At some point, most women will try a home pregnancy test. Whatever your situation, from a surprise missed period or months and months of trying to conceive, the first time you take one of those tests can be charged full of emotion and nerves. It can be hard to focus on the job at hand. Here we explain the ins and outs of the different tests, why it's important to read and follow the instructions, and what the various results can mean. Let's get into it.
Home pregnancy tests work by testing your urine for the presence of the pregnancy hormone, hCG (human chorionic gonadotrophin). This hormone will only be present once a fertilised egg has embedded itself and started to divide - roughly 6 days after conception. Blood tests are more reliable but must be done through your doctor or at a pathologists office, not at home.
Taking a test too early can result in a false negative. Most home pregnancy tests need hCG levels to be high enough for them to detect accurately. The day after you expected to have your period is a good day to try a pregnancy test. By then, there should be the presence of hCG, and high enough for even the most unsophisticated test to detect.
There are two basic types: the first is a simple yes/no test, or qualitative. The second is quantitative and uses the levels of hCG to detect how far along the pregnancy has progressed. That's not to say that one is better than the other, but the simple qualitative test is usually cheaper.
Simple, qualitative pregnancy tests - the one with the two little lines or a plus or minus sign - are common and usually pretty affordable. Women who are trying to conceive (TTC) often swear by them and stick with them because they are cheaper, allowing women to test frequently without breaking the bank. Quantitative, digital tests give a Pregnant/Not Pregnant result and sometimes include the estimated duration. These include extra technology and are often more expensive. Your choice of test will be determined largely on your situation, both lifestyle and financial. Neither is better or worse, just different.
Unfortunately, many things. User error (not following the instructions properly), diluted urine, an expired test or testing too early can cause both false positives and negatives. There are also just some women whose pregnancy will not register on the standard urine test, and we don't know why. False positives are more complicated. Some reasons include ectopic pregnancy, a recent miscarriage, or the presence of fertility medication, as well as certain ovarian cysts and cancers which are obviously more serious reasons.
The good news is yes, there is! Follow the instructions with your test, properly and accurately. If it says to use a dropper and not pee on the stick, follow the instructions. Testing first thing in the morning - with your first wee of the morning - is often when your pee is the most concentrated. Taking it in the afternoon might skew the results. If the instructions say to take it two days after you've missed your period, taking it two days after you think you've ovulated won't give you the best results. And remember to check the expiry date on the box before you buy it! An expired test won't give you an accurate result.
The first thing you should do is talk to your doctor and ask all the questions you might have. You can also ask for a blood test which will give you an even more accurate result confirming your home pregnancy test. You might want to talk to your partner and ensure that your health is taken care of during this time. Your OBGYN will want to make an appointment to see you about 8 weeks after the date of your last missed period to confirm a pregnancy with a transvaginal ultrasound.
We hope this has helped remove any mystery or confusion around home pregnancy tests. They are one of the wonders of modern technology we're most grateful for. Because if there's one thing in life we want to be sure of, it's whether or not we're pregnant.