The dreaded pregnancy test. Is there anything else which induces more anxiety than the pregnancy test? Whether an unexpected surprise or a long-awaited dream, the pregnancy test holds our futures, our lives, our destinies in its one or two lined grip. How effective are they? Can they be trusted? What if it’s positive or negative?
- All pregnancy tests work by detecting the presence of hCG (human chorionic gonadotropin). It’s also known as the pregnancy hormone and is only found in a woman’s body when she is pregnant. The hormone begins being produced when an embryo implants into the uterine lining. This is generally approximately 6 days after fertilization, but in up to 10% of women it can take as long as 14 days. Therefore, timing is of the essence when using a pregnancy test. No matter how desperately you want to know if you are pregnant, recommendations are to wait until one week after your missed menstrual cycle. They can be attempted earlier, but the risk of a false negative test increases.
- The most common test is the home pregnancy test which utilizes urine. If one waits the appropriate time, these are very accurate tests. Urine tests are commonly used in the doctor’s office as well as the hospital for general screening, and overall can be trusted.
There are several things to keep in mind when taking a home pregnancy test. First, make sure it’s not expired. This seems like a no-brainer, but if you’ve been trying to get pregnant for a while, the stash may have gotten old. Second, run the test first thing in the morning. The urine has been sitting in the bladder all night and is much more concentrated, increasing the chances of picking up the hCG hormone. Third, wait a FULL 10 MINUTES before reading the test. This can be a very long time when you are pacing the floor eagerly anticipating the results, but in this case patience will pay off as even small amounts of hCG may be discovered with the additional minutes. Finally, read the directions. This sounds banal but often the second line or the plus sign can be very faint, be sure to know what to look for. Even the slightest line is a positive test.
- If urine tests are felt to be insufficient, there are also blood tests which can be performed by a physician. A qualitative hCG test is executed similarly to the home test but with blood. If hCG is detected, it is positive. A quantitative hCG test is more advanced and can determine how much of the hormone is present. This can not only help determine if there is a pregnancy, but also to establish how far along the pregnancy is. Multiple tests can help ensure the pregnancy is progressing normally.
- A negative home pregnancy test by itself is not definite. A repeat test in 3-7 days is necessary for a conclusive result. A positive home pregnancy test warrants a visit to the doctor for confirmation and to ensure appropriate prenatal care and counseling is initiated.