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How Accurate are Home Pregnancy Tests?

by DP Nguyen

in Preconception / Trying to Conceive, Pregnancy

Whether you’re trying to conceive, or you’re afraid that you accidentally got pregnant, you will want to know the answer to – “How Accurate are Home Pregnancy Tests?” In order to understand the accuracy of home pregnancy tests, you have to first learn about how they work, what hormones they measure, and how soon you can take the test.

Home Pregnancy Tests and How They Work

Home pregnancy tests cannot tell you whether or not your partner’s sperm has been successful in penetrating your elusive egg, and they cannot tell you whether the fertilized egg has implanted in your womb. What a home pregnancy test can tell you is whether there are pregnancy hormones in your body.

A home pregnancy test measures the level of a hormone called, human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG for short). Non-pregnant women do not have this hormone in their body. hCG is the unique pregnancy hormone that the cells from the blastocyst (the ball of cells that will eventually become the embryo) produce during implantation – this usually takes place a week after you conceive. HCG will first enter your bloodstream around six days after conception. By this time, the fertilized egg (now the blastocyst) has implanted and made a nice, comfy home for the next nine months.

Human chorionic gonadotropin can be detected in your bloodstream before you notice that you have a missed period. Afterwards, it can be detected in your blood. This pregnancy hormone helps keep your pregnancy healthy, and it aids in the development of your unborn baby. As your pregnancy continues, the levels of hCG will continue to increase, doubling every two to three days. After your baby is born, you will have no more hCG in your bloodstream or urine.

How Accurate are Home Pregnancy Tests?

For the most part, home pregnancy tests are pretty accurate. Most home pregnancy tests claim that that they can detect pregnancy by 99 percent accuracy (sometimes even higher than this). Some claim that you can use them on the day of your first missed period. But here’s the problem – if you take a home pregnancy test too early, you may get a negative result even when you are definitely pregnant. For some women, it takes them awhile before the amount of hCG in their urine is high enough for a home pregnancy test to pick it up.

The accuracy of home pregnancy tests depends on a number of factors, including how soon you take the test and how sensitive the test is.

Although some home pregnancy tests can detect the level of hCG in your urine as early as the first week of your missed period, a majority of home pregnancy tests on the market are not that sensitive. You may end up getting an inaccurate result if you take the test too soon. For this reason, you will want to test, test, and test again if you have missed a period and don’t know if you’re pregnant or not.

If you receive a negative result from the home pregnancy test at first, but you’re almost positive that you’re with child (some women just have a gut feeling that they’re pregnant), wait another week and take the test again.

(If you’re looking for my specific recommendations for accurate home pregnancy tests, please head over to my Pregnancy and Baby store, where I’ve handpicked what I believe are the most accurate and reliable HPTs.

When Should You Take a Home Pregnancy Test

Many home pregnancy tests do claim that you can test on the day that you miss your period and get an accurate result. Unfortunate, research on this issue doesn’t back up the claims from these companies. If you do happen to get a result on the day of your missed period, the line can be too faint for you to correctly understand.

For the most accurate result on a home pregnancy test, you should wait one week after your missed period. If you need to know earlier than this, you should make an appointment with your doctor and get a blood pregnancy test. Blood tests can measure exactly how much hCG is in your bloodstream, and it can tell you whether or not you’re pregnant. (Again, you may run into the problem of testing too soon, and there’s not enough hormones in your bloodstream yet, even though you are indeed pregnant.)

Types of Home Pregnancy Tests

Home pregnancy tests come in two basic types. The most common home pregnancy test that you’ll find at your local pharmacy or grocery store uses a test strip that you pee on (or you dip into a cup of urine). The second type of home pregnancy test uses a test device and a urine collection cup.

To get the most accurate result on any type of home pregnancy test, you will want to take the test first thing in the morning. When urine has been in your bladder all night (when you were sleeping), it tends to have the highest level of hormone, and it can give you more accurate results.

When using a home pregnancy test, always check the expiration date and follow the packaged instructions. (Always read the instructions very carefully). Try to be patient and wait ten minutes after testing before you check to see whether or not you’re pregnant.

False Positive Results Can Happen

With a home pregnancy test, you can receive a “false positive” result – the pregnancy test says you’re pregnant when you’re not.

You can get a “false positive” result if you’ve had an early miscarriage (sometimes called a “chemical pregnancy”). With a chemical pregnancy, the fertilized egg did implant in your uterus, but for some reason, the pregnancy did not take. You will receive a positive result, because hCG is still in your bloodstream. You will end up shedding the fertilized egg, uterine lining, and other tissue in what you think is a regular period, but in reality is a failed pregnancy.

You can also get a false positive result with a home pregnancy test if you’re taking a fertility drug with hCG, you’ve had an abortion in the last two months, or you have medical condition (such as an hCG-secreting tumor).

Medications (both over-the-counter and prescription) – including birth control pills and antibiotics – will not affect the results of the home pregnancy tests. They cannot give you false positives.

Take Multiple Pregnancy Tests

If you get one negative home pregnancy test, do not automatically assume that you’re not pregnant. Wait for your period to come, and another week or two passes without your menstrual period, buy another home pregnancy test and test again.

If you happen to get a faint positive result, wait another week and take another test to confirm.

When the home pregnancy tests are giving you negative results, and you are noticing early pregnancy symptoms, please contact your healthcare provider and make an appointment with your doctor.

You May Also Enjoy Reading: 

Reasons for Missed Period – When You’re Not Pregnant
PMS or Pregnancy Symptoms?


DP Nguyen is founder and editor of Hip Chick's Guide to PMS, Pregnancy and Babies. She’s an expert pregnancy and women’s health blogger. She is NOT a medical doctor and does NOT offer medical advice. Connect with her on Google+, Twitter and Facebook.

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