You can get a home pregnancy test at several stores and supermarkets, from grocery stores to discount stores and convenience stores.

Although pregnancy tests are readily available, it doesn’t clarify whether you should take a pregnancy test or not. It doesn’t also tell you whether the results to believe these tests or not since their level of accuracy is different.

The wide availability of several pregnancy tests gives rise to many questions regarding pregnancy tests. Below are common questions about a pregnancy test, including how they work and which test can give you an accurate result.

How do home pregnancy tests work?

To understand how home pregnancy tests work, you need to know the basics of early pregnancy. Pregnancy occurs when the sperm reaches the egg, leading to fertilization.

The fertilization leads to the formation of a small cluster of cells called a blastocyst. The cells divide into more cells, but it takes about two weeks for the body to recognize this process. When your body recognizes this process, it means pregnancy has happened, and a series of reactions occur, which helps to stop your period.

The pregnancy triggers the production of the human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG), the pregnancy hormone. The home pregnancy tests detect this pregnancy hormone to give a positive result. Home pregnancy tests check for hCG in a urine sample.

In the early stages of pregnancy, the body secretes small amounts of the hormone, but as the pregnancy progresses, the hCG level increases, making it easy for the test to check for pregnancy.

Most home pregnancy tests have a stick or paper slip that reacts with the hormone in the urine to give a color change, but for the digital pregnancy test kits, a pregnancy sign lights up if the kit detects hCG hormone in the urine.

How do home pregnancy tests differ from the pregnancy test done at a doctor’s office?

For pregnancy tests that require a urine sample, the home pregnancy test is similar to the one done at a midwife or doctor’s office. Although the home test kit may come with more detailed instructions like collecting your urine and more packaging, it is the same as anyone in a doctor’s office.

Blood pregnancy tests are also available at a doctor’s office. A blood test for pregnancy also checks for the hCG hormone. The doctor has to order this test before you can carry it out.

The doctor may order one of two blood tests: the quantitative test, which measures how much hCG is in the blood, and the qualitative test, which checks if hCG is present.

A qualitative blood test is the same as the urine test as it checks whether hCG is present or not, although the blood test can detect lower hCG levels, meaning it can detect pregnancy 1 – 2 days before the urine test.

The quantitative blood pregnancy test can give a specific number of hCG in the blood, measured in mIU/ml (milli-international units per millilitre). This number has several uses. Vital use of this value in determining the length of the pregnancy, which helps date the pregnancy.

A serial hCG test involves several pregnancy tests taken a couple of days apart, which can give an estimated length of the pregnancy and tell whether the pregnancy is healthy or not.

If your hCG levels double after every two days, it means the pregnancy is healthy, but when the hCG levels do not rise quickly or begin to drop, there may be a risk of miscarriage, ectopic pregnancy or early pregnancy loss.

A blood pregnancy test is usually for women who have issues in their pregnancy or require special tests. If you visit your doctor’s office for a pregnancy test and have no known risk, they will likely offer you a urine test.

What should I check for in a home pregnancy test?

You have several options when you decide to buy a home pregnancy test kit. This means you need to choose one out of the several test kits. Before getting a pregnancy test, you should ask yourself the following questions.

  • When was/is my period due?
  • How do I know I can carry out the pregnancy test correctly?
  • How do I know I can read the test result correctly?
  • Will I need several home pregnancy tests?
  • Have I taken a pregnancy test in past?
  • Am I taking hCG medications that may affect my result (this usually applies if you are getting fertility treatment)

Even if your period is not due, some pregnancy tests in the market can tell you whether you are pregnant or not, although they usually cost more than the standard home pregnancy tests. These tests can only tell you if hCG is present in your urine, but if the test shows negative, it means you are not pregnant or carried out the test too early.

If you’re concerned about your ability to interpret the result correctly, you can get a digital pregnancy test. This type of test has a readout which states pregnant or not pregnant, which means you don’t need to guess whether you see a line or not, or the line is an evaporation line.

If you do not feel confident that you can carry out the test correctly, you can get a pregnancy test that comes with detailed instructions on how to carry out the test and a tool-free number in case you have questions.

The box will contain information on what is in the kit, including information on collecting your urine. Some home pregnancy tests require you to urinate on a stick, while others require urinating in a cup and testing the urine.

How you take your urine sample for the test can affect how you feel about the accuracy of the test. Even if the test instructs using the stream of urine method, you can use the catch method.

If you’ve carried out a pregnancy test in the past or can take the test correctly, you can buy the cheaper pregnancy tests that are accurate and work as well as the more expensive ones.

In most cases, the difference between these tests is the bulky packaging and detailed instructions in carrying out the test. The cheaper pregnancy tests may not give you a toll-free number to call if you have questions regarding the test.

Regardless of which home pregnancy testing brand you choose, ensure you check the expiration date. The biggest error in home pregnancy testing occurs when using an expired pregnancy test kit. If you’re buying the kit online, ensure you check if it is expired or about to expire.

How much does a pregnancy test cost?

The cost of pregnancy test kits varies from less than a pound for bulk purchases without lots of packaging to more than £10 for a pregnancy test kit, usually the digital early pregnancy test with a toll-free number and lots of packaging.

The amount of a pregnancy test kit does not always affect how well the test works. Whether you buy a test with support and more instructions, or one with less packaging and no instructions, the result will likely be the same.

You can save a lot of money by buying test kits with multiple pregnancy tests and using them at different times, but ensure you check the expiration date.

Different places offering free pregnancy tests are available, and you can look for the closest to you if you can’t buy a home pregnancy test. For example, some local health care departments and faith-based crisis pregnancy centres carry out free pregnancy tests.

Ensure you know who is carrying out the test and their qualifications for the test, whether a volunteer, nurse or doctor. Ask about their aim for carrying out the free test, as some clinics offer free pregnancy testing with hopes of handling your prenatal care.

When should I carry out a pregnancy test?

The decision to carry out a pregnancy test is solely yours. Some people prefer to put off the test for as long as possible. This means they get to wait for about two weeks after their period is due to take the test. Others chart their ovulation and take the test about two hours after they think pregnancy has occurred.

A blood pregnancy test can detect even the smallest amount of hCG about 7 – 10 days after conception, while home pregnancy testing using urine can detect hCG hormone 12 – 14 days following conception.

To determine when to carry out a pregnancy test, you should ask yourself why you need to know if you are pregnant.

If you want to know if you are pregnant because you have an issue with medication or need to stop a medication, ensure you consult your midwife or doctor. They can determine when and how to take the pregnancy test since a home pregnancy test may not be suitable.

If you’re anxious to know whether you are pregnant, you can carry out an early home pregnancy test, although you may have to wait at least 12 days after your ovulation.

Early testing may not be advisable because a negative result may only cause more anxiety because it may be a false negative. In this case, consider a positive result as accurate and a negative as an inconclusive result until you get a positive result or your period starts.

How do I perform a home pregnancy test?

The instructions for home pregnancy tests are similar. However, ensure you follow the instruction that comes with your test, especially for the test’s timing. Your result will likely be more accurate when you use your first-morning urine or urine when you haven’t urinated for some hours.

This allows the urine to be concentrated and aid in better hCG detection. In the later stages of the pregnancy, producing concentrated urine may not matter because other tests can detect lower hCG levels, about 20 – 25mIU.

Ensure you have everything needed for the test, including the test kit, a device that will serve as the timer, a cup, and the test instruction. Wash your hands properly and collect your urine in a clean cup available in the kit or any small disposable cup. Alternatively, open the kit, remove any shields and urinate on the indicated spot.

If the test doesn’t require the stream method, place the correct number of urine drops on the test strip or dip the test strip into the cup containing your urine for about five seconds or the indicated time.

Place the test strip or stick flat and check your time. Most test kits require waiting for about two minutes to read the result. Reading the test before the indicated time can give you an inaccurate result, so ensure you set the timer and wait for about 2 – 5 minutes, depending on the test.

Digital tests are easier to read, but the other tests will have two lines in the strip, either a plus or parallel line for a positive result, a negative sign, or one vertical line for a negative result.

Do not read the test later than instructed, especially not the following day. Usually, any colour change where the second line should be, indicates the presence of hCG, meaning a positive result. If two lines show on the test strip, they do not need to have the same colour to indicate a positive result.

When should I retake the pregnancy test?

You could retake the pregnancy test if the previous test showed a negative result and your period is not yet due. Consider waiting for at least two days before repeating the test because this gives your body sufficient time to produce more hCG needed for the test to read positive. You can also repeat the test if your period doesn’t start after some days to a week.

Some people keep carrying out the pregnancy test for the fun of it, especially when the result is positive. They want to repeatedly see a confirmation of the baby growing inside of them as this gives them comfort.

If you had a positive result and repeated the test later on, which shows a negative result, it may be a sign that you had a chemical pregnancy, or you may have taken the second test when your urine is diluted, meaning the hCG level is low.

What should I do with a positive pregnancy test result?

If your pregnancy test is positive, you will need to schedule an appointment with a midwife or doctor. Your provider will give you the needed guidance to care for the pregnancy. You can share your concerns with your healthcare provider even before the scheduled appointment.

You may not get an appointment with the doctor until the eighth week of the pregnancy or after missing your second period. However, if you have a medical condition requiring earlier attention, ensure you inform your healthcare provider. You may want to consider consulting another provider if your provider doesn’t look into your concerns.

If your result is negative, you can wait for a while before repeating the test. Health care professionals recommend waiting at least one week before repeating the test.

If you still have a negative result, you can schedule an appointment with the gynaecologist in London of your choice for a physical exam because several factors can cause a negative pregnancy result when your period hasn’t come.