Becoming pregnant is a monumental moment in your life – whether it is a pregnancy that you’ve prayed for or one that you hoped wouldn’t happen – there is no denying a pregnancy is a life changing moment. If you think you might be pregnant or are simply thinking about starting a family you might naturally be wondering: how do pregnancy tests work?
The Pregnancy Hormone
As soon as you become pregnant, your body begins creating the pregnancy hormone, hCG, or human Chorionic Gonadotropin. This hormone can be detected in a pregnant woman’s blood or urine. The amount of the pregnancy hormone the body produces increases rapidly, doubling in amount every 36 to 48 hours as the pregnancy progresses, until it reaches its peak production at eight to ten weeks.
The Mechanics of At-Home Pregnancy Tests
When you buy a pregnancy test from the pharmacy or supermarket, you’re buying test strips designed to detect the presence of the human Chorionic Gonadotropin pregnancy hormone. To use the test, a woman will either urinate in a cup and then dip the test strip into the urine; or urinate directly on the test strip over the toilet, depending on the test that you buy. After a couple minutes, the test strip will indicate whether or not the hCG hormone is detected in your urine.
Pregnancy Tests are Not Foolproof!
While pregnancy tests are extremely accurate for most women, with some being able to accurately detect a pregnancy about six before you miss a period – although the majority of at-home pregnancy tests are designed to detect the hCG hormone six to ten days after you miss a period. There is always the possibility that you could be pregnant and the test strip fails to detect the pregnancy hormone. We all have that friend who spent hundreds of dollars on pregnancy tests, sure she was pregnant, getting negative results on test after test… only to go to the doctor and get a blood test that says she was in fact, pregnant! While uncommon, it does happen so if you have taken an over-the-counter pregnancy test with a negative result but have not gotten your period when you should have, it’s a good idea to make an appointment with your doctor to confirm whether or not you are pregnant.
To make the at-home pregnancy test as accurate as possible, most recommend taking the test first thing in the morning when concentrates of hCG are highest in the urine.
If you get a blood test at the doctor’s office, they can detect the pregnancy hormone about six to eight days after ovulation. The blood test cannot give you an immediate result at the doctor’s office the way a urine test can, but it is the most reliable of the two types of pregnancy tests.
Knowing you are pregnant early on allows you to make healthy lifestyle changes for a healthier pregnancy for both yourself and the growing baby, during the critical first stages of your baby’s development.