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10 Things to Know Before Taking a Pregnancy Test

Medically Approved by Dr. Edward Salko

Table of Contents

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Pregnancy tests can be emotional for many women. Whether you feel disappointed or excited by the result, you can ease up your stress level and align your expectations by understanding the basics and critical aspects of pregnancy testing. 

So, when taking a pregnancy test, learn how the test kit works, the best time and method to perform the reading, and things to avoid before deciding to take the test. Read further down to learn the details on these must-know pre-pregnancy test tips.  

  1. Learn How the Pregnancy Test Kit Works

At-home pregnancy tests typically measure the same chemical substance that confirms pregnancy. And that is the human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG). hCG is produced by the tissues surrounding the developing embryo. Hence, it’s exclusive to women who are pregnant, making it the perfect marker for fetal development. 

hCG can be detected 12 to 14 days after fertilization or conception. It’s found as a residual substance in urine. 

With a blood test for pregnancy, the same hormone is detected, but through this clinical method, medical technicians can also determine its level of concentration. Learn more about the difference between the hCG blood test vs. the urine test and which one you should take. 

  1. Pick the Right Time to Take the Pregnancy Test

Timing is crucial in pregnancy testing to ensure the reading is accurate. You can’t simply buy an over-the-counter PT kit just because you have a hunch that you’re pregnant. Consider the facts first. 

Start by checking if you’ve missed your period. The best time to take a pregnancy test is a week after missing your period. Although some at-home pregnancy test kits assure accuracy even after the first day, your chances of getting accurate results increase when you delay testing. 

Waiting allows hCG levels to build up in your body, increasing the accuracy of the test results. Testing too early can produce false negatives and even hidden or cryptic pregnancy that stirs unnecessary confusion. 

Did You Know? Pregnancy testing can also produce a false positive result. Getting a positive pregnancy test is rare when you’re not pregnant. But when this happens, it may indicate conditions like chemical or ectopic pregnancy. 

Aside from waiting a week after missing your period, you can further ensure pregnancy testing accuracy if you do it first thing in the morning, ideally as soon as you get up. This is because hCG levels are more concentrated in the urine collected overnight and expelled in the morning. 

  1. Limit Your Fluid Intake

Right before you take a pregnancy test, make sure you don’t drink too much fluid, whether it’s water or beverage. Doing so can significantly dilute hCG in your urine. As a result, you may get inaccurate results, specifically false negatives, simply because the pregnancy test kit cannot detect sufficient hCG when in fact, the chemical is present. 

Of course, this also depends on the level of sensitivity your at-home pregnancy test has. But generally, concentrated urine is widely accepted as the bar for an accurate pregnancy test result.

When collecting urine, be mindful of how it looks. If it appears pale yellow or almost clear, postpone the testing until you get more concentrated amber-colored urine. It’s an extra measure that lowers your risk of getting a false “Not Pregnant” result. 

  1. Stir Clear From Smoking, Drinking Alcohol, and Using Illicit Drugs

If you’re planning to take a pregnancy test, naturally, you suspect to be pregnant. You may have experienced the main symptoms, such as a missed period, breast changes, nausea and vomiting, and so on. 

With just the thought of being pregnant, even if you haven’t confirmed it via a pregnancy test yet, stay away from alcoholic beverages, cigarettes, and harmful drugs. These substances have severe effects on a baby’s development, even at an early stage. 

So although you end up with an accurate negative pregnancy test result, this extra measure remains valuable as a precaution. After all, you don’t want to risk having your baby develop severe medical conditions. 

Pro tip: Smoking is one habit that people often have a hard time shaking off. But if you’re trying to conceive a baby, giving up smoking can help you boost fertility. In doing see, check out some mistakes you should avoid when quitting smoking.   

  1. Perform the Test Accordingly

Following the instructions on a pregnancy test kit can get you reliable results far more than you can expect. Keep in mind that not all at-home pregnancy testing is done the same way. 

For one, some tests provide strips that you dip in a cup filled with urine, while others use the standard stick with digital readings. Also, these tests may have varying guidelines for how long you should wait for the results, the duration of urine exposure, and how to read the outcome. 

You may encounter PT kits with the standard “-’ or “+” reading indicators, while others show the outcome based on the number of lines. Typically, one line denotes a negative result, and two lines, a positive one. 

Pro tip: If you have taken several urine pregnancy tests – properly timed and administered –  but still get a big fat negative (BFN) result despite all the symptoms, you may want to consider a pregnancy blood test. Still, it’s best to consult your obstetrician for a more streamlined and less disappointing or confusing process. 

  1. Collect Your Urine in a Cup

Several pregnancy testing kits instruct you to hold the stick right under your urine stream, which is fine and arguably easier if you’re doing the test outside your home. But collecting urine using a cup can marginally make the process more error-free. 

Using a cup to get samples of your urine ensures that you minimize the risks of mishandling the test, such as dropping the test into the toilet or collecting insufficient urine that may compromise the necessary exposure for accurate readings. Plus, if properly done, you may free your hands from direct urine exposure. 

  1. Consider the Pregnancy Test’s Sensitivity

You may find the sensitivity level of the pregnancy test on the packaging. It’s often indicated in IU/L (International Units per litter) or mIU/mL. Many experts claim that the lowest amount for hCG to obtain a 99% accuracy is 25 mIU/mL. Therefore, it’s a standard sensitivity level for testing after a missed period.

On the other hand, some pregnancy tests boast that they can detect hCG even at low concentrations, promising an early indication of pregnancy. If you do take this type of test, make sure to reconfirm the result again a few days after missing your period for extra measure. 

In addition, make sure to check the expiration date of your pregnancy test package. Although it’s unlikely for women to buy an expired urine pregnancy kit, some keep test packets around at home. If you’re not getting an accurate result and you’ve used an old pregnancy test kit, that may solve the mystery, as at-home pregnancy tests past their expiry date are less reliable. 

Did You Know? Pregnancy tests are classified either as qualitative or quantitative. Most at-home pregnancy test kits are qualitative, which pretty much gives you a “yes or no” answer. Find out when you should consider a quantitative pregnancy test when you read our article, “Quantitative or Qualitative: Which Pregnancy Blood Test Should You Take?”. 

  1. Don’t Simply Go for an Expensive Pregnancy Test

People often believe that costlier pregnancy tests equate to more accurate results. This is simply untrue. If you’re aiming for reliable results, don’t go for the price. Check the sensitivity of the test as far as hCG detection goes. 

Also, make sure you’re following the guidelines and best practices for taking a pregnancy test. You may have the most expensive at-home pregnancy test kit, but all the money you spend goes out of the window if the steps are not done currently. 

A good reason to choose a more expensive pregnancy test kit is its additional features. For example, you may want to go for a test with digital reading or with a sound signal that tells you to finally read the result. 

  1. Read the Results Within the Time Limit

Each test has a specific window within which results should be read, typically ranging from a few minutes to ten minutes. It’s highly crucial to follow this timeframe. Otherwise, you could interpret an inaccurate result. 

For example, it’s possible to have a single line or negative result on the test within the reading time only to find double lines after a few hours. This may suggest a positive result, but remember that this change is considered unreliable. The appearance of a second line can be due to the evaporation of the chemical reacting to the hCG. 

  1. Consult Your Healthcare Provider 

Taking a pregnancy test typically provides reliable results, but nothing beats the confirmation and guidance you get when consulting your doctor. Visiting your gynecologist with either a positive or negative pregnancy test warrants additional tests, like an ultrasound.

When your doctor performs an ultrasound, information about the early health of your embryo can be collected. On top of that, the overall health of your uterus is assessed, which provides additional insights into how well you can carry the baby to term. This is particularly helpful for those with a history of ectopic pregnancies and miscarriages.  

Seeking medical care and guidance ensures comprehensive and personalized support throughout your pregnancy journey. It allows for a more tailored approach to confirming pregnancy and even anticipating challenges based on your health profile.

When Should You Be Taking a Pregnancy Test?

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Not knowing whether you’re pregnant or not can be nerve-wracking – but don’t panic or overthink. While taking a pregnancy test may seem to solve your worries, you may want to make sure you’re heading in the right direction by asking yourself these questions.  

  • Did I miss my period? 

It helps a lot if you know if you have a regular or irregular cycle and have been keeping track of your ovulation and menstruation dates. Otherwise, think long and hard about your previous first-period day.

  • Did I have sexual intercourse around two weeks before I missed my period? 

If you answer yes, then taking a pregnancy test is the way to go. Keep in mind that even with birth control, especially with a condom, there is still a slight chance that you can get pregnant if the condom is defective. 

But if you missed your period and are not sexually active, it doesn’t necessarily mean you shouldn’t consult your doctor. Missing a period is fairly normal, but if it has other symptoms like intense pain and cramping, see your gynecologist immediately. 

  • Am I experiencing other common pregnancy symptoms? 

While these symptoms can be similar to premenstrual syndrome (PMS), they may indicate pregnancy if accompanied by a missed period. Thus, it warrants a pregnancy test. 

Many women can attest to the emotional turmoil of trying to confirm pregnancy, especially when you don’t get your desired result or are suspicious about its accuracy. 

While over-the-counter pregnancy tests can be accurate, there are cases when you seriously need to consult a medical expert, not only to confirm pregnancy but also to help you navigate the mental and emotional aspects of this process.  

Frequently Asked Questions

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How soon will a pregnancy test read positive?

It’s possible to get a positive pregnancy test result 10 days after conception. However, a woman’s experience in pregnancy testing may vary. This is why the best time to take a pregnancy test is the first day after you’ve missed your period. By that time, if you are indeed pregnant, your body has produced a much more concentrated hCG, readable in a home pregnancy test kit. 

Can you have a negative pregnancy test but no period?

You can get a negative pregnancy test result and still miss your period for two possible reasons: (1) you’re pregnant but did the test wrong, and (2) you’re experiencing hormonal issues prompting missed ovulation, which resulted in a lack of menstruation. Either way, it will ease up your mind if you consult your gynecologist instead of merely speculating.  

Does a faint line mean pregnant?

A line in a pregnancy stick or strip, regardless of how faint it is, usually means it’s a big fat positive (BFP). However, there are instances, rare as they may occur, that you get false positive pregnancy test results. This is why, if you get a faint line, make sure to take another pregnancy test in a few days to see if you can produce the same result.

The Bottom Line

When you understand the basics of pregnancy testing, especially how to do it properly, you get a higher likelihood of an accurate result, putting your mind at ease. Before taking a pregnancy test, make sure you’re within the right timing based on your missed period and the sensitivity of the test you purchased. Also, follow the instructions diligently during the test administration. For further confirmation and guidance, consult your doctor. 

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