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How to take a home pregnancy test? How does it work? What pregnancy hormone does it detect? We'll answer all of these questions and more. πŸ€”

πŸ’‘ This article is a part of a bigger series, based on our pregnancy test calculator.

What is an hCG urine test?

The hCG urine test detects a pregnancy hormone called human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG). This home pregnancy test is relatively cheap and can quickly inform you whether you're pregnant or not.

The placenta produces the hCG hormone during gestation, and its amount doubles every two days. The modern, at-home pregnancy tests can detect it even after 10 days after conception! There are three different test kits that you can choose from:

  • Test using drops of urine gathered with the use of a pipette.

    To perform the test, you first need to gather some urine into the small container. Then you use the pipette to take just a few drops and transfer them to the smaller window visible on the test.

  • Test strips.

    Gather the urine into a small container and dip the strip. Be careful not to wet the marked line.

  • Test using urine stream.

    To use this test, you need to unpack it and dip the stick in your urine stream (pee on the thinner part of the test stick). Be careful not to wet the results window.

The results are displayed in a special window of the test.

  • The positive outcome (presence of pregnancy) can be marked as either a plus (+) or two dark lines.
  • The negative results (absence of pregnancy) are usually shown as a minus (βˆ’) or one dark line.

All listed types of pregnancy tests kits typically have similar accuracy β€” choose the one that works best for you. Remember to always read and follow the test instructions! πŸ“„

Do urine pregnancy tests always work?

Nowadays, the reliability of urine pregnancy tests is very high. You can assess it by simply reading the test's packaging and finding out about its accuracy. The accuracy measures how good your test is. If your kit's label says it's 99% accurate, it means that it will show correct results 99 times out of 100.

You also need to consider the fact that the amount of hCG in urine might be too low for the test to detect β€” such a situation may happen in early pregnancy when the hCG level is just starting to rise. That's why it is recommended to take the test on the day of your missed period or later. If you performed the test too soon, don't get worried; repeat the test later to receive more accurate results.

Can a urine pregnancy test be false positive?

Yes, the pregnancy test can be falsely positive, although this situation is very rare. That's why it's recommended to always confirm your positive pregnancy test at your doctor's office and by performing a blood test that shows precise levels of hCG in your bloodstream.

The rare reasons for false-positive results include:

  • Recent miscarriage, abortion, or delivery;
  • HCG drugs used in infertility treatment; or
  • Some rare tumors.

A temporary positive test result may happen in a case of an extremely early miscarriage (aka biochemical pregnancy) or during an ectopic pregnancy.

πŸ’‘ Men can also get a positive result from a home pregnancy test. Such an individual needs to visit their doctor as soon as possible β€” a positive test may be a sign of testicular cancer!

Does a urine pregnancy test detect ectopic pregnancy?

Yes, your take-home pregnancy test may detect pregnancy located outside of the uterus. Unfortunately, the test is positive in only around 50% of cases.

All tests for pregnancy detection look for hCG produced by the placenta. If the fertilized egg did not implant in the correct place, the placenta cannot develop the way it should. Consequently, the hCG levels are much lower than in a healthy pregnancy, leading to false-negative outcomes.

If you think you might be pregnant despite a negative test result, don't hesitate to visit your doctor as soon as possible. Your OB-GYN will perform a complete gynecological examination, ultrasound assessment, and perform another test β€” the one that detects hCG in your blood. The blood hCG test is much more accurate and serves as a diagnosis confirmation.

In a case of proven ectopic pregnancy, the doctor may decide to follow the observation path and restrain from interventions. If your pregnancy may pose a direct threat to your life and health, the doctor will propose you either surgery or a methotrexate injection. πŸ“

You may learn more about the human chorionic gonadotropin in our hcg levels calculator.

Can a urine pregnancy test be done any time of the day?

Yes, all pregnancy tests can be done any time of the day. The type of the test is not really important in this matter. However, it is best to perform them right after waking up with your first morning urine. 🚽

Why is morning the best time to take a pregnancy test?

After the whole night's sleep, your urine is more concentrated than during the day when you both drink and urinate with lots of fluids. Thanks to that, the concentration of hCG hormone in your urine is much higher and can be detected earlier!

To sum up it all up: if you want your pregnancy test results to be as accurate as possible, don't hurry β€” you don't want to take your test too early! Wait till the first day after your missed period.
Take your urine sample early in the morning.

Is a doctor's pregnancy test more accurate than a home test?

Yes, the pregnancy test done by your doctor is much more accurate. The type of a test plays here a major role: your doctor prescribes a pregnancy blood test, as opposed to take-home kits that analyze urine.

Now, let's quickly list the pros of professional pregnancy tests: 🍼

  • They work by detecting hCG in blood, where the concentration of the hormone is more stable.
  • Professional lab tests can detect much lower amounts of hCG β€” they show a positive result early in pregnancy, a few days sooner than home pregnancy kits.
  • They're more reliable β€” we can be sure of their quality. A laboratory analysis allows us to eliminate the possibility of a user's error or the test's failure.
  • They're used in conjunction with the ultrasound and gynecological examination.
  • Professional pregnancy tests inform you about the exact level of hCG present in your body β€” it may allow a doctor to estimate the weeks of pregnancy or diagnose different conditions connected to having a bun in the oven.
  • During the first trimester, the blood hCG tests are a part of a non-invasive method screening for some genetic disorders, e.g., Down syndrome.
Łucja Zaborowska, MD, PhD candidate
Have you been wondering when to take a pregnancy test?

Find the answer with our calculator below!
Natural Conception
Menstrual cycle length
Your last period
Ovulation day
Urine test date
Blood test date
In Vitro Fertilization
IVF transfer day
Embryo's age
5 days (blastocyst stage)
Urine test date
Blood test date
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