HomeGynaecology CarePregnancy Tests: When to Take One, Accuracy, and Results

Pregnancy Tests: When to Take One, Accuracy, and Results

Missing the menstrual period can be an anxious time for all women. It may prompt you to undergo a pregnancy test confirming conception. However, if you are looking for a home pregnancy test, then there is a set of guidelines to follow for precise results. The accuracy of these diagnostic kits depends on how you undergo the tests.

Women are often confused about the correct time to take the pregnancy test. Most reputed brands claim to offer accurate results even before the first day of missing a period. However, it is better to wait a little further for a confirmatory result. These test kits evaluate the presence of human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG), a pregnancy hormone in your urine to confirm conception.

How do pregnancy tests work?

Your body starts to produce a hormone called human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) nearly six days after the fertilization of your egg. A pregnancy test detects human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) to confirm whether you are pregnant.

How accurate are home pregnancy tests?

According to the Office on Women’s Health of the United States, most home pregnancy test kits deliver 99% accurate results, provided they are correctly used. The amount of human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) in your urine happens to increase with time. So if you take the test a couple of days after you missed your period, you will likely get accurate, reliable results.

When should you undertake a home pregnancy test?

Women start producing this hormone within 6 days of fertilization. After that, the level of HCG increases quickly. Most women double the level of this compound every 2 to 3 days. It is better to undergo the home pregnancy test after missing the period to have a detectable HCG level in the urine. Early morning is the best time for the test when the concentration of HCG in the urine is the highest.

Why does the body produce the human chorionic gonadotropin hormone after conception?

The HCG hormone plays a crucial role in sustaining pregnancy during the early stages. The level of this pregnancy hormone also determines the number of days for which you have been pregnant. However, gynecologists often advise an ultrasound examination to correlate the stage of pregnancy with the HCG level.

Expecting mothers secrete HCG hormone from the cells adjacent to the growing embryo after it attaches to the uterine wall. Shortly, these cells transform into the placenta and take over the role of HCG production. HCG also promotes the corpus luteum to produce a sufficient quantity of progesterone during the first trimester of pregnancy.

HCG level is highest during the sixth week of gestation. After this stage, the placenta is entirely functional and produces enough progesterone without the assistance of HCG. The value of HCG decreases after this phase.

What are the different types?

Most pregnancy tests detect the presence of HCG in the urine or blood. Based on this analysis, there are two primary types.

Blood tests for pregnancy

The blood test for pregnancy is done at the diagnostic centers. The primary advantage of this evaluation technique is, it can detect conception in only 6 to 8 days after ovulation. So, you can find out if you are expecting or not much before the home-based tests. However, you cannot undergo these tests on your own. The result of these evaluations is not instant.

Currently, there are two types of pregnancy blood tests.

1. Qualitative HCG tests.

Qualitative HCG tests only reveal if you are pregnant. Since they do not determine the level of HCG, you cannot find out whether there are any medical issues in the conception, such as the possibility of ectopic pregnancy. Gynecologists may prescribe these evaluations as early as 10 days of fertilization.

2. Quantitative HCG tests

Quantitative HCG tests can determine the exact level of HCG hormone in your blood. The precise evaluation technique can detect even minute levels of HCG. Gynecologists often advise this test to rule out an ectopic pregnancy (when the fertilized embryo implants outside the uterus) or accidental miscarriage (revealed through a sudden drop in HCG level).

Urine tests for pregnancy

You can do the urine pregnancy tests either at home or at the diagnostic clinics. They offer accurate results within a few minutes if you follow the process according to the guidelines. However, even if the pregnancy test turns out to be positive, gynecologists recommend other sensitive tests for pregnancy to confirm the result.

How soon can I take a pregnancy test?

It is good to wait until a week after you have missed your period to take a pregnancy test. Doing so will increase the test’s accuracy. If you do not want to wait till a missed menstrual period, it is advisable to wait for at least one or two weeks after sexual intercourse.

Pros and Cons

The pros of an early pregnancy test:

  • It is one of the easiest and fastest ways to detect pregnancy at home.
  • It is useful in case your birth control measure fails.
  • It helps you make necessary changes in your lifestyle to accommodate prenatal care.
  • It helps you understand when to stop or start medications.
  • You can understand the signs of pregnancy.

The cons of an early pregnancy test:

  • If you happen to test too early or incorrectly, the chances of false-negatives are high.
  • It can identify chemical pregnancy.
  • It can lead to anxiety owing to the result of the test.
  • It can be expensive if you need to repeat tests.

If my Pregnancy Test is Positive What Should I Do?

If your test is positive, you need to do the following:

  • Get in touch with a doctor
  • Be patient
  • Start having a balanced diet with prenatal vitamins
  • Stop drinking alcohol
  • Quit smoking
  • Exercise regularly
  • Drink lots of water

What are the steps of home pregnancy tests?

Most home-based pregnancy test kits come with a plus or minus sign, “pregnant” or “not pregnant” inscription, or one line or two lines. These indicators help in determining whether you have conceived or not. Never forget to go through the expiry date and instructions before taking the test.

It is better to undergo this test early in the morning after missing the period for maintaining accuracy. The strips also have a control indicator, signifying the result’s validity in the form of a line or symbol. If the control line or symbol fails to appear, the test becomes invalid, and you should re-conduct it.

You can do  the urine pregnancy test through any one of the following procedures which would be specified in the test kit :

  • Place the test strip directly in the urine stream.
  • Collect the urine in a container and then dip the strip into it.
  • Collect the urine in a cup and then insert a dropper to collect a few drops of urine. Now, use the dropper to put the urine onto the pregnancy test kit.

What is the accuracy rate of home pregnancy tests?

Most home pregnancy test brands claim to have a 99% accuracy rate in determining conception. However, the ability to diagnose pregnancy depends on the method, time, and the number of days after fertilization, when you take the test. If you feel that you might be pregnant despite a negative result, re-conduct the test after a week. You may also opt for other sensitive pregnancy tests for a confirmatory result.

When to see a doctor?

It is better to book an appointment with a doctor if

  • You get different results in subsequent pregnancy tests. In this situation, it is better to undergo a thorough check of the reproductive system.
  • The test result appears negative, and the menstrual period does not start, there can be an underlying medical condition. You may be suffering from excessive stress, thyroid disorder, or amenorrhea.
  • If you are pregnant , you will need to see an obstetrician and get a antenatal check up .

If you miss your menstrual cycle and believe you might be pregnant, do not hesitate to undergo the test. Always remember that an early confirmation of pregnancy can initiate immediate prenatal care.

Frequently asked questions

Can your regular medication interfere with pregnancy test results?

Yes, certain fertility drugs and other pills containing a considerable dose of HCG can interfere with home pregnancy test results. Even birth control pills and a high dose of antibiotics can alter the outcome in some women. It is better to consult your doctor regarding your prescription medication before taking the home test.

Is it possible to get a false-positive result in the pregnancy test?

You can get a false-positive result in a pregnancy test if you undergo a miscarriage soon after the fertilized egg is implanted on the uterine wall. False-positive results are also possible if you evaluate immediately after administering a fertility medication containing HCG. In rare cases, ectopic pregnancy can also provide misleading results.

When can you get a false-negative pregnancy test result?

It is possible to get a false negative result in the following cases:

  • If you take the test too early where there is an inadequate HCG level in the blood.
  • You use diluted urine for the test at a later time in the day.
  • You do not provide sufficient time for  the result to show up.

How accurate are pregnancy tests in the first week?

Most pregnancy test kits promise 99% accurate results in the first week.

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Verified By Dr G S S Mohapatra
MBBS, MD ( O & G), FICMCH Senior Consultant - Obstetrics & Gynecology, Apollo Hospitals Bhubanswar
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