline level of 5 mIU/ml, they can be detected in a pregnancy test. Typically, hCG levels will be above 5 mIU/ml by 12 days past ovulation (DPO), however, individual cases and timings can vary.
Even though pregnancy tests are 99% accurate at detecting elevated hCG levels, they can still be affected by the amount of fluid in your system. Why? Because drinking lots of fluids can dilute your hCG levels and make them harder to detect. In turn, this may cause a pregnancy test to display a negative result even if you are in fact pregnant.
Can alcohol cause a false-positive pregnancy test?
Alcohol consumption is typically associated with false-negatives and not false-positives. This is because drinking alcohol often causes dehydration, leading to excess water consumption and the dilution of hCG in urine.
The most common causes of false-positive results include previous miscarriage, abortion, molar pregnancy, certain medications and/or medical conditions, and misusing/misinterpreting the test.
What if I accidentally drank before I knew I was pregnant?
We all know that drinking alcohol is a big no-no while pregnant. However, if you drank alcohol before you even knew that you were pregnant – don’t panic. Both the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists agree that serious harm to your pregnancy is unlikely.
If you find yourself in this situation, the best thing you can do is to stop all alcohol consumption and make an appointment with your doctor or midwife. They can provide you with the best advice for your pregnancy.
If you are not currently pregnant but actively trying to conceive (TTC), it’s a good idea to just avoid alcohol altogether. This not only contributes to good fertility, but it will prevent any future pregnancies from exposure to alcohol-related risks.
To learn more about other lifestyle factors that may hinder the health of your pregnancy, check out our article Lifestyle Factors that can Impact Your Fertility.
What else can affect a pregnancy test?
Can OTC and prescription drugs affect a pregnancy test?
Commonly used over-the-counter (OTC) and prescription drugs do not typically affect the accuracy of a pregnancy test.
However, certain infertility medications containing hCG may cause a false-positive result. Common medications that contain hCG include Pregnyl, Profasi, Novarel, and Ovidrel.
According to the independent medicine directory, Drugs.com, other medicines that may lead to a fast-positive result include antipsychotics, anti-seizure drugs, progestin-only birth control, anti-nausea drugs, sedatives, antihistamines, and anti-anxiety medications.
Can unhealthy habits impact a pregnancy test?
While unhealthy habits like smoking, binge drinking, and over/undereating may make it more difficult to become pregnant, they do not necessarily directly impact the accuracy of a pregnancy test.
However, in some cases, these habits may indirectly affect the results. For example, consuming alcohol can make you dehydrated. We know that dehydration can lead to the overconsumption of water, which can cause hCG to be diluted in urine which increases your risk of receiving a false positive result. Another way that alcohol may lead to an inaccurate result is if a pregnancy test is taken incorrectly while under the influence of alcohol.
Tips on testing correctly
Know your cycle
Pregnancy tests are 99% accurate when taken at the right point in your menstrual cycle. The earliest that you can take a pregnancy test is on the first day of your missed period. If your cycle lasts 28 days, this will be on 14 DPO, or 14 days past ovulation.
The best way to ensure that you know exactly where you are in your cycle is through cycle tracking. There are a number of different ways to do this – here are some of the most common methods you can use either on their own or in combination with each other:
- Calendar/Calculator/Standard Days Method – involves the use of a basic formula to predict your day of ovulation, fertile window, and period. This can be done with a simple ovulation calculator like this or on the Mira App.
- Basal Body Temperature (BBT) method – involves measuring your temperature each day with a BBT thermometer and tracking your results in a diary or an app. You can then monitor your individual trends to estimate key milestones throughout your cycle.
- Cervical Mucus Method – involves monitoring and tracking changes to your cervical mucus throughout your cycle. When monitored over time, you can estimate your period and fertile window.
- Hormone Tracking – involves tracking your hormone levels directly in order to predict patterns in your cycle. This can be done with the help of ovulation predictor kits (OPKs) or more advanced hormone tracking systems like the Mira Max Starter Kit.
Remember – everyone’s cycle is different, with some cycles lasting as little as 21 days and others lasting as long as 40 days. The best way to know the right time to take a pregnancy test for your body is by keeping track of your own unique cycle patterns.
Test at the same time
Urine concentration levels vary throughout the day as we consume water and other liquids. That’s why the best time to take a pregnancy test is first thing in the morning when your urine (and therefore hCG levels) are at their highest level of concentration. This will yield a stronger result line on your pregnancy test, making it easier to interpret your results.
Even though it might be tempting to test multiple times throughout the day, it’s best to only test at the exact same time each day (preferably in the morning when your urine contains the highest concentration levels of hCG). By only testing first-morning urine, you will be less likely to receive a false-negative result or a result that is difficult to interpret.
Don’t test too early
The number one culprit behind false-negatives is testing too early. Remember, the very earliest that you can take a pregnancy test is on the first day of your missed period. However, even those who rigorously track their cycle may still be off in their estimations by a day or two.
If you are actively trying to conceive, try not to be discouraged by your first negative pregnancy test result – especially if it’s on the early side. The best thing you can do in this situation is to relax and find ways to distract yourself from obsessing about taking your next pregnancy test. You should then wait and take another test in a few days or even a week to make sure that you will receive the most accurate results.
To learn more about the best time to take a pregnancy test, check out our article When to Take a Pregnancy Test Based on Science and Ovulation.