How Reliable Is a Home Pregnancy Test?

Trying for a baby is stressful, time consuming, and can seem like an endless cycle of failed pregnancy tests, too soon periods, and tearful conversations. It can also be a wonderful time, full of hope and excitement due to what is to come.

One of the biggest questions is in regards to the ever so elusive positive pregnancy test. Taking a home pregnancy test can be nerve-wracking, especially if you’re not sure you can trust the results.

Below we have included some of the most asked and most popular questions with answers to help guide your journey to conception.

It’s hard for me to wait to take the pregnancy test, when is the soonest I can take a pregnancy test?

Many home pregnancy tests claim to be accurate as early as the first day of a missed period — or even before, including some tests claiming to be accurate up to six days before your period. You’re likely to get more accurate results, however, if you wait until after the first day of your missed period.

Why do I have to wait to take a pregnancy test? I thought I just had to wait until after we had sex?

In order to wait until the HCG concentration is high enough for detection in your urine. Shortly after a fertilized egg attaches to your uterine lining (implantation), the placenta forms and produces the hormone human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG). This hormone enters your bloodstream and urine. During early pregnancy, the HCG concentration increases rapidly — doubling every two to three days. The earlier you take the home pregnancy test, the harder it might be for the test to detect HCG.

How accurate are home pregnancy tests? Do I have to take two?

Home pregnancy tests differ in the ability to diagnose pregnancy in women who have recently missed a period. Many home pregnancy tests claim to be 99 percent accurate. However, If you have a negative test but think you might be pregnant, repeat the test one week after your missed period or talk to your health care provider.

Could a positive result be wrong? When would that happen?

Although rare, it’s possible to get a positive result from a home pregnancy test when you’re not actually pregnant. This is known as a false-positive.

A false-positive might happen if you had a pregnancy loss soon after the fertilized egg attached to your uterine lining (biochemical pregnancy) or you take a pregnancy test too soon after taking a fertility drug that contains HCG. An ectopic pregnancy, menopause or problems with your ovaries also might contribute to misleading test results.

Could a negative result be wrong? When would it be wrong?

It’s possible to get a negative result from a home pregnancy test when you’re actually pregnant. This is known as a false-negative. You might get a false-negative if you:

  • Take the test too early
  • Check test results too soon
  • Drink too much water

It’s difficult to keep a positive, upbeat attitude when trying to conceive is taking longer than expected but it is imperative to the process. Emotional stress and anxiety can cause challenges to one’s fertility and that can amplify what you’re already experiencing as a result of the situation. Read one of the Pulse’s articles on conception and keeping yourself calm even when it feels the hardest.

Shoshi S.
Shoshi is a graduate from Stern College for Women in New York City. Her areas of interest include policy, non-profit organizations, and administration. During winter 2018, she was a White House intern. Shoshi has also interned at the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles and at Save the Children in New York. As a millennial, Shoshi brings a young and fresh perspective to the worlds of pregnancy and lactation.

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