When you are eager to find out if you're pregnant, there is nothing more daunting than a trip down the pregnancy test aisle at the drugstore. With so many brands to consider and different types of tests, how do you know what's best for you?
How at-home tests work
Most women will opt for an at-home pregnancy test first, before a visit to the doctor. Some brands claim to accurately confirm pregnancy before you have even missed your period, but at-home testing results are most reliable when done at least a week after your missed period.
Home pregnancy tests analyze your urine for levels of the human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) hormone, which is produced by the placenta starting right after a fertilized egg implants into the wall of your uterus. If you are indeed pregnant, levels of hCG continue to rise in the days following implantation, doubling in number every two to three days.
At-home pregnancy tests are about 97 percent accurate when used properly. Your results may be more reliable if you test first thing in the morning, when urine is most concentrated and hCG levels may be easier to detect.
Types of tests
There are several different types of at-home pregnancy tests that you can buy.
Standard stick tests^ Standard stick tests require you to hold the absorbent end into the middle of your urine stream for a few seconds, then wait for approximately 3 minutes to see your test results. Results are in the form of a pink line or a +/- sign that appears in a small control window at the opposite end of the stick.
Digital Stick tests^ Digital stick tests are also held in your urine stream, but the LCD results window is easy to read with either "pregnant" or "not pregnant" appearing after about 3 minutes of wait time.
Testing Strips^ Testing strips can be purchased online and are considerably less expensive than traditional sticks. With hCG testing strips you must collect your urine in a cup, then put the strip into the cup and wait for the test result. Distinct color bands of varying intensity appear if you are pregnant, depending on how much hCG is detected in your urine.
Results: Now what?
If your pregnancy test result is positive then you are most likely pregnant. There are some circumstances in which you may have a false-positive result, including the presence of blood or protein in your urine or medications you are taking. After a positive pregnancy test at home, your next step should be an appointment with your doctor to confirm pregnancy with a blood test.
When your pregnancy test result is negative, you may want to test again after about a week to confirm. False-negative results can occur if you test too early, if the test is used improperly or if the test has passed its expiration date. If you have a second false test and are unsure of your results, check with your doctor.
Pregnancy testing at home can yield accurate results in a private setting, giving you the peace of mind you need when you are wondering if you are pregnant.