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Home Pregnancy Tests

Armen Hareyan's picture

If you think you may be pregnant, a simple test using a small sample of urine can provide the answer.

How do pregnancy tests work?
A urine pregnancy test looks for human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG), a special hormone that is present only when a woman is pregnant. hCG begins to be produced the moment a fertilized egg is implanted into the uterus. After that event, the levels of hCG in the blood double every 2 to 3 days.

What are the advantages of using a home pregnancy test?
Home pregnancy tests are inexpensive, easy to use, private, and require only a few minutes of time to obtain results. Furthermore, the test kits are available in most drug or discount stores and do not require a prescription. According to pregnancy kit manufacturers, most at-home pregnancy tests are 97 to 99 percent accurate when used as instructed.

Are all home pregnancy testing methods the same?
Although the exact testing method differs from one brand manufacturer to the next, all home pregnancy tests look for the presence of hCG in urine. Some at-home tests require collecting your urine in a cup and dipping a prepared chemical strip into the urine, others require putting a few drops of urine into a special container with an eyedropper, others involve placing a test strip into your urine stream. The tests also vary in the length of time needed for results to be obtained and how the results are displayed (for example, some tests sticks change colors or display a symbol to indicate if you are pregnant). Be sure to carefully follow the instructions provided with your kit and don't hesitate to call the toll-free number listed in the packaging provided if you have any questions about how to do the test or read the results.

When should a home pregnancy test be used?
Home pregnancy tests can detect if you are pregnant as early as 7 to 10 days after conception. If your home pregnancy test is negative, test your urine again within a few days to a week. If you think you might be pregnant despite a negative test result, call your doctor or health care provider and schedule an appointment. If you are pregnant, begin taking a multivitamin each day to keep your body strong. A women's brand, such as Centrum or Stresstab or their generic equivalent, is adequate as a start until you see your doctor.

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What else do I need to know about home pregnancy tests?
Other tips to follow when taking an at-home pregnancy test include:

  • If you wish to use a home pregnancy test kit, be sure to check the expiration date on the package before purchasing. If the kit is past its expiration date, the test results may not be accurate.

  • Use your first morning urine when possible (when hCG levels are most easily detected). If not, make sure your urine had been in your bladder for at least 4 hours.

  • Do not drink excessive amounts of fluids before the test to increase the volume of urine. This could dilute the hCG levels.

  • Read the directions included in the test thoroughly before starting the test and follow every step precisely.

  • Some fertility drugs may interfere with the test results. Most other medications, both over-the-counter and prescription drugs - such as birth control pills and antibiotics - should not affect the results of a home pregnancy test. Check the package labeling for additional information.

In addition, if there is a problem with the pregnancy, such as an ectopic pregnancy (when the fertilized egg settles in the fallopian tube instead of the uterus), hCG levels may be low and non-detectable by an at-home test and your doctor may order a blood test to determine if you are pregnant. Always see your doctor if you are unsure about your home pregnancy kit test's results and always see your doctor if you experience any unusual pain - even if your pregnancy test was negative.