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Pregnancy tests: All you need to know

The hormone human chorionic Gonadotropin (HCG) is measured. The HCG hormone can be found in the blood and urine within 10-14 days of conception.

It is a good idea for a woman to have a test if she misses her period or has other signs that indicate she might be pregnant.

It is important for women to know if they are pregnant as soon as possible. She will need to be more vigilant about her health and may have to change her lifestyle.

Quick facts about pregnancy tests

  • Pregnancy tests are performed by detecting human HCG (human chorionic gonadotropin).
  • Certain conditions and medications can cause inaccurate or false readings in pregnancy testing.
  • Every brand of pregnancy test is different, so make sure you read the instructions carefully before using it.
  • Properly used, pregnancy tests can be 99 percent accurate

What is a pregnancy test?

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A pregnancy test can tell if a woman is pregnant by detecting if she’s pregnant at 99 percent accuracy.

The amount of HCG hormone is measured in pregnancy tests. During pregnancy, HCG levels rise.

HCG, also known as pregnancy hormone, is made by the cells of the placenta that nourish the embryo.

This happens when a fertilized egg attaches to the uterus liner.

Around 10-14 days after conception, HCG can be found in blood and urine. It is most active between 8 and 11 week of gestation.

  • A negative result in HCG is less than 5mIU/ml (milliinternational units per millilitre).
  • The pregnancy HCG level is higher than or equal 25 mIU/ml.

What do I do?

Testing for pregnancy involves testing blood or urine. You can administer a urine test at home but must have a professional perform a blood test.

Urine testing at home

The home test requires that the urine be placed on a chemical strip. Although the results are ready in about 1 to 2 minutes depending on which test brand you use, they may take longer.

The individual takes urine and places it in a container.

A pregnancy stick can also be kept in the urine stream.

Every testing brand is unique and has its own way of delivering results. It is therefore important to carefully read the package insert in order to fully understand the results.

The test result might appear as

  • A change in colour
  • A change in a line or appearance of a symbol such as a plus/minus
  • A test window that displays the answer to questions such as “pregnant” and “not pregnant”.

Blood testing

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A blood test is a better and more precise way to confirm your pregnancy. This will be administered by a healthcare professional.

Two ways to test for pregnancy with blood: a qualitative and quantitative HCG test

  • The HCG concentration in blood can be measured using a quantitative blood test.
  • This qualitative test determines if HCG is present.

Blood testing offers some benefits.

It can detect early pregnancy and measure HCG levels.

The test is more costly and takes longer.

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Where can I get it?

A home urine test can be done as soon as possible after conception. However, a delayed period will yield a more reliable result.

Some market tests can be performed earlier than others. It all depends on how sensitive the tests are.

To determine the best time and the most effective way to take the test, it is important that you read the package insert.

After waking up, the best time to have a pregnancy test done is in the morning.

A false negative can be caused by drinking too much liquids before the test, even if the woman has been pregnant.

What’s next?

A urine pregnancy test should be accurate to 99 percent if performed correctly. An incorrect reading can occur if the test is not used correctly.

A positive pregnancy test at home means HCG is present.

Negative results can indicate that there is not a pregnancy or that the test was too early to detect HCG.

A positive result should be a reason for the woman to make an appointment with a healthcare professional to discuss the next steps.

A negative result does not mean that the woman is pregnant. However, she should retest after a week to see if the symptoms are still present.

Modern pregnancy kits and tests can calculate the due date and conception date. This information may not be accurate.

Are medications able to affect the outcome?

Certain medications can alter the accuracy of a pregnancy test.

These include:

  • Use of Promethazine to treat allergies
  • Parkinson’s Disease medication
  • Sleeping tablets
  • Some antipsychotics, including chlorpromazine
  • Opioids include, for example, methadone
  • Tranquillizers
  • Epilepsy Treatments
  • Infertility treatment
  • Diuretics

The pregnancy test is not affected by alcohol in the bloodstream. It does not interfere with hormone levels being measured.

Anyone who is pregnant or planning to become pregnant should not drink alcohol. It can cause problems for the fetal development. Drinking alcohol in early pregnancy can increase the likelihood of miscarriage, premature delivery, and low birth weight.

Other factors that impact HCG

Sometimes, a positive pregnancy test may not be confirmed. A high level of HCG could also be a sign that there is a health condition that has elevated hormone levels.

This could also be:

  • A deficiency in immunoglobulin A, an important antibody for immune function
  • Gestational trophoblastic Disease, a rare and pregnancy-related tumor
  • A rare uterine tumor

Some types of cancer can cause HCG to rise. These include transitional cell carcinomas of the bladder, urinary tract, prostate, renal, and gastrointestinal system tumors. These can be detected with a pregnancy test.

You can purchase pregnancy tests at pharmacies, drugstores, and convenience stores. You can purchase home pregnancy tests for as low as $1, while some health centers offer them at no cost.

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