If you have been trying to get pregnant, or think you might be, picking the most reliable pregnancy test to tell you first can be daunting.
As you stand in the middle of a Target aisle, in front of all the different options of pregnancy tests with your just-in-case decaf Starbucks latte in hand you might be thinking, “Which one is the most reliable?” or “Which one will tell me first?” (Other thoughts might include, “It’s a bit of an oxymoron to have the condoms next to the pregnancy tests” but that’s another discussion). There are several different types of pregnancy tests and even the same brand can sell ones with various features or different detection rates. Doing your research to find the one that tells you first and tells you accurately will help relieve some of the anxiety of false negatives and positives.
How Pregnancy Tests Work
Pregnancy tests detect the level of a pregnancy hormone called human chorionic gonadotropin or HCG for short. This hormone is excreted by the placenta once an egg is fertilized and implanted in a female’s uterus. HCG levels climb rapidly, doubling in number every 48 hours for the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. Most at-home pregnancy tests can detect HCG levels around 6 to 10 days after a missed period when your HCG levels are around 50 units per milliliter (mIU).
HCG can be found in one of two ways- through a blood test or in urine. At-home pregnancy tests use a woman’s urine to detect the level of HCG that her body is producing. If the body is producing enough HCG to be recognized by the at-home pregnancy test, then it will show a positive result. If the body is not producing enough HCG for the at-home pregnancy test to detect, either because it’s too early and the female’s body hasn’t had a chance to reach the levels required for detection or because she isn’t pregnant, then it will show a negative result. Each type of pregnancy test, as well as the brand, has different “codes” for showing a positive or negative result, so be sure to read the packaging on the test you purchase to accurately see if you have a positive or a negative result.
Types of Pregnancy Tests
There are two different ways the pregnancy hormone, HCG, can be detected: either with a blood test performed at a doctor’s office or with a urine test which can be performed at a doctor’s office or at home with an at-home pregnancy test. A blood test is often referred to as a quantitative pregnancy test because it will tell you exactly how many mIU of HCG is in a female’s blood. Doctors might have different quantities of HCG before they will deem a level as resulting in a “positive” or a “negative” but it is usually between 25 and 50 mIU. At-home pregnancy tests are often referred to as qualitative pregnancy tests because they only give a positive or negative response versus an actual number for the level of HCG in one’s body.
Many women prefer the at-home pregnancy test for early detection because it can tell you the result immediately. However, blood tests are more accurate and can often tell if a woman has any HCG in her body as early as 6 to 8 days after ovulation. With that being said, many doctor’s offices will not perform a blood pregnancy test unless you have already received a positive at-home pregnancy test or if you have been receiving fertility treatments. In addition, blood pregnancy tests often take a few days to get results back from the lab, giving all women everywhere heart palpitations while they wait for the results.
There are also several different variations of at-home pregnancy tests to choose from. There are two main types: digital and traditional. Traditional pregnancy tests are urine tests in which you hold the test under a stream of urine, place the testing strip in a cup of urine, or use a dropper to place drops of urine onto a testing strip. These tests will give you a “coded” result to tell you if it is a positive or negative test result. These codes are often:
- Plus (positive) or minus (negative) signs
- Double (positive) or single (negative) lines
You might also hear women qualifying at-home pregnancy tests as “pink line” or “blue line” tests. This is in reference to the color of the dye used in a pregnancy test to show the positive or negative result. Oftentimes women will state that blue line tests are less accurate as they more readily show a second evaporation line when it is in fact negative. Pink line tests are harder to see but are less likely to show an evaporation line, limiting the confusion of a positive or negative result.
Digital pregnancy tests simply show a “yes” or a “no” (alternatively a “positive” or a “negative,” or “pregnant” or “not pregnant”) wording on the face of the test. Many women like digital pregnancy tests because there are no lines to read and no squinting at the window of your at-home pregnancy test to see if you actually do see a line or not (we’ve all done it). However, digital pregnancy tests are not as sensitive as traditional pregnancy tests and usually do not show positive results as early.
How to Take an At-Home Pregnancy Test
At-home pregnancy tests all work in pretty much the same way. All at-home pregnancy tests use a woman’s urine to detect a level of HCG in her body. Some tests allow you to urinate directly on the testing strip while others require you to dip the testing strip into a cup of urine. Be sure to read the packaging directions to ensure that you are completing the test properly.
You will want to ensure that you have enough urine to properly saturate the testing strip so if you don’t *really* have to go, drink some water and wait a little bit until the urge arises. Many women recommend waiting for the first-morning urine to take a pregnancy test but there is not scientific research that states that the first-morning urine is “more potent.” The level of HCG in a woman’s body is constant no matter how hydrated (or not) that she is, so taking it after you drink water should not make a difference in whether or not you get a positive or negative result.
Tests often require you to wait a minimum of three minutes before you read your results. However, results may show up sooner if you have a high level of HCG. Many tests recommend that you do not read the results after ten minutes because it can sometimes produce a false positive because of what is known as an evaporation line, or a line that appears on the test after the urine has fully dried.
At-home pregnancy tests are getting more and more advanced, and state that they can tell if you are pregnant as soon as five days before your missed period. If you believe you are pregnant, but you get a negative result on your test, wait two more days before you test again to allow the HCG levels to rise.
The Pitfalls of Even The Best Pregnancy Tests
At-home pregnancy tests are a wonderful piece of medical technology, but they do come with some emotional risks. Although rare, false positives and false negatives do happen with at-home pregnancy tests. Evaporation lines, or the line that appears after the urine as dried from a testing strip, can wield a false positive. Medications can sometimes also cause a false negative or a false positive in some women.
In addition, many women experience pervasive anxiety when it comes to at-home pregnancy tests. They may take multiple tests in a week (or even in a day) to see if the result has changed. And since they can detect pregnancy so early, many women might find out they are pregnant and then go on to have an early miscarriage- one that they might not have known about if they didn’t have advanced technology to tell them that they were pregnant in the first place.
Signs You Should Take an At-Home Pregnancy Test
Some of the early pregnancy symptoms mimic one’s menstrual cycle, though, so it can be hard to distinguish if these symptoms are because of a pregnancy or your period. The best way to find out is to take an at-home pregnancy test. Here are some early pregnancy symptoms that often occur:
- Breast tenderness
- Food aversions
- Missed period
When it doubt, whip it out (the pregnancy test that is)!
The Best Pregnancy Tests Are At Home?
In a word, NO! At least not reliable ones. But, believe it or not, there are some at-home pregnancy tests you can do your self that mamas in our forums swear by.
Good, bad or indifferent (emphasis on bad or indifferent!)…here are a few of the unique DIY pregnancy tests some moms have used:
- Urine Test. Collect your urine in a clear jar and let the jar sit on a flat surface for 24 hours. If there is a thin white layer at the top of the urine? You’re pregnant!
- Sugar Pregnancy Test. Put three teaspoons of granulated sugar in a clean bowl. Urinate directly in the bowl or a cup and then add to the sugar. After five to ten minutes, if the sugar has clumped together and does not dissolve? You’re pregnant!
- White Vinegar Pregnancy Test. Add half a cup of distilled vinegar to a clean bowl. Urinate in the bowl or a cup and then pour in the bowl. If there is a change in color after three to five minutes of waiting? You’re pregnant!
- Dandelion Leaves Pregnancy Test. Collect two or three dandelion leaves and put them in a clean container. Urinate in a clean cup. Pour some of the urine over the leaves so they’re soaked. Wait about ten minutes. If there are red spots or blisters that appear on the leaves/ You’re pregnant!I
And, if you’re looking for a DIY gender test you can do after you’ve done your DIY at-home pregnancy test to confirm pregnancy (or gone the accurate route and confirmed with bloodwork or labwork that counts your HCG levels as we’d recommend) you can use baking soda. Add two tablespoons of baking soda to a clean bowl. Urinate in a clean cup and add your urine to the baking soda. If it fizzles like a soda or beer? You’re a boy mama. If you don’t have any reaction, probably a girl.
What Happens After You Get a Positive Result with an At-Home Pregnancy Test
If you have gotten a positive result on your at-home pregnancy test you might be thinking, “Ok. Now what?” The first thing that you will want to do, besides telling your partner or family if you so chose, is to visit your doctor. They will either perform a second urine test or a blood draw to confirm your pregnancy. They will also recommend that you start prenatal vitamins immediately if you aren’t already on them. Sometimes they will give you a prescription for them but they can also be purchased over the counter. They will give you some information about early pregnancy, calculate your due date based on your last period, and set up an appointment for 8-12 weeks along in your pregnancy for a viability scan, which is your first ultrasound. If you are undergoing fertility treatment they may set up an earlier scan or additional ultrasounds. You may also be transferred or referred to an OB-GYN.
Your prenatal care after your first ultrasound will depend on your doctor’s office. You will usually have an appointment once a month to check the baby’s heart rate and growth until 34 to 36 weeks when your appointments will then be every two weeks as long as you have no complications or are not considered high risk. Most patients are offered genetic testing around 12 weeks and will also have an ultrasound at 20 weeks to check the baby’s anatomy.
The Best At-Home Pregnancy Tests
Looking for the best test on the market to detect an early pregnancy? Here are some of the best pregnancy tests that we have found to be reliable and easy to read:
Arguably one of the most popular pregnancy test brands on the market, First Response pregnancy test can give you results up to 6 days before your missed period. The double line, pink dye test is easy to read and over 99% accurate if taken after the date of your missed period. Traditionally, this is what most mamas turn to and where the terminology about “Little Pink Lines” comes from. The thing with these is that you can’t let your mind go crazy wondering if it’s a line, and if so, how faint/dark the line is. It’s easy to do, which is why we recommend the two-pack so you have them on hand.
If you are looking for a digital pregnancy test, the Clearblue digital at-home pregnancy test works quickly- in under three minutes- and yields a “pregnant” or “not pregnant” result. It also gives you a countdown to your result so you know how much longer you have to wait (it doesn’t make it less agonizing though!). This is one of the most preferred tests because it gives you clear results with words so you’re not doing the whole, “Is this a line? Did it get darker?” song and dance for days.
If you are like many of us worry-wort moms-to-be or you have been trying for some time to get pregnant, you might want to purchase a bulk stack of pregnancy tests. Individual pregnancy tests can get expensive, but testing strips like these are much more affordable. They even come with their own cups to hold your urine so you don’t have to worry about using one from your kitchen cabinet (yuck).
One line or two? If those codes are too hard for you to read (or you keep trying to figure out if that second line is *actually* there) the Clearblue traditional tests give a positive plus sign or a negative minus sign for an easy read of the results.
Double the window, double the assurance. With EPT’s at-home pregnancy test you have two windows to give you a result: One so you know the test worked and another that yields the positive or negative result. The test can be taken up to 5 days before your missed period.
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