Proper Home Pregnancy Test Usage


A missed period is often the first clue that a woman might be pregnant. Sometimes, a woman might suspect she is pregnant even sooner. Symptoms such as headache, fatigue, and breast tenderness, can occur even before a missed period. The wait to know can be emotional. These days, many women first use home pregnancy tests (HPT) to find out. Your doctor also can test you.

All pregnancy tests work by detecting a special hormone in the urine or blood that is only there when a woman is pregnant. It is called human chorionic gonadotropin (kohr-ee-ON-ihk goh-NAD-uh-TROH-puhn), or hCG. hCG is made when a fertilized egg implants in the uterus. hCG rapidly builds up in your body with each passing day you are pregnant. Some home pregnancy tests are more sensitive than others. In other words, in some tests the amount of HCG needed to be detected in the urine to produce a positive test result is lower.
 
 
To make sure you get the most reliable result, here are a few things to consider:
  1. Test in the morning: when your urine is the most concentrated.
  2. Wait a week after a missed period to take the test: Because the amount of HCG increases with time, HCG levels double every 2 to 3 days during early pregnancy.
  3. Follow the instructions in the package of the home pregnancy test exactly.
  4. Always check the test’s expiration date.
 
Could medications interfere with test results?

Fertility drugs or other medications that contain HCG might interfere with home pregnancy test results. However, most medications, including antibiotics and birth control pills, don’t affect the accuracy of home pregnancy tests.

 
Could a positive result be wrong?

Although rare, it’s possible to get a positive result from a home pregnancy test when you’re not actually pregnant. This is known as a false-positive.

A false-positive might happen if you had a pregnancy loss soon after the fertilized egg attached to your uterine lining (biochemical pregnancy) or you take a pregnancy test too soon after taking a fertility drug that contains HCG. An ectopic pregnancy, menopause or problems with your ovaries also might contribute to misleading test results.

 
Could a negative result be wrong?

It’s possible to get a negative result from a home pregnancy test when you’re actually pregnant. This is known as a false-negative — and it’s much more likely to occur than is a false-positive. You might get a false-negative if you:

  • Take the test too early. The earlier after a missed period that you take a home pregnancy test, the harder it is for the test to detect HCG. For the most accurate results, take the test one week after a missed period — when the level of HCG in your urine is most likely to be detectable. If you can’t wait that long, ask your health care provider for a blood test.
  • Check test results too soon. Be sure to give the test time to work. Consider setting a timer according to the package instructions.
  • Use diluted urine. For the most accurate results, take the test first thing in the morning — when your urine is the most concentrated.
 
What happens next?

Based on your test results, consider taking the following steps:

  • Your home pregnancy test is positive, or you’ve taken a few home pregnancy tests and gotten mixed results. Make an appointment with your health care provider. You might need a blood test or ultrasound to confirm your pregnancy. The sooner your pregnancy is confirmed, the sooner you can begin prenatal care.
  • Your home pregnancy test is negative. If your period doesn’t begin, repeat the test in a few days or one week — especially if you took the test before or shortly after a missed period.
  • You continue to get negative test results, but your period doesn’t begin or you still think you might be pregnant. Check with your health care provider. Many factors can lead to missed menstrual periods (amenorrhea), including thyroid disorders, low body weight, problems with your ovaries, excessive exercise and stress. If you’re not pregnant, your health care provider can help you get your menstrual cycle back on track.
 
Blood tests

Blood tests are done in a doctor’s office. They can pick up hCG earlier in a pregnancy than urine tests can. Blood tests can tell if you are pregnant about six to eight days after you ovulate. Doctors use two types of blood tests to check for pregnancy:

  • Quantitative blood test (or the beta hCG test) measures the exact amount of hCG in your blood. So it can find even tiny amounts of hCG. This makes it very accurate.
  • Qualitative hCG blood tests just check to see if the pregnancy hormone is present or not. So it gives a yes or no answer. This blood test is about as accurate as a urine test.

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