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Can I Trust the Results Of My At-Home Pregnancy Test?

The seconds seem to slowly tick by as you sit in your bathroom anxiously waiting to see if you’ll get a “pregnant” symbol on the little plastic stick. Who would have thought one little stick could determine such a life-changing moment? But, have you ever wondered just how trustworthy home pregnancy tests can be? 

With so many brands and style, even the cheap ones you can get at the dollar store, choosing the right test can be overwhelming. As you consider your options, here are some helpful pros and cons of using an at-home pregnancy tests.

The Pros

First, before going into the pros, it’s good to know what exactly an at-home pregnancy test is. These tests look for the hormone, hCG, or Human Chorionic Gonadotropin, in your urine. In a typical pregnancy, the hormone level doubles every 48 to 72 hours and usually reaches a level that can be detected by a urine test around 12 to 14 days after conception (or a couple of days before your expected period). If a test is more sensitive, it may be able to detect lower levels of hCG.

Here are a few benefits of using an at-home test:

  • Accessibility: You can find in stores or online. Prices may vary, but there is no difference between price and quality. Even the ones from the dollar store can detect a pregnancy – just make sure it’s not expired!
  • Private: You can do in the privacy of your home.
  • Affordable: You don’t have to pay a co-pay to have a doctor determine if you are pregnant or not.
  • Timely: You get results within minutes.

Some Cons

Although pregnancy tests are accurate if used correctly, it is possible, for them to be 100% accurate. Here are some downsides of home pregnancy tests:

  • Sensitivity: If you let the test sit too long, urine on the test can evaporate and make it look like you have two lines instead of one. The best way to avoid this is to read and follow the test’s directions exactly as recommended.
  • False Positive: Another argument against at-home pregnancy tests is the increased chances of detecting a very early miscarriage that might have otherwise gone unnoticed. Known as chemical pregnancies, these are extremely common and rarely indicate underlying health issues, but it can also create unnecessary heartache and anxiety.
  • False Negative: Although it is true that these tests can tell you that you are pregnant in a given cycle, they cannot tell you that you are definitely not pregnant. This can up your chance of a false negative result. This may be especially true if your menstrual cycle varies in length or if you are not tracking the exact date to expect your period.
  • Not as Good as a Blood Test: A blood test administered by your doctor is the most sensitive test and can be taken between 7 and 12 days after you conceive. 

“While generally speaking, pregnancy tests are great at testing around a missed period, you may not get accurate results if you take too soon after conception,” says Dr. Salina Baldwin, DO, a Banner Health OBGYN. “The tests only detect hormone levels in the urine and just aren’t as sensitive as a blood test taken in our office. Simply put, if you are having symptoms and have missed your period, see your doctor to get confirmation.”

Do pregnancy tests expire?

Simply – yes. Like many other items in your medicine cabinet, at-home pregnancy tests can and do expire. In general, most pregnancy tests last two to three years, however, it’s important to check the date stamped on the packaging. The expiration date is based on the manufacturing date, not when you purchased the test from the store. Using an expired pregnancy test could lead to false results – positive or negative.

The Bottom Line

Home pregnancy tests are generally very accurate. The longer you wait until after your period is due, the more accurate results you will receive. This may reduce the risk of disappointment or false hope. Depending on the results, talk to your doctor or your partner about next steps. Pregnancy is an exciting time for many women. Learn how to take care of yourself with the help of your Banner physician.  

Women's Health Wellness Pregnancy Gynecology

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