Last Updated August 29th, 2020
How does it work?
A pregnancy test is undertaken to determine if you have conceived. A home pregnancy test is the most common test that is performed by the majority of women to know if they are pregnant. A hormone called human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) present in the urine can be measured to determine if you are pregnant.
Pregnancy strips are used to perform these tests. It is always advised to test twice to be sure since it is highly possible to provide false positive and false negative results on several occasions. In the majority of the cases, these tests are considered to be accurate when performed correctly.
These tests are undertaken when a woman experiences signs and symptoms of pregnancy such as missed period, spotting of blood, morning sickness, as well as changes in the breasts. These tests are considered to be 99% accurate. It is possible that certain health conditions and medications can change the results of this test.
When do I consider a pregnancy test?
A pregnancy test can be considered when you experience the following signs and symptoms. Below are the most common signs and symptoms of early pregnancy.
- Missed period: A missed period is a clear indication and the first indication of pregnancy. If you have had unprotected sex, then you should be considering a pregnancy test.
- Tenderness in breasts: Another sign of pregnancy may occur in the form of tender or sore breasts due to hormonal changes. Consider a pregnancy test when you experience these symptoms.
- Morning sickness: Nausea and sensitivity to certain smells and taste can occur as an early sign of pregnancy. This generally occurs when you are one month into your pregnancy. A test at this stage can clearly indicate if you are pregnant.
- Frequent urination: Blood flow in your system would increase that causes your kidneys to filter more blood and producing more urine.
- Fatigue: There is a rush of hormones in your system during the early days of pregnancy, which can lead to tiredness and fatigue.
Types of pregnancy tests
There are three types of tests that can confirm your pregnancy. These include the home pregnancy test, clinical urine test, as well as the blood test.
Home pregnancy test
This is the most commonly used test to check for pregnancy. The first home pregnancy test was introduced in the year 1976. There are more than 15 types of home pregnancy tests available in the modern day. Many women prefer this since it provides privacy and flexibility. The results are obtained instantaneously and it is also cost-effective. This type of test provides around 99% accuracy. It is important to perform the test correctly to achieve optimum results. The test should be performed after reading the label thoroughly and following the instructions thereafter.
This test involves placing a few drops of urine on a strip that is chemically prepared to detect the pregnancy hormone called human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG). It hardly takes a few minutes before you could read the results. This test strip was designed with the concept that hCG is released into the body only when a woman is pregnant.
This hormone is also responsible to cause several signs and symptoms of pregnancy. When a urine sample is tested, the presence of hCG in urine can determine if the woman is pregnant. hCG levels can be detected when the test is undertaken after 10 days of conception. Tests that are undertaken earlier can give you a negative result which is considered to be a false negative. It is advised that at least 5 to 10 days of gap should be given after missing a period and then the test be undertaken to get optimal results. Some of the instructions to be followed to undertake a home pregnancy test include:
- Undertake this test with the first-morning urine to obtain desirable results.
- Avoid drinking more water before undergoing the test as the urine hCG may be diluted and not provide you accurate results.
- Read the instructions on the label and follow the steps accordingly.
- Note that certain health conditions and medications can alter the test results.
Change in the color of the test strip or an indication with vertical lines on the strip indicates that the test is positive for pregnancy. A second test needs to be undertaken the following day to confirm the findings. On the other hand, if the change in color of the test strip is very light, you need to wait for few more days before conducting another test.
Clinical urine test
A clinical urine test is similar to the one done at home. This is undertaken at the doctor’s office. The results of the test may not be provided immediately as in the case of a home pregnancy test. The procedure is done under medical supervision, which minimizes the errors and increases accuracy.
These tests are undertaken rarely since they are expensive and also require a blood draw under a hospital setting. These tests provide accurate results and can detect even low levels of hCG in the blood and the amount of hCG present. There are two types of blood pregnancy test namely qualitative hCG test and quantitative hCG test. Qualitative hCG test only determines if hCG is produced in the body. On the other hand, a quantitative hCG test can measure the level of hCG in the blood.
Blood test for pregnancy is generally considered when a woman is having some fertility problems and is unable to bear a child. Since this test provides the exact number of hCG, the doctor can determine if this is adequate.
Blood test for hCG can also determine if the pregnancy is aborted. Since the hCG levels double every day during pregnancy, you can find if the pregnancy is aborted when the levels come down. On the other hand, if hCG levels are extremely high, this can indicate twin gestation. During this procedure, a blood sample is collected and then sent to a laboratory for analysis. Since a blood test can detect low levels of hCG, they are known to detect pregnancy before a urine test can do it. One of the drawbacks of a blood test is that the results may take around a week to come back.
What do I do next?
What you do next depends on the results of the test. In case you are found to be pregnant, you need to decide whether you want to continue with your pregnancy if you have planned it or drop it if you have not planned it. Let us only consider the positive aspect of a pregnancy test and discuss what to do if you are planning to continue with your pregnancy.
A repeat pregnancy test should be undertaken to confirm your pregnancy such as a clinical urine test just to be sure. Next comes the prenatal planning. It is important to find a doctor and continue following with them throughout your pregnancy to plan your pregnancy appropriately. Your doctor will be providing you the necessary lifestyle changes and diets that need to be followed strictly throughout your pregnancy to avoid any complications.
False positive test
A false positive test can occur in certain cases. This may be caused by several reasons and include:
- Chemical pregnancy – An early miscarriage is called chemical pregnancy. This occurs before the fifth week from gestation. The pregnancy ends as soon as the egg attaches to the uterine lining. A fetus cannot be detected under ultrasound at this stage. Around 75% of miscarriage occurs due to a chemical pregnancy.
- Menopause – This is a condition when women lose their ability to produce estrogen. Early menopause can lead to a false positive test.
- Ectopic pregnancy – During an ectopic pregnancy, the fertilized egg travels and settles in the fallopian tube which is outside the uterus. It is quite difficult to diagnose this problem. The signs and symptoms are similar to pregnancy. Fertilized eggs cannot grow outside the uterus and this may cause pain and bleeding from the vagina.
- Cysts in the ovary – These are closed sacs within the ovary. They generally contain fluid substance within them. A corpus luteum cyst may cause a false positive pregnancy test.
False negative test
A false negative test may be caused due to several reasons. Few possible causes are discussed below:
- Medications such as anticonvulsants and tranquilizers can cause a false negative test.
- Diluted urine may indicate a false negative test. This is caused when the urine test is conducted after consuming an excess amount of water.
- The early test can result in a false negative test. Since a urine test cannot detect low levels of hCG, you may end up with a false negative result.
- Error during a urine test. A false negative test may occur if there is any error while conducting the test.
Negative pregnancy test
A negative pregnancy test may be distressing particularly if you were planning for a pregnancy. If you are determined to become pregnant, you need to try quite a few times. There is a possibility that sexual intercourse depending on menstruation may not provide you results all the time. It is important to know when you are ovulating by using the ovulation calculator.
This will give you the most suitable time to have intercourse to become pregnant. Another option is to get checked for fertility. If you are diagnosed to be infertile, you can consider other options of pregnancy such as artificial insemination. You may also want to test your partner to check for the sperm count and determine if there are any problems related to your partner.
The most important thing you need to consider is checking your pregnancy test multiple times. If you are experiencing symptoms of the missed period but still having a negative test, you need to consult a doctor and find the cause of your problem.
A home pregnancy test is considered to be highly accurate and suitable for the general population. Due to instantaneous results and also being cost-effective, it is the most trusted type of test for pregnancy. A blood test is only considered when your doctor would want to know how much hCG is produced in your body. This test is rare, costly, and time-consuming. Pregnancy is excitement for women. You need to be thoroughly prepared to become pregnant as well as continue it to childbirth.
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