Am I Pregnant? More Than You Ever Wanted to Know About Pregnancy Tests
This is recurring question for me in practice. Each day someone comes to the office asking if they might be pregnant. In today’s world there is no reason for anyone to be asking this question. There is no reason to guess. There is no reason to wonder if you might be pregnant because you are feeling certain symptoms like nausea and breast tenderness. There is a simple solution everyone can use and in minutes you will have your answer.
Take a Home Pregnancy Test
Home pregnancy tests are very accurate. They are the same tests used in a doctor’s office. Pregnancy tests are available at any pharmacy. They can detect a pregnancy 7-10 days after conception. The best time to take one is when you miss your period. If you doubt the result you can repeat it in 1-2 days. If you were pregnant the hormone level would rise enough for detection.
If you miss your period or if you think you might be pregnant here is what you do. Wait until it has been at least 10 days from the date of possible conception or even better wait until you miss your period. Buy a home pregnancy test and follow the directions exactly as written on the box. It is best to use the first urine of the morning as it is more concentrated. The tests ability to detect HCG hormone will be higher allowing an earlier positive result if you are pregnant. Usually the tests recommend waiting about 3 minutes before reading it. If you let the test sit too long the the test may show a false positive result. A false positive is when the tests shows you are pregnant when you actually are not.
Pregnancy tests work by detecting a hormone called human chorionic gonadotropin, HCG. A hormone is chemical produced in your body. As soon as fertilization and implantation occurs this hormone begins to be produced. It then roughly doubles (increases by 66%) every 48 hours. Because of this predictable rise in HCG, a home pregnancy test will be accurate about 7-10 days after conception. By the time you miss your period a pregnancy test has an extremely high likelihood of being correct. A home pregnancy test can detect an HCG hormone of about 20. This highly sensitive test allows very early detection. In other words – you can trust the test results.
A blood pregnancy test done in a doctor’s office works a little bit differently. A blood test still detects HCG hormone but with this test an actual numeric level is given instead of a yes or no answer. A blood pregnancy test is slightly more accurate, but they also take longer and require a doctor’s visit. To simply answer the question “Am I pregnant?” a blood test is rarely needed. Here is an example:.
Let’s say you had unprotected intercourse and were concerned you might be pregnant. Ten days later you did a home pregnancy test and it was negative. On that same day you also did a blood pregnancy test. The home test said not pregnant but the blood test showed you were in fact pregnant with a BHCG level of 19. Notice this BHCG level is 1 point too low to for a urine pregnancy test to detect it. It is true that the home test gave you the wrong result, but remember that HCG doubles every 48 hours. If you waited two days and repeated the test urine test your hormone level would be about 38. The urine test would easily detect it. Had you simply waited until you missed your period before taking the home test the HCG level would be way above 20. The home test would have worked fine in the first place.
Often patients have done a home pregnancy test which showed they are not pregnant but they do not believe the result. My advice is to TRUST THE TEST. If you do not believe a negative result simply repeated in 1-2 days. If your test is still negative then you are not pregnant. You may need to schedule a visit to discuss irregular menstrual cycles if your period does not come. If your test is positive then there is no reason to keep repeating the test. Save your money for diapers because you are pregnant. Take your prenatal vitamins and schedule your first prenatal visit.