Best Home Pregnancy TestAre home pregnancy tests accurate?  The simple answer is mostly—when used properly.  The tests you take at home are virtually identical to those your doctor will give you at the office: they both require urine and a chemical test strip. However, like all scientific data, they cannot be 100% accurate; there will also be a chance of false positives or missed pregnancies.  The good news is that they’re relatively uncomplicated; at worst you may get some pee on your hand.  Since the best home pregnancy test procedures assess the levels of a single hormone, they are pretty straightforward.  If you’re pregnant, then the hormone will be present in your urine.

The Facts

  • Home pregnancy tests are available OTC.

You don’t need a prescription to purchase a test.  They are widely available at grocery stores, drug stores, gas stations, and online.

  • During pregnancy, the placenta releases hCG.

After conception, the egg journeys down the fallopian tube and implants itself in the uterus.  When this occurs, the placenta begins to form and releases a hormone called human chorionic gonadotropin, or hCG, into the bloodstream.

  • Urine is a reliable indicator of pregnancy.

Although the placenta releases hCG into the bloodstream, small amounts of this hormone will find itself in the urine.  If even the best home pregnancy test is inconclusive, a blood test is the most accurate way to determine a pregnancy.  It’s best to test urine right after waking; urine held in the bladder overnight is more likely to have higher amounts of hCG for a home test to detect.

  • During the first few weeks hCG levels double approximately every 2-3 days.

Although some tests claim to accurately reveal your pregnancy immediately, the longer you wait, the higher the levels of hCG will be in your blood.  Waiting at least a week or two after conception will provide you will more reliable results.

  • Several factors can affect accuracy.

No test is infallible, and the best home pregnancy test may return inconclusive or incorrect results in several different instances.

  • First, conception doesn’t always occur on the date of intercourse.  Sperm can exist in the body for up to three days.  And once conception occurs, it may take the egg as many as nine days to attach itself to the uterine wall.  Since the placenta doesn’t form until this implantation occurs, you may be looking at 12 days after intercourse before your body begins hosting hCG.
  • Second, different manufacturers measure for different levels of hCG.   The more sensitive (and expensive) the test, the more likely it is to detect lower levels of hCG early in your pregnancy.  But if the test is taken too early, there may not yet be enough accumulated hCG to register a positive test.
  • Third, pregnancy tests do expire.  It’s important to always check the expiration date before purchasing a test.  After the expiration date it’s likely that the chemicals that recognize hCG are less effective.
  • Fourth, even the best home pregnancy test can be compromised by heat.  If they’ve been improperly stored at a retailer or in your home, higher than allowed temperatures can compromise the chemicals that detect hCG.

The Tests

There are two main types of home pregnancy tests: the dipstick and the cup.  The dipstick is by far the most popular.  A simple device is held in the urine stream or dipped into a cup with collected urine.  After a certain amount of time has passed, a test strip changes to indicate a positive or negative presence of hCG.  While test strips may indicate with a color change, other dipsticks may use one line versus two lines, a positive or negative sign, or the words “Pregnant” or “Not Pregnant”.

The downfall of using a mid-stream testing stick is that sometimes your urine stream is unpredictable; instead of following a predictable arc, it may jet sideways and miss the testing strip.  To avoid disappointment, always have two tests ready.  If your pee doesn’t cooperate the first time, collect it in a cup the next go round and just put the tester into the cup.

An alternative home pregnancy test combines a cup with a test device.  For this kind a test, urine is typically collected and then several drops are deposited into a well in the test device.  If the presence of hCG is detected, a designated area will change color.  Some women prefer this method believing that it’s easier than aiming urine onto a narrow dipstick.

Home pregnancy tests are more reliable than ever.  Mass production and technological advances have made testing for hCG both affordable and reliable.  The sensitivity of the chemicals used to identify hCGnow allows women to know even earlier that they are pregnant.  And this information is essential to begin planning for the next nine months, and indeed the next 18 years!

When used properly, the best home pregnancy test can accurately predict most pregnancies.  However, it’s important to follow all directions included with the tests.  While some tests recommend limiting physical activity prior to the test others may recommend avoiding certain foods that may potentially provide inconclusive results.  It’s best to read all the tiny text in the included pamphlet.  And most importantly, follow any given time guidelines to ensure accurate results.