Interpreting Home Pregnancy Testsby Dianna Graveman | January 29, 2012 3:53 PM
Decades ago, the only sure way for a woman to know she was pregnant was a trip to the doctor. Today's home pregnancy tests make life a little easier and help new moms find out a lot quicker if they can soon expect a tiny bundle of joy.
If you have missed your period or have other symptoms that you think could indicate pregnancy, be sure to carefully read all of the directions on the home pregnancy test you choose to buy. Also make sure to check the expiration date when you buy--and again, before you use it. Even if the expiration date has not passed, remember that prolonged exposure to moisture and warm temperatures can affect the accuracy of some tests, so avoid using a kit you purchased several weeks ago and have stored in a bathroom or other warm place. If you have any questions, most tests include a toll-free number you can call with questions.
Remember that while most tests are comparable in their ability to detect hCG (Human Chorionic Gonadotropin, or "the pregnancy hormone") in your system, how early in the pregnancy that you use the test and how much hCG your body is producing at that time will also determine the test's accuracy. Also, be aware that the test may be more accurate if you test first thing in the morning, when your urine will be most concentrated and contain a higher level of hCG than it will later in the day. This is true, even if the package directions tell you it doesn't matter what time of day you test.
After carefully following directions, you will have to wait a period of time for the test to analyze the level of hormone in your urine. Almost all tests have a small control window which will get darker as time passes. You may see a line or symbol in the window to let you know the test is working properly.
After the allotted time has passed, you will see one of several symbols that will indicate whether you are or are not pregnant. Again, it is important that you have read the directions for your particular test carefully to determine the amount of time you should wait before checking results, and also to determine what type of words or symbol will appear in a control window of the test to give you the results. Depending on the product, the color in the window's background may change, or you may receive a more distinct sign such as a pink or blue line, a plus or minus sign, or even the words "pregnant" or "not pregnant." Regardless of how faint the symbol or words, the test has detected some amount of hCG in your system. So it is likely you are pregnant, even if you receive a positive result that is very faint. Consider retesting again within a few days to see if the test results are more obvious as your hCG level climbs. Note: It is important to read the results within the amount of time stated on your directions, usually five to ten minutes. If you read the test after that designated time, the results may begin to evaporate and give you a negative or confusing result.
Because the level of hCG in your body will help determine the outcome, and because that level will increase quickly if you are pregnant, some test kits come in packages of two so you can retest in a few days or a week if your result is negative and you still suspect you are pregnant. Don't assume you are definitely not pregnant if your result is negative. If you took the test less than seven days after you missed your period, you could get a false result. Occasionally, other factors can produce a negative test when a woman is pregnant. If your period has still not appeared about a week after having obtained a negative result on your pregnancy test, it is important to consult your health care provider to be sure you are not pregnant and/or to determine if other health-related issues could be the cause.
If you do immediately achieve a positive result, make an appointment with a medical professional to confirm the result and to begin receiving prenatal care.Dianna Graveman is a St. Louis writer, editor, educator, and mother of three. Her work has appeared in many print and online publications. Visit her website at 2RiversCommunications.com or her blog at DiannaGraveman.com.
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