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All You Need to Know About a Pregnancy Test

Are you possibly pregnant? Fortunately, you live in an age where we can reliably test for pregnancy. No more peeing on seeds or casting spells. Real science will take you where you want to go!

pregnancy test guide

What is a Pregnancy Test?

In 1967, a woman by the name of Margaret Crane developed the test strip for home pregnancy tests. It was only shortly prior, did doctors discover the hormone human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG) and its relationship with pregnancy. Crane combined the convenience of the home test with the reliability of the hormone test.

Today, we have a fast, easy to get, and low-cost way to reliably test for pregnancy. Millions of women each year use home pregnancy tests to determine if they will become mothers or not.

The basis of the test is to have your urine, which contains HCG, react with certain chemicals to produce a visible sign. The test strip is a rod with a cotton strip placed throughout. Your urine soaks the cotton, and it is wicked up to the reaction area.

In a working area, the chemicals and a sample of HCG is present. This area will always give a positive unless the test strip is no longer working. A second area contains just the chemicals. When the urine reaches this area, if there is HCG present, the strip will turn positive, matching the working area. Otherwise, the second area remains neutral.

how does pregnancy test work infographic

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Prior to this invention, women tried all sorts of crazy and inventive ways of determining whether they were pregnant or not. Unfortunately, none of them worked consistently. It caused many problems ranging from the celebration of false pregnancies to the fear of a false negative.

How Do Pregnancy Tests Work?

A typical pregnancy test uses a sample of urine or blood to see if it contains HCG. The test reaction occurs on a strip or in a beaker.

The test doesn’t actually say you are pregnant, just that you have the hormone that indicates pregnancy in your blood. As we share below, sometimes a positive is not a positive.

How Long Does a Pregnancy Test Take?

Each test on the market takes different times. Blood tests can take several days. A urine test in a doctor's office and a home pregnancy test take just a few minutes. 

Most women opt for the middle ground of taking a home test because of the convenience and cost. Then, they confirm their result, they will visit a doctor. In most cases, the tests match up.

How to Read Pregnancy Test Strips

Each company will provide instructions on how to read a pregnancy test. For most home tests, there is a results area and a ‘working’ area. This working area is a place that will turn positive because the hormone is already present. It merely confirms the test strip is working correctly by changing color. You then match the results area with the working area. A match means you’re pregnant, no match means not pregnant.

how to read pregnancy test strips infographic

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All instructions will tell you to confirm with your doctor the results. This way, you have a more reliable and sensitive test to make sure you have the right result. They will also tell you the likelihood of a false result.

Types of Pregnancy Tests

There are many types of pregnancy tests. Just in the stores, you can find nearly a dozen test kits *. Doctors generally rely on one type of urine test because of speed and reliability. Although, some doctors are transitioning to home test strips because of the convenience and sanitary precautions.

The best pregnancy test is going to be the one that is most convenient for you with the highest reliability. In most cases, this is a home test. In cases where there is difficulty getting pregnant or when you need earlier results, your doctor’s test will be preferable.

early pregnancy factor

Most doctors will tend towards a urine test because of the costs and time required for blood tests. These tests often take several days and there is no higher accuracy. What the blood test will tell you is the exact level of hormone and how far along you are.

Can a Blood Pregnancy Test Tell You How far Along You Are?

Yes, certain blood tests can tell you how far along you are. The caveat is that they are more expensive and time-consuming. Rarely will your doctor order these tests unless there is a specific need or problem detected.

The tests measure the amount of HCG in the blood. Every day after the fertilized egg implants in the uterus, your blood levels of HCG double. This happens until about week 12 when the levels stabilize.

Home Pregnancy Test

These are by far the most used tests *. They are cheap, convenient, and easy to use. They are found in nearly all drug stores, grocery stores, and convenient marts.

One of the most common brands is the EPT pregnancy test *, although it is one of many brands. The average cost is $20 USD. You will know your results in less than 10 minutes after using it.

Home tests are nearly as accurate as doctor’s tests. Some home tests are able to pick up your hormonal change within days of the egg implanting, while others need as many as 6 weeks. Accuracy goes down the earlier the detection, so we recommend using a strip that is more middle ground.

blood pregnancy test vs urine pregnancy test infographic

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Online Pregnancy Test

Admittedly, I laughed when I first was told about this. Then, I took the test. Interestingly enough, the online test I took told me I had a high likelihood of being pregnant.

Online tests gauge how well you know yourself. They are unable to tell you if you are pregnant or not, just if you have a higher or lower chance of it happening. If you are paying attention to your body, chances are you don’t need an online test to know if you are pregnant or not. But, it can help you confirm what you are feeling.

pregnancy symptoms infographic

We recommend using a home test or a doctor’s test to truly know if you are pregnant or not.

How Much Does a Pregnancy Test Cost?

Pregnancy tests cost varying amounts. There are free pregnancy tests at many doctor’s offices and clinics. Planned Parenthood offers free, confidential pregnancy tests. Some private, church-run organizations will offer them free as well, but be prepared to have their religious doctrine thrust as you. Religious organizations are not a good place to go if you want all your options available.

Home pregnancy tests can run $8 to $40 per test. The more expensive tests will detect the presence of HCG sooner than cheaper tests.

Tests in the doctor’s office will vary. For some doctors, they will test for free and others will bill your insurance company. If you test in your doctor’s office, be sure to ask about the cost.

Pregnancy Test Accuracy

Believe or not, most home pregnancy tests are 99% accurate. Although, testing early than 1 month past your first missed period can reduce the accuracy. Blood tests are 99.9% accurate.

The accuracy is determined by the ability of the test to react to the HCG. The more accurate tests only need trace amounts of this hormone to be effective. Other, cheaper tests require more.

when can a pregnancy test be wrong

But, since the tests are for the hormone HCG, the test cannot tell you about multiple births or deformities. No, your pregnancy test cannot detect twins. Double the amount of HCG does not mean double the babies.

Pregnancy tests do expire. You will want to check the date of the strip prior to using. If you exceed the expiration date, you run the risk of the hormone breaking down. This can mean your pregnancy test is wrong and give you a false positive, but more likely a false negative. In most cases, the test strip won’t work at all.

How Early Can You Get a Pregnancy Test

You can start to test for pregnancy as soon as the fertilized egg implants into the endometrium. This triggers the body to release luteinizing hormone, which is what pregnancy tests look for. The implantation occurs 6-12 days after ovulation.

But, it’s the ability of the test to detect the levels of the hormone are what determines whether a test works or not.

pregnancy test after ovulation

The tests in the doctor’s offices often can detect very small amounts of hormone in urine. They are even more accurate in blood. Some laboratories can detect a pregnancy 3-5 days after implantation. The caveat is the doctor’s offices won’t bother with this early detection without a serious reason why (rape is often the only time it is used).

So, we are left to home pregnancy tests. Some companies boast being able to detect at 6 days after implantation. Others state just a few days after a missed period or about 2 weeks after implantation.

Remember, accuracy goes down the earlier you test.

When to Test for Pregnancy

The best time to test is 3-4 weeks after suspected implantation or conception, or about 1 week after a missed period. This turns out to be about 4 weeks to show a positive when you used a home pregnancy test kit after intercourse. All of the better brands of pregnancy tests will meet the 99% accuracy we talked about earlier. If you are pregnant at this time, your pregnancy test will be positive.

best time for pregnancy test

How Long Does Pregnancy Test Take to Show Positive?

Each pregnancy test is different, but usually, you will know in less than 10 minutes if you are pregnant or not. The chemical reaction occurs when the test chemicals are added to your urine sample. Some doctors will even do the test right in front of you, so you can see the color change.

Since the urine needs to soak the area with the chemicals, it could take a few minutes to have a result. We recommend following the directions carefully because often more urine creates errors, it will not speed up the tests.

Does a Pregnancy Test Show Ovulation?

No, a pregnancy test does not show ovulation. It tests for a hormone only produced after an egg has been fertilized and then implanted in the womb. You will need special ovulation tests to know when you are ovulating. Please read this article for more information.

Could I Still Be Pregnant with a Negative Pregnancy Test Results?

Of course, you could be pregnant with a negative test result. There are many causes of a negative test result.

Most likely, the result is negative because your levels of HCG are too low for that particular test strip. You could have tested too early, the strip could be expired or defective, or there are other factors in your urine that blocked the result. For some women, testing in the evening could be enough of a difference to give a false result. In the mornings, the level of HCG is higher in the urine.

If you suspect you are pregnant and you have a negative result, visit your doctor. They may take a more accurate test and you will be checked over for any other problem.

ultrasound to confirm pregnancy

I Don’t Have My Period, but the Pregnancy Test is Negative

There are many factors as to why you may not have your period. Stress, injury, and excessive activity can delay your period or even cause you to skip it. If you are worried about being pregnant, your body may fulfill your fears by skipping your cycle. In many cases, once you relax, your cycle will start shortly after.

If you truly think the test is wrong, a visit to your doctor will provide and nearly fool-proof test. Plus, your doctor can check you to make sure it is only stress causing your missed cycle, not a more serious problem.

Myth: Alcohol Will Give You a False Negative

Alcohol will not affect pregnancy test results, within reason. Normal, responsible drinking habits have no impact on home or blood pregnancy tests.

However, we have to warn you that if you imbibe to excess, you run the risk of serious complications, including miscarriage and permanently disfiguring a child.

Can a Pregnancy Test Give a False Positive?

There are times in a woman’s life that she may produce the HCG without being pregnant. There are some cases of false pregnancies, where the woman will produce the HCG and exhibit signs of pregnancy without being pregnant.

Some medications, like anti-depressants, tranquilizers, anti-convulsants, or hypnotics, will produce a false positive.

Also, there are some cancerous growths that produce HCG. Some studies have shown that these cancer cells produce the HCG to confuse the immune system. Since the HCG will also repel the mother’s immune system to protect the fetus, the cancer cells use the HCG to repel your immune system.

After a miscarriage, there is a chance that a pregnancy test will give a positive result until the body can metabolize the leftover HCG. Usually, this process doesn’t take more than 24 to 48 hours but may be longer for some women. Suspecting a miscarriage is a serious medical emergency and should be verified and checked by your doctor.

In about 25% of women, the HCG is not strong enough to stop a regular menstrual cycle. In these cases, the implanted fertilized egg may slough off with the endometrium. This is considered a spontaneous abortion and is completely natural. While some doctors and older medical text will say this is most common in the first pregnancy, current research is placing that in doubt.

In this case, it may be possible for the test to give a positive result, unable to detect what your body has done.

How to Test for Pregnancy Naturally

There are many home remedy tests for pregnancy. They range from probable results, such as a reaction on leaves, to outrageous – dousing. None of them are accurate or repeatable.

Unfortunately, despite thousands of years of trying, it was only in 1967, when the test for HCG was invented, did people have a reliable and reproducible way to test for pregnancy. Before then, the surest way to know pregnancy was menstruation and a baby bump.

We didn’t feel the need to talk about any of these methods in the rest of the article because they simply don’t have the accuracy a simple home test has.

Conclusion

We hope you find the pregnancy test that works for you. We recommend starting with a reliable home test and then confirm your results with your doctor. We hope this is a happy time in your life and you get many long and blissful years with your new child.

If you liked our article, please share it and use the comment section below for any thoughts and questions. Thank You!

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{ 2 comments… add one }
  • claire April 10, 2017, 8:08 am

    Very nice article , so many useful info about pregnancy tests thaks a lot …

    • Katia April 10, 2017, 3:03 pm

      Hello, Claire!

      Thank you for visiting and reading this blog! You’re welcome!

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