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All Your Questions About Pregnancy Tests, Answered

Do you suspect you may be pregnant?
PHOTO: istockphoto

Suspected pregnancies can be stressful for everyone involved, whether you’re hoping for a positive or a negative result. Still, keeping these unconfirmed by avoiding a pregnancy test does nothing good; on the contrary, it prevents you from taking timely action to ensure your health and the health of the baby you may be carrying. But there is no reason to be daunted by the idea of taking a pregnancy test. These are so simple they can be administered from the comfort of your own home, if you are not ready to see a doctor.

Learn more about pregnancies via the FAQs and answers below.

What are the different kinds of pregnancy tests I can take, and how does each work?

There are two kinds of pregnancy tests: urine and blood tests. As the names indicate, these used either urine or blood samples extracted from you. Both tests are used to identify the presence of the hormone known as human chorionic gonadotropin, or HCG. This is a hormone that builds up in your body within the first few days of pregnancy; it’s produced by the placenta not long after the fertilized egg attaches to the lining of your uterus.

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How accurate are pregnancy tests?

Home pregnancy tests (which are urine tests) are up to 99 percent accurate when used correctly. Positive results are also almost always accurate, whereas negative results can be less reliable as these can occur if instructions were not followed or if the test was taken too early. If you are in any doubt, see a healthcare professional.

How do I take a home pregnancy test?

The specific instructions will depend from brand to brand, so you should definitely check the directions on the box or leaflet of the home pregnancy test before taking it. These will usually require you to either place a testing stick so it will catch your urine midstream or catch your urine in a cup and then dip a testing stick in it or use a dropper to apply some of the fluid into a designated container. Then you’ll  need to wait a few minutes for the results to show.

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Are there any tips for making sure I get the most accurate results from pregnancy tests?

Two things affect the accuracy of a pregnancy test: timing and your ability to follow instructions. Thus, the most important thing you can do to ensure the test provides reliable results is read the label or leaflet outlining instructions for administering the test. This will also often inform you as to the best timing for taking the test.

For most brands, you are likeliest to get accurate results at least one week after your missed period. HCG concentrations in your body increase drastically during early pregnancy; but if you take the test too early, it may not yet be able to detect the presence of HCG. For more accurate results, you should consult your doctor, who may have you take a lab-based blood or urine test or even recommend an ultrasound.

How do I read the results of a home pregnancy test?

These are often specific to the brand of test you use; consult the labels or leaflets provided with the test to determine what your results mean.

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How soon after I miss my period will I get reliable results from home pregnancy tests?

According to, “You can take a pregnancy test anytime after your period is late—that’s when they work the best. It’s a good idea to take a pregnancy test as soon as possible if you miss your period or think you might be pregnant.” However, many pregnancy tests will be less accurate if it has only been a few days since you missed your period; you should read the labels or leaflets provided to determine a test’s accuracy. The earlier you take a test, the more you should be prepared for false results.

If you have irregular menstrual cycles, you are less likely to get accurate results if you take a test less than three weeks after having unprotected sex.

If the test comes up negative, is it still possible I’m pregnant?

Yes. False negatives are more common than false positives; if your test result is negative, it may simply be too early for your test to register the HCG in your urine or blood.

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Are there factors that increase chances of false positives or false negatives from home pregnancy tests?

As mentioned above, timing and not following the instructions provided with the home pregnancy test kit can affect the accuracy of the results.

What should I do if the test has negative results?

You may wish to test again on a later date to ensure that the results are not a false negative. If in doubt, see your health care provider.

What should I do if the test has positive results?

False positives are rare, but they do happen. If you receive a positive result from your pregnancy test, it is a reasonable assumption that you are pregnant. You should see your doctor as soon as you can. If your results were gleaned through a home pregnancy test, it is likely your healthcare provider will want to confirm the pregnancy through a lab-based urine or blood test (or both). You will likely also be required to have an ultrasound and discuss next steps as well as what to expect during your pregnancy.

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