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Home Pregnancy Test

Ethical Toy Shop |  Articles, Experts & Links |  Parenting Articles |  Home Pregnancy Test

Home Pregnancy Testing

Just what is a home pregnancy test?

Quite simply a home pregnancy test measures the presence of the hormone hCG (human chorionic gonadotrophin) in your wee.

hCG is first secreted by the cells which go on to form the placenta. This happens about six days after fertilisation when the fertilised egg implants in the uterus. Levels of the hormone build up rapidly in your body in the first few days following implantation. Home-pregnancy tests normally should be able to pick up the hCG in your urine by the first day you miss your period. Levels of hCG peak between the 60th and 90th days of pregnancy.

If the first test you do comes up negative it may be that your hCG levels haven't yet reached a level where they can be detected by a home pregnancy test, even by the day your period is due, so you may want to wait a few days then test again.

Not all pregnancy tests are the same. Some are more sensitive and usually more expensive as a result. The more sensitive tests can detect pregnancy even if you have only a small amount of hCG in your system. Concentrations of hCG are reported in milliInternational Units (mIU) or amounts equal to 1/1000th of an IU per millilitre. A test with a sensitivity of 20 IU/L is more sensitive than one with 50 IU/L. You should be able to find this information on any pregnancy test box.

How do I use a home pregnancy test?

Home pregnancy testing kits are pretty easy to use nowadays. You can test at any time of day, and as early as the first day of your missed period for most tests.

As explained above, more sensitive tests may be able to detect low levels of hCG a few days before your period is due but testing this early may give you an inaccurate result (see below). Avoid drinking too much fluid just before testing as this could dilute the pregnancy hormone in your urine. Over-the-counter medicines, such as paracetamol, should not affect the result, but fertility drugs containing hCG may do so.

Firstly, read the directions carefully, because instructions vary with different brands of tests Some require you to wee into a pot and then, using a dropper, place a small sample into a testing well. Others let you urinate directly onto a stick. But, fundamentally, all pregnancy tests work the same way; they measure the amount of hCG in your body.

What is different is how they display the results (positive or negative). Some change the colour of the urine sample, others show pink or blue lines on the test strip, reveal a red plus or minus sign, or the actual words "pregnant" or "not pregnant", in a window. Some of the newer pregnancy tests can even give you an approximation of how pregnant you are!

How long does it take to see the results?

Again, that depends on the brand, but broadly speaking you can check the results in about five minutes - the longest five minutes of your life! If you're testing in the bathroom, you may want to go to another part of the house and find something else to do. A watched pot never boils, and a watched pregnancy test is just excruciating.

Are home pregnancy tests accurate?

So long as you follow the directions exactly home pregnancy tests are 97% accurate. Because mistakes do happen, however, a lot of kits come with two tests.

If your pregnancy test comes up negative there are several reasons why - you may not be pregnant, or your body may not be making a normal amount of hCG. Or if you've tested too early (before the first day of your missed period) you may get a false negative result because not enough of the hormone has built up in your system. If the test comes back negative but you still suspect you're pregnant, wait a few days, read the directions carefully, and try again. False positives, when the test says you're pregnant but you're not, are rare.

If your periods are irregular, it may be more difficult to calculate when your period is due and therefore when to take the test.

Allow for your longest cycle in recent months before weeing onto that stick. If you have recently stopped taking the contraceptive pill, you may not know how long your natural cycle is so you may end up testing either too soon or too late. If your test is negative in either of these situations, you should test again in three days.

It is often best to do the pregnancy test first thing in the morning when your urine is most concentrated.

Where can I buy one?

It's easy to purchase a home pregnancy test. You can pick one up without a prescription at most hight street chemists and supermarkets. If you don't fancy people knowing your buying a pregnancy test then you can also buy them online or by mail order.

How are home pregnancy tests different from ones performed by doctors?

Many doctors surgeries use home pregnancy tests to verify pregnancies, in which case, they're exactly the same. Occasionally, women are given blood tests, but they aren't all that different from home pregnancy tests, either.
Both types of tests look for hCG in your body - a blood test, however, is much more sensitive than any over-the-counter kit, which means it can determine whether you're pregnant just six to eight days after you ovulate.

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