All About Pregnancy Tests

Whether you are trying to conceive or facing a potential surprise, the time between possible conception and the first day of your expected period (also known as “the two week wait”) can be fraught with all types of emotions. You may be, understandably, anxious to know whether or not you are pregnant. And while your instinct may be to run to the store and grab the first pregnancy test you see, there are some things you may want to think about first. 

What To Look For: 

Before investing in a test, do you have any symptoms that point toward pregnancy? A few to look for, if you suspect you could be pregnant, include:

  • Missed period
  • Nausea
  • Frequent urination 
  • Fatigue
  • Breast tenderness
  • Spotting or mild cramping
  • Constipation
  • Congestion
  • Mood swings

Not all women experience the same early pregnancy symptoms, but if you notice one or more of the above, you may want to proceed with a home pregnancy test to confirm your suspicions. 

Before Testing:

When taken correctly, at-home pregnancy tests have about 99% accuracy. 

During pregnancy, the body produces a hormone called Human Chorionic Gonadotropin (hCG). This hormone works with heightened estrogen and progesterone to thicken uterine lining and stop the body from menstruating. An at-home pregnancy test can detect hCG levels in urine, which is present ten or so days after conception.

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If you want to ensure those results are as accurate as possible:

  • Be patient. While most tests can detect hCG within ten days of conception, it is recommended to wait until at least the first day of a missed period, before testing. 
  • Follow the directions. As straight-forward as it may seem, the majority of incorrect results are due to not properly following the directions outlined on the pregnancy test package. 
  • Hold the drinks. Refrain from over-hydrating before testing. The more fluids you intake, the more diluted your urine will be as a result. You want your urine to be as concentrated as possible, to ensure hCG levels may be easily detected.
  • Use first morning urine. Taking your test first thing in the morning is the easiest way to have your urine as concentrated as possible, as your hcG levels will be more easily detected. 
  • Re-test. Most pregnancy tests come in multipacks. This can be helpful if you’re concerned you tested too early, or if you want to be sure the first test was correct. Consider waiting at least 24 hours between tests in order to give your hCG levels a chance to increase. 
  • Discard used tests. After the designated testing window, tests are no longer considered accurate and may be read incorrectly. 

Choosing A Pregnancy Test:

Many people are surprised by the variety of home pregnancy test options offered. There are different brands, methods of collection, and display formats for results. 

Method of Collection 

Mid-stream or “Clean catch”: This kind of test is the one most people are familiar with, due to television and movies. Affectionately dubbed “pee sticks” by online parenting communities, these tests work by holding the absorbent end into the stream of urine for seven to ten seconds. 

  • Pros: 
    • Readily found in most drug stores and supermarkets.
    • Relatively straight-forward. 
    • Uses “pretty plastic,” meaning the plastic contains the test and frames the results for easing sharing with loved ones, or significant others. 
  • Cons:
    • More expensive.
    • Requires careful aim, or possible splashing of urine onto hands during collection. 
    • Needs a sufficient stream of urine, sustained for seven to ten seconds. 

Dipstick: These tests work similarly to mid-stream or “clean catch” tests, except urine is collected in a cup and the test is dipped into the collected urine. 

  • Pros:
    • Less expensive.
    • Can be purchased in larger volumes, which is ideal for those trying to conceive who may need to test multiple months in a row.
    • Effective, because you can ensure the test is sufficiently saturated. 
    • Possibly more environmentally friendly (less plastic). 
    • Less risk of urine splashing onto hands during collection.
  • Cons:
    • Requires the additional purchase/use of a container for urine collection.
    • Urine can be potentially dripped or spilled during test-reading or clean-up.
    • No “pretty plastic” for sharing results with loved ones or significant others.


Dropper:
Urine is collected in a container and a pipette is used to transfer 2-3 drops of urine into the sample well. 

  • Pros:
    • Readily found in most drug stores and supermarkets.
    • Uses “pretty plastic.” 
    • Sometimes less expensive than mid-stream or “clean catch” tests. 
    • Less risk of urine splashing onto hands during collection.
  • Cons:
    • Requires the additional purchase/use of a container for urine collection.
    • Urine can be potentially dripped or spilled during test-reading or clean-up.
    • The additional steps and use of the pipette can make the process slightly more complicated. 

Results Display 

Ink color: Pregnancy tests can utilize either pink or blue ink. Many online parenting forums swear by the superiority of pink-ink tests versus their blue-ink counterparts. This is because with blue-ink tests, a faint line (an “evaporation line”) can sometimes be seen where the urine passed through but ink did not register. The faint gray/silver line can be mistaken for a positive result. Pin- ink tests leave less room for speculation, as these evaporation lines are not as common. However rest assured, if enough hCG is sufficiently concentrated, it won’t matter what color the ink is, as the results will be clear.

Result symbol: Each test will clearly designate what various results can look like. The test will contain a space for two lines; one is the “control” line, which ensures the test is working. The other line will be the “test” line and only show if hCG is detected. Some tests will format these lines side by side, while others have them in a “plus sign” arrangement. 

Digital results: These tests use a digital display to show the results. As it processes you will see a “loading” symbol. When it is done, the results will be clearly displayed with the word “pregnant,” or the words “not pregnant”. These tests are more expensive, but eliminate potential guess work, which can be reassuring. 

In Conclusion: 

Choosing a pregnancy test is just the first of many potential parenting decisions you may make. Whichever testing method you choose, take your time and rest assured that while pregnancy can be scary and/or exciting, you don’t have to go through this experience on your own. Make an effort to include supportive loved ones, or reach-out to online communities where you can relate to and share with others. You will find that regardless of your unique experiences and complex emotions, you are not alone!

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