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Home Pregnancy Test FAQs

Since its introduction in 1977, the home pregnancy test has been the easiest and most private way to find out if you are pregnant. The test kits are inexpensive and can be purchased without a prescription at any drug store. Extremely dependable when used correctly, many home pregnancy tests can tell you if you are pregnant as soon as the first day of your missed period.

What is hCG?
HCG stands for human chorionic gonadotropin, a hormone secreted by the cells that will become the placenta. Shortly after the embryo attaches to the wall of your uterus, your hCG levels will increase rapidly and continue to double every 2 to 3 days until they reach their peak around weeks 8-11 of your pregnancy. Home pregnancy tests are designed to detect hCG in your urine.

Why does the hCG level of the test matter?
Not all home pregnancy tests are the same. The tests that detect the lowest concentration of hCG (in milli-International Units per milliliter of urine) are more sensitive to hCG and will give you the earliest reliable results. For example, tests that can detect 20 mIU/ml are more sensitive than those that can detect 50 to 100 mIU/ml.

How do home pregnancy tests work?
Home pregnancy tests are designed to detect hCG, a hormone secreted by the developing placenta soon after fertilization. If you are pregnant, the hormone is present in your urine and in your blood.

How accurate are home pregnancy tests on the first day of a missed period?
The accuracy of a home pregnancy test always depends on when you take it and how well you follow the instructions and interpret the results. In ideal conditions, home pregnancy tests are an estimated 90 percent accurate when taken on the same day you miss your period. If you take a home pregnancy test one week after the first day of your missed period, however, accuracy increases to an estimated 97 percent.

How soon after ovulation can I test?
The earliest you can get an accurate result on the most sensitive pregnancy tests is seven days after ovulation. The hCG hormone is produced only after implantation, which generally happens 6 to 12 days post ovulation, so you should wait at least 10 days after ovulating to take a home pregnancy test to decrease the chance of getting a false negative.

How long do I need to hold my urine before taking a home pregnancy test? Because home pregnancy tests detect hCG, it is best to collect urine containing the highest amount of the hormone. Diluted urine, caused by drinking a lot of fluids, can lower the test's accuracy. Waiting at least 5 hours after going to the bathroom before taking a home pregnancy test is sufficient, but your first morning urine is considered the best because it contains the most concentrated presence of hCG.

How do I take a home pregnancy test?
Before you take the test, make sure it hasn't expired! If it has, throw it away and get a new one. Read the instructions carefully before you start, as they vary among different brands. Most home pregnancy tests require you to either urinate in a cup or directly onto a stick, while others give you the choice. For the most accurate results, you should use your midstream urine, meaning you should pee a little first before you hold the test stick in your urine stream. When you're finished, place the stick on a clean, dry surface and wait for your results. Processing times range anywhere from 1 to 5 minutes, depending on the brand of your test.

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