The pregnancy test, that moment of truth all future mummies yearn for and fear. But when is the best moment to take it?
Well, if you are trying to conceive a baby, the answer is… Not soon enough! However, your body is going to need a while for a pregnancy test to be able to tell. But if you've started noticing early signs of pregnancy such as morning sickness, you must be anxious to know! You can take it whenever you want, but there is no point in doing it before having a missed period. If you take the pregnancy test before, the result you get is not reliable and you will have to take another one at the right moment. Let’s take a look at how pregnancy tests work to understand!
How does the pregnancy test work?
A home pregnancy test measures the levels of the hormone human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG), also known as the pregnancy hormone. The hCG hormone is produced by the embryo and later by the placenta, thus its presence indicates a pregnancy. The pregnancy test detects (or not) it in your urine and then indicates whether you are or not pregnant.
So why do you have to wait until you miss a period? The answer is pretty easy: most pregnancy tests in the market are only able to detect hCG levels that correspond to a 2-week-old embryo. If we consider that ovulation (and thus fertilisation) occurs 14 days before you get your period, your future baby would be two weeks once you get to the date when your period is due.
If you take a pregnancy test before you miss your period, you could get a false negative. The pregnancy test will surely tell you that you are not pregnant, when you could actually be – the test is just not able to tell yet. In fact, it is recommended to wait until a week after you miss your period to take the pregnancy test, or to repeat it then, since the result just a day after the missed period is not completely reliable. To sum up, to get a reliable result, you need to take a pregnancy test at 4 weeks pregnant (pregnancy is counted since the first day of the last period), or at 5 weeks pregnant to be completely sure.
How to take a pregnancy test
Well, now that you know when’s the best time to take a home pregnancy test, let’s think of how to take it. No training needed here: you just have to pee on the stick!
First of all, read carefully the instructions in the box. Most pregnancy tests work the same way, but there could be small differences depending on the brand you got. Years ago, you needed to use the first urine in the morning, but nowadays most pregnancy tests are effective any time of the day (again, read the instructions to make sure anyway).
Once, you’ve read the instructions, it’s time to get your hands dirty (not literally!). You can either hold the stick under your urine stream or collect the urine in a cup and then dip the stick or carefully drop the liquid on it. Then, you will have to wait a few minutes (the instructions will tell you how many) and you will get the results, that will show up with a line, a “+” or “-“ sign or a colour.
It’s recommended that you don’t drink too much before taking it, since the levels of hCG could be diluted in the liquid. If your pregnancy test shows the result with an extra line, the more noticeable the line the higher the levels of hCG. It doesn’t matter how faint is the line, though: if there is a line, there is a baby!
Keep in mind that false negatives are more common than false positives. If you get a negative result, repeat the test a week later. If you get a positive result, head to the doctor… Because you’re going to be a mum!
And what if I’m not regular?
If you have irregular periods, knowing when to take a pregnancy test gets a bit complicated… as everything else when trying to conceive a baby! Since you can’t be sure when ovulation took place, forget about taking the test the day after your missed period and wait a week. If you get a negative result but there’s still no period, you can either wait another week and take another test, or go to the doctor and find out if you’re pregnant or not with a blood test.
Blood tests can detect pregnancy six to eight days after ovulation, at least a week before home pregnancy tests can, so this may be the best option if you’re not regular. There are two different blood tests you can take to find out if you’re expecting:
- Qualitative hCG test: it detects if the hCG hormone is there, so it gives you a “yes or no” kind of answer.
- Quantitative hCG test: It will measure the actual levels of the hormone, that are higher the more advanced the pregnancy is. Since this blood test, also called beta hCG, measures the concentration of the hormone, it is also used to monitor the progress of the pregnancy at the beginning.
A few things to consider
Before taking a pregnancy test, remember the following useful data:
- Certain medications such as antihistamines or diuretics could alter the result.
- Were you ready to take the pregnancy test but you started spotting? Wait before being disappointed: there is something called implantation bleeding, some light spotting that occurs when the embryo implants in the uterus. If you are bleeding but less than you usually do when you have your period, take the test anyway.
- Check the expiration date of the test before taking it. If it’s expired, the result cannot be trusted either!
So, now that you have all the information you need, what are you waiting for? Go take a pregnancy test to find out if there’s a little baby growing in your womb!