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Home pregnancy tests: Can you trust the results?

Nervousness can set in when you take a home test for pregnancy. Learn when and how to perform a home pregnancy testing — and what the potential pitfalls are.

When is it a good idea to have a home pregnancy test?

Many home pregnancy tests claim that they can detect missed periods as early as the first day. You’ll get better results if your missed period is not over.

Don’t wait! The hormone human chorionic Gonadotropin (HCG) is formed shortly after fertilized eggs attach to your uterine line (implantation). This hormone is absorbed into your bloodstream and excreted in your urine.

Early pregnancy is characterized by rapid increases in HCG levels. It doubles every two to three working days. It is more difficult to detect HCG if you do not take the home test as soon as possible.

Remember that your ovulation timings can vary from month-to-month and that fertilized eggs can implant in your uterus at different times. This can impact the timing and detection of HCG. You might miss the due date if your periods are irregular.

It’s vital to confirm your pregnancy immediately. Depending on your stage of pregnancy, your doctor might recommend an ultrasound, repeating a urine test at the lab, or having a blood test to determine your HCG levels.

Are there many types of home pregnancy testing?

For most tests, the dipstick is inserted into your urine stream. The dipstick will reveal the test result within a few minutes. It may be a plus sign or minus sign, one or more lines or the words “pregnant” and “not pregnant” on a strip of paper or screen.

For instructions on how long you should wait before checking the results, refer to the test instructions. Usually it takes two to three minutes. Many tests have a control indicator, which is a line or symbol that appears within the result window. The test may not be working correctly if the symbol or line doesn’t appear. You can try again with another test.

Some home pregnancy tests may be more sensitive than others. The amount of HCG that must be detected in the urine in order to get a positive result in a home pregnancy test is different for some tests.

Before taking the test, make sure you check the expiration date.

How accurate can home pregnancy tests be?

Home pregnancy tests are often 99 percent accurate. Home pregnancy tests can be inaccurate in diagnosing pregnancy for women who have just missed their period. If your test is negative and you think you may be pregnant, you can repeat the test within a week or consult your doctor.

Can medications affect test results?

Home pregnancy tests may be affected by HCG-containing medications or fertility drugs. Most medications, including birth control pills and antibiotics, won’t interfere with home pregnancy tests.

Is a positive result possible?

It is possible to have a positive home pregnancy test result even though you are not pregnant. This is called a false-positive.

False-positives can occur if you have a history of pregnancy loss (biochemical pregnancy) or if you test positive for HCG too soon after you’ve taken a fertility medication. False-positive results can also be caused by an ectopic pregnancy or problems with the ovaries.

Is it possible to get a negative result?

A home pregnancy test can give you a negative result. This is called a false-negative. If you do not:

  • Do not take the test too soon. HCG is more difficult to detect if the test is taken before a missed period. For the best results, repeat the test one week following a missed period. Ask your doctor for a blood test if you are unable to wait.
  • Don’t rush to check the results. Give it time. Set a timer according the instructions on the package.
  • Do not use diluted urine. Perform the test early in the morning to get the best results.

What’s next?

Based upon your test results, you might consider the following:

  • You have a positive home pregnancy test or you have taken several home tests with mixed results. Call your doctor to make an appointment. To confirm your pregnancy, you might need to have a blood test done or an ultrasound. Prenatal care can be started as soon as your pregnancy is confirmed.
  • A negative home pregnancy test has been performed. Repeat the test within a few days to confirm that your period did not start.
  • If you continue to receive negative results from your tests, your period does not begin or your period isn’t starting, you should consult your doctor. Missing periods (also known as menorrhea) can be caused by many factors, including thyroid disorders, low weight, problems with the ovaries, excess exercise, and stress. Your doctor can help you get your menstrual cycle on track if you are not pregnant.



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