There are few things more terrifying to someone 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, 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. Here’s what to do if you think you might be pregnant.
Determine 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 your 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 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.
Use a pregnancy test.
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 test and is relatively inexpensive at the drugstore (First Response is around $20 at CVS). Keep in mind that, according to Mayo Clinic, the sooner you take a test, the less likely it will be accurate, potentially resulting in a false-negative. A false-negative result 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. Planned Parenthood recommends not taking the pregnancy test until after the first day your period is late.
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 the 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 is another form of the pregnancy test. The test is administered by your gynecologist or primary physician, who will determine the exact amounts of human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) in your blood, the hormone produced after implantation. 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 test results are positive, then it’s a good idea to consider a blood test to be absolutely sure.
Decide what you want to tell your partner.
Whether or not you’ve already taken a test, 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 person you had sex with about your pregnancy fears.
Whether or not you tell the other person 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 may be best to not tell the other person 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 them, 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
If you believe you may be pregnant, have the conversation with the other person face-to-face and let them know that you are planning on taking a test. Keep it short and sweet, and definitely don’t apologize – they contributed just as much as you. If the person tries to bring up the question of what you will do if you do turn out to be pregnant, gently let them know that you will keep them 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!
How to tell your boyfriend
If you’re in a committed relationship and you feel comfortable telling your boyfriend, doing so 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.
Do your best to remain calm throughout the ordeal.
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 are pregnant, talk to health care professionals and your partner (if you feel comfortable doing so) so that they can help you decide what the best choice is for you.
If you find out that you’re not pregnan, 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 partner. 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.