Taking a home pregnancy test can be an experience filled with nervousness. We assembled the information below to help you deal with your concerns, find out how a home pregnancy test works, what can affect the results, and when to visit your health care provider.
Home pregnancy tests look for a special hormone, human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG), found in your urine or blood if you are pregnant. Your body will produce the hormone hCG about 6 days after conception. Accordingly, while some home pregnancy tests claim they identify a pregnancy on the day you expect your period, typically most of the tests will not give accurate results this early in pregnancy. Waiting about 1 week after missing your menstrual period is typically needed if you want to get an accurate result.
There are two general ways to check for pregnancy. The first is by checking your urine. This is the way home pregnancy tests check. If a home pregnancy test says you are pregnant, you should call your doctor or midwife as soon as possible.
The second way for a pregnancy test to be done is to have your blood checked for the hCG hormone. This is done when you go to a clinic or go to your health care provider for a pregnancy test. Blood tests for pregnancy will usually be able to identify a pregnancy earlier than a urine test and the blood test is the more accurate of the two types of tests.
Since most women use a home pregnancy test, the remainder of this page will deal with home pregnancy tests. There are many different types of home pregnancy tests (HPTs) available over-the-counter.
Most HPTs work by having you hold a medically prepared stick in your urine stream. Others involve collecting urine in a cup and then dipping the stick into it. Then the directions will tell you to wait a specific amount of time and
then for you to inspect the "result window."
Most will direct you to repeat the test in a few days, no matter what the results. This is not an attempt to get you to spend more money, but rather to insure that the results are accurate since HPTs can be in error.
While home pregnancy tests are usually accurate, the accuracy depends on many things including when you use the test, how well you follow the instructions, how well you interpret the results and the brand of test. Some brands of home pregnancy tests can pick up lower levels of hCG than others and are thus more accurate in the very early stages of your pregnancy. A "false positive" is when a test says you are pregnant when you are not and a "false negative" is when the test indicates you are not pregnant when in fact you are pregnant. In an attempt to help, the government website 4woma.gov suggests that the First Response--Early Result Pregnancy Test may be more sensitive than other HPTs.
Remember, as soon as you confirm that you are pregnant make an appointment with your doctor, nurse practitioner, or midwife to begin your prenatal care and prenatal testing. However, since missing your period can be caused by things other than pregnancy, things like certain medications, a serious illness, an extreme exercise schedule, stress, malnutrition, obesity, menopause, or some other medical condition, you should contact your health care provider if you miss your period for more than two months.
For more information on pregnancy tests contact:
National Women's Health Information Center
Phone Number: 1-800-994-9662
Food and Drug Administration
Phone Number: (888) 463-6332
American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists
Phone Number: (800) 762-2264 for publication requests only
Planned Parenthood Federation of America
Phone Number: (800) 230-7526
American College of Nurse-Midwives
Phone Number: (888) 643-9433