The facts about home pregnancy tests
The home pregnancy test has become an important milestone on the path to motherhood -- millions of women eventually turn to it for answers. If you find yourself wondering why your period hasn't arrived, or you're suspicious of the discomforts that have just hit you like a ton of bricks, it may be time for you to join the ranks of curious (and hopeful and worried) women who have gone before you.
But pregnancy tests aren't oracles that are to be feared and respected without question. In fact, they can only tell you so much. Before you head to the store, find out how to decide on a brand and a type, what you can expect from it and when a visit to the doctor might be a better idea than a visit to the pharmacy.
How Early do Early Pregnancy Tests Work?
Home pregnancy tests haven't changed much in recent years. They still involve a small plastic stick that can cut through your worries and convictions in three minutes flat. What has changed is when you can use one, since some brands today claim to return an accurate reading as early as a few days before your missed period.
Pregnancy tests work by detecting hCG, also known as the pregnancy hormone, in your urine. This hormone enters your bloodstream when the fertilized egg implants in your uterus, and it will increase quite quickly through the first few weeks of pregnancy. But even though there may be some hCG coursing through your veins as soon as six days after conception, there's typically not enough for a pregnancy test to pick up until you've missed your period. You can give it a try if you're experiencing some other signs of pregnancy, but chances of an accurate result are low until you're about a week late.
The Most Accurate Pregnancy Tests
From First Response to EPT pregnancy tests, there are many popular brands of pregnancy tests out there, and most of them can be about 99% accurate if you use them properly. Once you're sure you missed your period, you'll want to test first thing in the morning when your urine is concentrated and your hCG level is most detectable. And while timing is a big part of it, it isn't everything -- be sure to read the directions very closely to determine how much urine is required, how to check if the test is in working condition and how long you need to wait for the line or symbol to show. Unless you visit a pregnancy or sexual health clinic that provides free pregnancy tests, you'll have to pay for your result; don't trust any brand that is free or suspiciously cheap.
When it comes to home pregnancy tests, faulty tests and false negatives are not unheard of, so don't take the first result as the last word on the matter. Your body may not be producing very much hCG yet, you could be at a different point in your cycle than you think you are or the test may have expired and lost its effectiveness. On the other hand, if you see even a faint line, that means that there's some hCG in your body and in all probability you are pregnant. Whether you distrust your negative result or you get a positive result, you should visit your doctor to have a blood test conducted, which will be more accurate than the urine test you conduct at home.