There are two kinds of pregnancy tests that can be done; a blood test and a urine test. Both work to detect the hCG content in the sample. hCG or Human Chorionic Gonadotropin hormone is secreted by the embryonic tissue and functions as a growth and differentiating factor post- implantation. It is considered as a good indicator for pregnancy because its secretion begins shortly after conception and increases with the gestational period.
Blood tests can detect hCG earlier in pregnancy than urine reports can. But you need to visit a doctor for a blood reports. Most home pregnancy tests are urine tests but they offer you a greater privacy. You can buy affordable pregnancy test kits over-the-counter. The more sensitive the kit; the better the opportunity to detect pregnancy at an early stage.
Know how to use the kit
Check the expiry date of the kit. They cannot be relied upon after expiry. Every kit has a control indicator. The absence of it indicates that the test kit isn’t functioning properly.
The first-morning urine is considered the best sample and is expected to contain the highest concentration of hCG. You can also wait for 4-5 hours to concentrate the hCG content in the urine and then use it as a sample. Read the instructions on the kit carefully as these may vary with brands. While some kits use mid-stream urine as the sample, some expect you to collect urine in a cup and insert the strip in it. A few brands also expect you to use a dropper and spot the strip with the collected urine.
A result window indicates the result of your test. Different kits expect you to see the results within different amounts of time. Depending on the amount of hCG in the sample, results may appear within seconds. However, positive results after the specified time need not be considered.
Know the right time to take a test
All women are different with regards to their menstrual cycle. The number of days it takes for implantation can differ just like the ovulation days. This means that hCG levels may not necessarily be detectable at the same stage of pregnancy in every woman.
You are generally advised to take a test 7 days after the missed period. The first result may not necessarily be true. You are expected to repeat the test and further confirm results from clinical assessments.
Know the results to expect
Use the control band for reference. It will tell you what the test band should look like. Below are the explanations for the results you might see in the result window:
- A bold band (or a plus sign): You’re pregnant!
- No band: This is a negative result and means that you may not be pregnant
- A faint band: No matter how faint the test band is, if it is within the specified time it indicates a positive result.
Know the accuracy of the results
Under ideal conditions, home pregnancy test kits are highly reliable. Most inaccuracies with it are known to be caused by the failure of the user to follow the instructions properly or a misinterpretation of the results.
A false positive result i.e a positive result when you are not actually pregnant can result from a few known causes. For instance, some tissues in a normal woman are also known to secrete hCG. Although most kits aren’t sensitive enough to detect these low levels, it does rarely result in a positive. Research has also proven that not necessarily all fertilized eggs progress in the direction of pregnancy. This case of what is known as a “chemical pregnancy” might also lead to a false positive result. However, women show no other symptoms of pregnancy in this case.
Drugs or alcohol are not known to interfere with the detection of hCG. The only medications that cause a false positive are those that contain hCG themselves. So, if you are on fertility medication, you will have to visit a doctor for information on your case.
False negatives are however more common than false positives. These result from a dilute sample or an early test. It is important to interpret the results within the specified time period and as per the specified instructions.