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Home > Learn > FYI > >Can Alcohol Affect a Pregnancy Test?

Can Alcohol Affect a Pregnancy Test?

Feb 23, 24 6 min

By Dr. Kenosha Gleaton, OBGYN

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), over a third of pregnancies in the United States every year are unintended. [1] This means that many women can go weeks or even months without realizing they are pregnant, with the average person finding out they’re pregnant around 5.5 weeks gestation. [2] When taking a pregnancy test, you deserve to get a clear, fast, and reliable result. Let’s talk about how pregnancy tests work, and whether or not alcohol can influence a pregnancy test result. 

Understanding How Pregnancy Tests Work

Pregnancy tests detect a hormone called human Chorionic Gonadotropin (hCG) in urine. HCG is an important hormone responsible for thickening the uterine lining, preventing menstruation, and generally supporting a healthy pregnancy. [3] The body will begin to produce HCG after an embryo implants into the uterine lining. HCG increases quickly during the first few weeks of pregnancy and reaches its highest level around nine to 12 weeks gestation. [4] Urine pregnancy test strips are made using antibodies that chemically react to the presence of the hCG hormone. If there is enough hCG present in a urine sample, the chemical reaction will cause a line, plus sign, or another symbol to form in the test column, indicating a positive test result. [5-7]  See what a positive pregnancy test looks like → 

How Alcohol Affects a Pregnancy Test

Alcohol itself will not impact your pregnancy test results, but the effect alcohol has on your body and cognition may impact your experience taking a pregnancy test. [8] For example, if you are under the influence, it may be more difficult to follow pregnancy test instructions exactly. Incorrectly using a pregnancy test may lead to poor results. [8] Additionally, how diluted your urine is can also impact pregnancy test results. If urine is too diluted, you may receive a false negative result as the test may be unable to pick up enough of the hCG hormone. [2,5] This is why many providers recommend taking a pregnancy test first thing in the morning when urine is more concentrated. [8] 

Can You Drink While Waiting for a Positive Pregnancy Test?

If you are trying to conceive, it’s recommended that you begin taking every step possible to be healthier. This includes stopping unhealthy substances like alcohol, tobacco, marijuana, and illegal drugs. [9-10] Even though you may not be pregnant yet, research shows that alcohol use may affect both female and male fertility, potentially hurting your chances of conceiving. [10-12] Plus, if you’re taking a pregnancy test, there is a chance that you are currently pregnant. Alcohol can have significant negative effects on a developing fetus, including developmental disabilities, stillbirth, miscarriage, and fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD). [9-10] 

So, the short answer is that if you might be pregnant or are hoping to conceive soon, it’s best to avoid using alcohol. 

What Happens if I Was Drinking Before I Knew I Was Pregnant?

The best thing you can do once you find out you are pregnant is to stop drinking. Drinking alcohol during pregnancy doesn’t guarantee that an FASD or other complications will occur, but it does increase the risk of these conditions. [9-10] If you were drinking before you knew you were pregnant, there are still steps you can take to promote healthy outcomes and advocate for your child. First, you should speak with a healthcare provider soon after you find out you are pregnant. Regular prenatal visits are extremely important and can improve pregnancy outcomes. [9-10] 

Alcohol use early on can lead to some complications, including FASD. In many cases, it may not be easy to identify FASD in newborns, but there are psychologists, specialists, and pediatricians who have experience working with children with FASDs should you need their help down the road. [9] 

Discover Pregnancy Tests & Other Essentials from Natalist

The negative impact of alcohol on conception and pregnancy is well established and has led to the strong recommendation to avoid alcohol when TTC and during pregnancy. While testing for pregnancy can be anxiety-inducing for some, try to calm yourself by drinking an herbal tea, taking a bath, or meditating. While alcohol itself will not impact your pregnancy test results, alcohol use during early pregnancy can have negative consequences. Get clear, fast, and early results you can trust with Natalist pregnancy test strips, ovulation test kit, and women’s fertility test. Keep reading about fertility and pregnancy on the Natalist blog. 


References:

  1. U.S. Pregnancy Rates Drop During Last Decade. CDC. April 2023. https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/pressroom/nchs_press_releases/2023/20230412.htm
  2. Branum AM, Ahrens KA. Trends in Timing of Pregnancy Awareness Among US Women. Matern Child Health J. 2017;21(4):715-726. doi:10.1007/s10995-016-2155-1
  3. Betz D, Fane K. Human Chorionic Gonadotropin. [Updated 2023 Aug 14]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2024 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK532950/
  4. Human Chorionic Gonadotropin. Cleveland Clinic. March 2022. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/22489-human-chorionic-gonadotropin
  5. Gnoth C, Johnson S. Strips of Hope: Accuracy of Home Pregnancy Tests and New Developments. Geburtshilfe Frauenheilkd. 2014;74(7):661-669. doi:10.1055/s-0034-1368589
  6. Eskandar MA, Al-Shahrani M, Shaamash A, El-Emain M, Al-Ahmad M, Payodon B. Early Maternal Serum β-human Chorionic Gonadotropin Measurements After ICSI in the Prediction of Long-term Pregnancy Outcomes: A Retrospective Cohort Analysis. J Clin Med Res. 2011;3(1):30-35. doi:10.4021/jocmr477e
  7. Guidance for Over-the-Counter (OTC) Human Chorionic Gonadotropin (hCG) 510(k)s - Guidance for Industry and FDA Reviewers/Staff. Center for Devices and Radiological Health, Office of Product Evaluation and Quality. FDA-2020-D-0957. July 2000. https://www.fda.gov/regulatory-information/search-fda-guidance-documents/guidance-over-counter-otc-human-chorionic-gonadotropin-hcg-510ks-guidance-industry-and-fda
  8. Pregnancy Tests. Cleveland Clinic. November 2022. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diagnostics/9703-pregnancy-tests
  9. Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASDs). CDC. October 2023. https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/fasd/faqs.html
  10. Good Health Before Pregnancy: Prepregnancy Care. ACOG. FAQ 056. December 2021. https://www.acog.org/womens-health/faqs/good-health-before-pregnancy-prepregnancy-care
  11. Sansone A, Di Dato C, de Angelis C, et al. Smoke, alcohol and drug addiction and male fertility. Reprod Biol Endocrinol. 2018;16(1):3. Published 2018 Jan 15. doi:10.1186/s12958-018-0320-7
  12. Fan D, Liu L, Xia Q, et al. Female alcohol consumption and fecundability: a systematic review and dose-response meta-analysis. Sci Rep. 2017;7(1):13815. Published 2017 Oct 23. doi:10.1038/s41598-017-14261-8

Dr. Kenosha Gleaton is board-certified in gynecology and obstetrics and is the Medical Advisor of Natalist. She received her MD from MUSC and completed her residency at Carolinas Medical Center in Charlotte, NC.

Dr. Gleaton is passionate about women, health equity, and mentoring. She is the CEO of The EpiCentre, an OBGYN spa-like practice, and is a Clinical faculty member of Charleston Southern University. She is also a member of the American College of Obstetrics & Gynecology, the American Association of Gynecologic Laparoscopists, and the American Association of Professional Women. 

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