Everything you need to know about taking a pregnancy test

Woman holding pregnancy test

Home pregnancy tests are easy to find and extremely accurate when used correctly. However, there are several things you need to take into consideration when testing for pregnancy using a shop-bought product.

Here, we chat to the team at the period-tracking app Clue for the down-low on everything you need to know about taking a pregnancy test.

When to take a pregnancy test

Generally speaking, your chances of falling pregnant are highest if you have had unprotected sex during your fertile window. According to Clue, this is “the six days leading up to and including ovulation, usually around the middle of your cycle” in women who have regular periods. If your period often varies by more than a couple of days then your fertile window may differ from month to month.

“You can take a pregnancy test about two weeks after your estimated ovulation day. Be aware that the earlier you take a test the less accurate it may be, and some brands are more sensitive than others. You should probably take a pregnancy test or contact your healthcare provider if your period is nine or more days late.”

If your cycle is irregular: If you don’t know when your period is going to come, or if your periods are often irregular, then the chances of getting pregnant at any point in your cycle are significantly higher. If you ‘miss’ a period, then it may be a sign of pregnancy.

Woman with negative pregnancy test

How to use a home pregnancy test

Most pregnancy tests are highly accurate and affordable, but always ensure you buy from a trusted seller and that the expiry date has not passed (most expire two to three years after purchase). Following the instructions carefully is also key, as a 1993 study of pregnant women found that only a third of users complied with all test kit instructions, resulting in a false-negative incidence rate of one in four.

The ‘pee on a stick’ type of home test uses a chemical strip detects whether or not there are pregnancy hormones (also known as human chorionic gonadotropin of hCG) in your wee. The team at Clue say:

“You can do a urine test at any time of the day because hCG production does not changethroughout the day . If you drink large quantities of water or other fluids during the day you might want to do the test first thing in the morning, as the accuracy of the test can be affected if the urine sample is extremely diluted.”

Whether your home test is positive or negative, it’s wise to confirm the results with your GP or other healthcare provider.

Is it possible to get a false negative result?

Although pregnancy tests are usually very accurate, it is possible to get a false negative result.

“The most common cause of a false negative result is performing the test too soon after conception, when hCG levels are too low to be detected. If your ovulation happens later than usual, this means that the first day of a missed period can be too early to get an accurate result.”

Waiting to do a test until a week or two after a missed period will reduce the chances of getting a false negativity.

Is it possible to get a false positive result?

Yes, although this is very rare.

Pregnant woman making heart shape on stomach with hands

What other types of test are on offer?

For the most accurate form of pregnancy test, it is advised that you visit your GP.

“Healthcare providers often offer both urine tests and blood tests for hCG. The urine test offered is very similar to a home pregnancy test, but the results tend to be more accurate due to reduced operator error. A blood test will give you a precise count of your hCG levels. Because the blood needs to be analysed by a lab, you will need to wait longer to find out the results.”

As the blood test gives more detailed results, it is possible to detect things such as an ectopic pregnancy or an early miscarriage.

When to see your GP

If you are unsure, confused about or simply want to verify the results of a home test, or you should visit your doctor. Similarly, if you have had a negative pregnancy test but haven’t had a period in over 90 days, then you need to make an appointment with your GP, who may run a few tests to check if your cycle is being affected by another health condition.

“Doing a pregnancy test can be emotional — whatever the results. Remember that you are not alone in this. Try to talk with someone you trust and ask for their support. If you’re not sure where to turn, you can get confidential counselling in most healthcare providers’ offices and clinics.”

Clue can help you track your cycle and provides predictions for your ovulation and period.

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