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Quantitative or Qualitative: Which Pregnancy Blood Test Should You Take?

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This article is Medically Approved by Dr. Edward Salko

Thinking about taking a pregnancy test?

There is certainly nothing for you to worry about as pregnancy test kits are readily available in any drug store.

However, you may feel a bit anxious if the test fails to provide a correct or consistent result. 

For example, you may have tested multiple times, yet the big fat positive has not shown despite solid pregnancy symptoms.

This type of case can sometimes happen with urine pregnancy tests. It is part of the reason why people turn to pregnancy blood tests.

What is a Pregnancy Blood Test? 

women holding pregnancy test

As the name implies, a pregnancy blood test requires a blood sample instead of urine, which contains more hCG or human chorionic gonadotropin. 

hCG is the substance measured to confirm pregnancy.

While it is somehow easier to choose between a urine pregnancy test and a pregnancy blood test, the latter has two other options that might leave you stumped.

Pregnancy blood tests can either be qualitative or quantitative.

If you want to know the difference between the two and which one you should take, stick around and read on.

When Should You Take a Pregnancy Test?

More often than not, a woman would take a pregnancy test when symptoms are observed.

Among the signs and symptoms of pregnancy, one condition stands out and pretty much confirms the need for a pregnancy test: missed period.

When your menstruation is delayed, it strongly suggests that you might be pregnant.

However, there are other reasons for a missed period, such as stress, illness, reproductive issues, eating disorders, and over-exercising.

Therefore, a missed or delayed menstruation does not verify pregnancy—the only way to find out if you are pregnant or not is to take a test.

But, in case the standard OTC pregnancy tests are defective and present inaccurate results. It is best to book an appointment with your gynecologist, mainly if the following symptoms are observed along with a missed period.

Other Pregnancy Symptoms

  • Nausea
  • Tender and sore breasts
  • Fatigue
  • Frequent urination
  • Nausea (morning sickness)
  • Food aversions
  • Light spotting (implantation bleeding)
  • Cramping
  • Dizziness
  • Constipation

How Soon Can You Take a Pregnancy Test?

In taking a pregnancy test, the rule of thumb is to take it after you missed your period. However, you can also test for pregnancy around two weeks after you had sex.    

Taking it earlier can lead to false-positive or false-negative results. 

There are cases wherein women suspecting pregnancy take the test before their missed period solely because other symptoms like swollen breasts or nausea occur. However, testing should not be based on these symptoms as they closely resemble PMS or premenstrual syndrome.

RELATED: HCG Pregnancy Tests: Blood Test vs. Urine Test

How Does a Pregnancy Blood Test work?

women meeting at prenatal class

In a pregnancy blood test, a healthcare professional will draw a small amount of blood from the veins in your arms through a process known as a venipuncture.

An elastic band is placed and tightened around your upper arm to show the location of the veins. Then, the needle is inserted in the most visible vein after alcohol is rubbed on the skin. 

When the needle has punctured the skin and reached the vein, blood is drawn out.  

The sample is used to analyze the presence and amount of hCG, a hormone produced after conception.

hCG is released by the trophoblast cells around the developing embryo. The trophoblast cells will eventually become a significant part of the placenta that will nourish the growing fetus. 

As the placenta develops, it releases more hCG as the weeks progress.

The presence of hCG in a woman’s body is the primary marker for pregnancy. It can accumulate in the urine, but it is even more abundant in the bloodstream.

Advantages of a Pregnancy Blood Test

Although a urine pregnancy test is cheaper and more accessible, two particular advantages are increasing the appeal of a pregnancy blood test among women.  

Accuracy

Given that hCG is more concentrated in the blood, a pregnancy blood test is more sensitive. Thereby, it provides an even more accurate result. 

In addition, it can detect even low levels of hCG, which the urine pregnancy test will not be able to detect.  

Monitoring Healthy Pregnancy

A pregnancy blood test is typically ordered by your doctor not just to confirm pregnancy. It is also used to monitor how far along and how healthy your pregnancy is. 

In this process, a quantitative pregnancy blood test provides the correct information specifically on hCG levels. 

A result that goes below the normal range of hCG can indicate conditions like ectopic pregnancy or potential miscarriage.

Peace of Mind

All in all, the most valuable advantage of a pregnancy blood test is the peace of mind it gives. It is utterly frustrating taking OTC pregnancy tests and getting inconsistent results that go against pregnancy symptoms.

Ultimately, knowing the truth stirs you away from stress and anxiety that could affect the goring embryo if you indeed are pregnant. 

But, on the other hand, if you find out that it’s negative, it may give you the relief you need or redirect your plans on trying again.

What Is a Qualitative Pregnancy Blood Test?  

A qualitative pregnancy blood test simply gives a yes or no answer to the question of “Are you pregnant or not?”.

In short, it confirms pregnancy by detecting hCG even the faintest amount. Thus, its mechanism is similar to that of OTC urine pregnancy tests.

However, the difference between the two is that a qualitative pregnancy blood test provides 99% accurate results. This is because it is rarely misread since the analysis is performed by licensed medical technologists or other healthcare professionals.

What Is a Quantitative Pregnancy Blood Test?

A quantitative pregnancy blood test does not simply detect hCG but also measures its levels.

The term quantitative basically suggests that it involves calculating how much hCG is present in the blood.

Results of this blood test are also used to reference the possible due date of the delivery.

The production of hCG doubles every after 48 hours as early pregnancy develops weekly. Hence, it provides a clear picture of how far along you are.

Your gynecologist or obstetrician may order a quantitative pregnancy blood test to check if you face some risks in your early pregnancy.  

If hCG is too low for a certain period in the first trimester or does not increase as expected, it could suggest a blighted ovum or ectopic pregnancy.

Thereby, further testing will be necessary to confirm these conditions.  

Which Pregnancy Blood Test Should You Take?

When choosing between a pregnancy blood test, it helps a lot to know exactly what type of result you wanted to learn. 

If you simply want to find out if you’re pregnant or not, you can go for a qualitative pregnancy blood test.

But if you want to go further and know how much hCG you have in your body, choose the quantitative pregnancy blood test

Nonetheless, it is still recommended to consult your gynecologist or obstetrician.

Can You Book a Pregnancy Blood Test Online?

pregnant women on tablet at home

Yes, you can order a pregnancy blood test online without physically going to the facility to book the appointment.

For example, in Personalabs, you can create an account and order a qualitative pregnancy blood test or a quantitative pregnancy blood test online.

After completing your purchase, you will receive a requesting order that you will present to the designated laboratory nearby, where a healthcare professional will assist you.

After the testing, you can simply check the results from your account. Then, print it up and present it to the doctor.

When you book a pregnancy blood test online, it minimizes the need to visit a laboratory facility frequently. Instead, you can just see the local lab during your testing schedule.

The Bottomline

When choosing a pregnancy blood test, always consider where you’re at in your pregnancy. For example, if you just missed your period and simply wanted to confirm pregnancy, a qualitative pregnancy blood test will do.

On the other hand, your doctor often orders its quantitative counterpart to ensure that you’re going through the pregnancy process without any trouble.

Whichever pregnancy blood test is required by your obstetrician, you can rely on its accuracy as medical professionals carry out the procedure. Hence, don’t hesitate to take the blood test.

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