Pregnancy Test Questions and Answers!

When it comes to taking a home pregnancy test, there are typically more questions than the test instructions have answers for. That's why we are here - to help you understand how those pregnancy tests work and how to get the soonest accurate results possible!

Let's imagine a story. We see a anxious young couple who have been trying-to-conceive now for a cycle or two and now its time to discover if their dreams have come true... It's time to test for pregnancy! But there are a few nagging questions. When do I start using home pregnancy tests? How do they work and how accurate are they? Which tests are the best? And do I really need to wait for a missed period before I begin?

Ah, familiar questions - and good ones at that. To answer these common questions, let's begin with: How does a home pregnancy test (HPT) actually function? That's an easy one! An HPT works by detecting a special hormone that is released by a developing embryo shortly after pregnancy takes place. This hormone - called hCG - makes its way from the placenta surrounding your developing baby and into the bloodstream of the mother. Once in the blood, hCG also makes its way into the urine of a woman - and therefore an HPT functions by detecting this hormone in urine. All you need to do is pee on a stick (or in a cup, depending on the style of the kit) and if the hCG hormone is at high enough levels, you will see a positive result!

So, that answers the first question. The next big pregnancy test question and is when am I able to start using these crazy things? Yes, you have been looking at them daily since you ovulated, reading the label, twirling the test around nervously.... Do I need to wait until my missed period? The good news is that, today, with higher sensitivity tests, you do not necessarily need to wait until your missed period to begin the process. Of course, please consult the instruction sheet of each test to determine your start date, as certain older pharmacy and drugstore products may ask you to indeed wait until a few days after a missed period. In most cases, newer and very affordable clinical test strips allow you to test at around eight days after you ovulate, and this is typically several days before your period is expected!

Okay, so I can test now! But are there any other facts or tips to makes sure that I am getting the most accurate and earliest results? Another good pregnancy test question! And the answer is yes: To get the earliest, most accurate result, you should collect a urine sample in the morning. This is called FMU (first morning urine) and it will have the greatest amount of the hormone we talked about above - hCG. If for some reason you cannot test in the morning, then you should hold your urine for at least three or four hours before taking a test. In addition, do not flush your body with liquids or drink a lot of water, etc, before testing. This can dilute the hormone in your urine and you may end up seeing a negative result when you are actually pregnant. In short, we recommend: FMU, don't flush body with liquids, or hold your urine to get the earliest possible preg test result!

But what about tests I can take at a doctor's office? Yes, you can visit your doctor for a blood test, and this will typically provide very accurate results. hCG is present in both blood and urine, but in higher amounts in blood. If a doctor decides to take a quantitative blood test, s/he can tell you the actual level of hCG in your system! If you do end up with a positive test on a home kit, then it is always recommended to contact your doctor regarding a follow up as well as to learn more about pregnancy health, fitness, nutrition, and what you can expect during your following nine months.

So, how do I actually use the test at home? Today, tests are quite simple. You can buy a test on the Internet (we recommend the affordable clinical strips) or you can simply visit your drugstore and pick up a box of tests, though these are usually rather costly. Make sure you read the box to find out how sensitive the test is, when you can begin testing, and how many kits are in the package.

All of the popular pregnancy tests function in the same way. In most cases, you simply pee directly on the test onto an absorbing tip that will collect the urine and send it through the testing reagent. You'll immediately see a control symbol or line that will inform you that the test is functioning properly. If you a pregnant, you'll also see a test symbol/line appear. The cheaper strips work in the same way; the only difference is that you collect the urine in a cup and dip the strip into the liquid.

Again, the key to accurate testing is using first morning urine and following all instructions. All tests have a specific "reaction time", and you need to read your result within that time frame. Once the time frame passes, you should determine a result and then discard the unit, or at least do not attempt to gather a result. Under certain circumstances, "ghost lines" can appear; this is due to the fact that every test will become more sensitive over time as the used test sits. This is why it is imperative to follow the instructions and interpret all results within the given interval.

Now that I am ready to begin testing, the last remaining question is, how accurate are HPTs? The good news is that home pregnancy tests are exceedingly accurate if used properly. Make sure that you select FDA-Approved tests (available on the Net and at stores) and that the tests have valid expiration dates. Under clinical conditions (expert use, instructions followed exactly), your tests should be over 99% accurate.

That said, there are a few "uncontrolled variables" at hand. The first can be controlled by using first morning urine to ensure that the urine is not diluted and that the hormone hCG is at its highest possible level in the urine. However, the amount and speed in which the hormone is produced does differ among women. Thus, hCG can build up rapidly for some, while for others, it increases at a slower speed. The important fact to remember is that the hCG hormone should double about every day once pregnancy is achieved. Other variables include when the embryo implants: Conception will take place within 24 hours of ovulating. However, a pregnancy is not official until the embryo implants in the womb. This is when the hCG begins to flow. Unfortunately, the date of implantation may vary among women, but it typically takes place around 6 days after you conceive. That is why highly recommends taking follow up tests, particularly if you have a missed period.

So I've taken the test and it's positive! Are there any drugs, foods, or substances that can cause a false positive pregnancy test result? Because hCG is a very unique hormonal substance, there are hardly any drugs or agents that can cause a false positive result. There is an exception, however: Some fertility drugs actually use the hCG hormone as part of a fertility treatment to help women ovulate. If you are using an infertility drug, ask your doctor if it contains hCG. If it does, your doctor will instruct you on when you can begin testing so as not to receive confusing results. Fertility supplements like FertilAid or FertilityBlend will not cause a false positive pregnancy test result.

Best of luck with your pregnancy testing and to read more, visit our FAQ.

© 2001-2007 Complete Fertility