There are few things more terrifying to a collegiette than a pregnancy scare, regardless of the situation. Your period is a day late, then two, and before you know it, you’re in full-on panic mode. Whether you’re single, you’re casually dating or you’ve been in a committed relationship for years, a missed period is bound to lead to panic and spiraling thoughts for anyone. During a potential pregnancy, it can be difficult to think straight and figure out what your next move should be, which is why we’re here to provide you with some advice on what to do if you think you might be pregnant.
How late is too late?
First, write down the dates of your last period as well as the date you were supposed to get your period. There’s a chance you miscounted and you’re actually not late, but if you are, it’s important to have accurate information about your missed period.
As for when you should be worried, it’s largely based on your own body. If your period fluctuates, meaning that it typically comes a few days early or late, give yourself a few extra days to see if you get it. If your period typically arrives right on time (to the day), then even a day or two late would be enough to consider the possibility that you might be pregnant.
Make an appointment with a professional
If you go to school near home or you have a gynecologist from home, it’s a good idea to make an appointment with him or her. Your gynecologist or general practitioner is familiar with you and your body and will be better able to tell you what is normal and what isn’t. Tell the nurse or doctor when your last period was and how many days late you are. Also tell him or her whether or not you are on birth control and what kind, and how long ago you had unprotected sex. Your doctor will ask you additional questions to rule out the possibility that you’ve missed your period for other reasons and advise you on whether or not you need a pregnancy test, as well as what your next steps should be.
Your school’s health center is specially trained to deal with issues specific to college students, so there’s no reason to be embarrassed about talking with a nurse or doctor at your college (and they’re bound by confidentiality agreements so your parents won’t find out). Not only will these nurses and doctors be able to answer your questions and provide you with their professional opinion, they can also often administer free pregnancy tests to students.
Regardless of which type of health care professional you seek out, it’s crucial to make an appointment right away, especially if you have had unprotected sex in the last 120 hours, so that a doctor can help you explore your options for emergency contraception. A pregnancy scare can leave you anxious, distraught and vulnerable, so be sure to seek out help as soon as you can.
All about pregnancy tests
There are several ways to determine whether or not you are pregnant. It is important to note that it may take up to three to four weeks from the first day after your last period for your blood or urine to indicate pregnancy. There are two main choices available for pregnancy tests:
1. Urine test
An at-home urine test is the most common for collegiettes and is relatively inexpensive at the drugstore (First Response is $15.99 at CVS). According to Planned Parenthood, it is safe to take a pregnancy test as soon as your period is late. Keep in mind that, according to Mayo Clinic, if you take the test too soon (before one week after your missed period) it could result in a false-negative, or a result that says you aren’t pregnant even if you are, simply because it is too early for the test to detect the pregnancy hormones in your body.
For best results, you need to follow the directions very carefully, so if you’re too nervous or worried you might misread the instructions, it’s a good idea to go to a professional. College and university health centers typically use urine pregnancy tests as well, but the individuals administering them are trained professionals, and therefore, the margin of error is much lower. According to Terry Jenny, administrative director of Parton Health Center at Middlebury College, if you take a test at your college health center, the results will be available immediately and the nurse or doctor will be able to provide you with professional advice about what your next steps should be.
2. Blood test
A blood test, administered by your gynecologist or primary physician, will determine the exact amounts of human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) in your blood, the hormone produced after implantation, according to WebMD. According to the American Pregnancy Association, a blood test can detect pregnancy earlier than a urine test (about seven to 12 days from conception), but this type of test is more difficult for a college student to obtain. While Jenny points out that a health center “can draw the blood and send it to the local hospital for testing,” it is more expensive as there are lab fees (and also a doctor’s visit fee if you have the test done at the hospital). If you think you’re pregnant, it’s a good idea to take an at-home test or a urine test at your on-campus health center first. If those tests are positive, then it’s a good idea to consider a blood test to be absolutely sure.
Telling the guy
Whether or not you’ve taken a test yet, those first few days after a missed period can cause you to feel a level of anxiety you didn’t know was possible. Especially if it hasn’t been long enough for a pregnancy test to be accurate, it can be incredibly difficult to know whether to tell the guy about your pregnancy fears.
Should you tell him?
Whether or not you tell the guy is largely dependent upon your own individual feelings about the situation. If you can keep it together for a week or two until you can take an accurate test, then it’s probably best to not tell a guy you don’t know all that well that you might be pregnant. Of course, if you’re having a sizable crisis over potentially being pregnant and you feel like you need to tell him, then do so.
“How you decide to tell your partner, family and friends is a personal decision that only you can make,” Jenny says. Deciding if you should tell your family or friends is your decision, and there is no right or wrong way to tell people in your life that you might be pregnant.
How to tell a hook-up
Have the conversation face-to-face and let him know that you are planning on taking a test. Keep it short and sweet, and definitely don’t apologize – he contributed just as much as you! If he tries to bring up the question of what you would do if you do turn out to be pregnant, gently let him know that you will keep him posted but that you will cross that bridge when you come to it. No need to get ahead of yourself when it comes to something that might not even be an issue! Of course, if you’re telling your boyfriend, you can be more open and communicative when it comes to discussing your options, but don’t stress yourself out until you’re sure.
How to tell your boyfriend
If you’re in a committed relationship and you feel comfortable telling your boyfriend, it can be really helpful.
“I thought I was pregnant my sophomore year and my boyfriend and I had only been dating for a few months, so I was scared to tell him,” says Rebecca*, a senior at Middlebury College. “I eventually told him, and even though he was just as freaked out, he said he was glad that I told him so that I didn’t have to deal with it alone.”
If you’re in a loving relationship, your SO should be more than willing to help you through whatever comes your way, pregnancy scares included.
Your next move
You may or may not have thought about what you would do if you were to get pregnant in college, but as important as it is to think about potential options, it’s equally important to not put unnecessary stress on yourself or your relationship until you know for sure that you’re pregnant. If you take the tests and they come back positive, then it’s time to fully involve your guy as well as your families and health care professionals to decide what the best choice is for you, whether than means having the baby and keeping it, putting it up for adoption or choosing to terminate your pregnancy.
If you turn out not to be pregnant, then count your lucky stars and reevaluate your current modes of contraception to figure out what is and isn’t working. This is a conversation you can have with your gynecologist and also something you can bring up with your SO. Once you’ve had a pregnancy scare, you want to do everything possible to make sure the next time you think you’re pregnant is when you actually want to be!
*Name has been changed.