So you think you might be pregnant. There’s only one way to find out. As you peruse the drugstore aisles scoping out various pregnancy tests, the question that comes to mind is how soon you can use it and get reliable results. Most pregnancy tests claim to give you an answer the day after a missed period. But Mayo Clinic experts advise you to hold off a little while longer.
What Pregnancy Tests Measure
If you’ve ever been curious about how peeing on a small stick works, the answer is quite simple. Home pregnancy tests detect if a hormone called human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG) is present in your urine, says the National Institutes of Health. Not only is HCG, also called the “pregnancy hormone,” found in your urine, but it can also be measured in discernible levels in your blood. HCG can appear as early as 10 days post-conception. A home pregnancy test is qualitative in nature–that is to say, it simply tells you if you have HCG in your body, just not how much. Blood testing is quantitative and can measure the exact amount of HCG present in your body.
The Problem With Early Testing
If you’re pregnant, you’ll probably want to know ASAP. But doctors at the Mayo Clinic say it’s wiser to wait for an entire week after a skipped menstrual period before you take a home pregnancy test. Some women develop HCG in detectable levels later than others, and that woman might be you. Additionally, most companies that manufacture home pregnancy tests recommend that you retake the test a few days after, just in case you get a false negative result.
False Positive Results
It’s possible to get a false-positive result when using a home pregnancy tests, say Mayo Clinic doctors. Some prescription drugs, such as diuretics and promethazine, can give you misleading results. So can using a test that’s been on the shelves too long. When selecting a home pregnancy test, make sure to look at the expiration date.
For Accurate Results
To ensure the accuracy of your home pregnancy test, the Mayo Clinic advises not only waiting an additional week after a skipped period but also taking other precautions as well. Whip out the dipstick first thing in the morning when your urine is strongly concentrated–drinking too many liquids before you take the test may also yield a false-negative. Pay attention to your timing. If you have to collect urine in a cup, make sure to test it within 15 minutes. Follow the instructions on the kit down to the letter.
Other Ways to Test
If you want to know if you’re pregnant sooner rather than later, blood testing can get the job done, but you’ll have to see your doctor, as this isn’t a test you can do at home. According to the National Women’s Health Information Center, blood tests can detect HCG six to eight days after the date you should have ovulated with an extreme degree of accuracy.
- pensiveness image by 26kot from Fotolia.com