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Am I Pregnant? How Pregnancy Tests Work and Testing Tips

Updated: Nov 28

Think you might be pregnant? Each woman’s pregnancy symptoms, and timing, are unique to them, so a generalization of what you are feeling, or not feeling, is not a reliable way to determine if you are pregnant. One of the most dependable methods to determine if you are expecting is the use of a pregnancy test.


Maybe you have taken an at-home pregnancy test and you want to confirm the results. Perhaps you think you might be pregnant but, you have been too nervous to take a test because the pregnancy is unplanned. Birthright of Boise is an excellent resource for you in either scenario. Birthright is NOT a medical clinic but, we do offer free medical grade urine pregnancy tests and more importantly, we offer compassionate support during what can be a very stressful time in your life. There is no pressure or judgment or scare tactics or lectures. Birthright services and pregnancy tests are free, confidential and available to any woman regardless of age, race, circumstances, religion, marital status or financial situation.


So, how does a pregnancy test work and how reliable are they? From the very beginning of pregnancy, your body starts to go through changes to support the development of your baby. One thing that happens very quickly is production of human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG). This hormone starts to build up once the fertilized egg implants in the uterus (womb), about 10 days after conception, and it is important in the early stages of pregnancy to help the fetus develop. Pregnancy tests look for the presence of hCG hormone.


There are two types of pregnancy tests used to look for hCG; a urine test or a blood test. At-home pregnancy tests use urine to look for hCG and are relatively inexpensive. When used correctly, they can be very accurate. Blood tests to determine pregnancy are done in your health care provider’s office.


Pregnancy tests work by reacting to the amount of hCG in either your blood or urine. However, hCG needs time to build up in your body. If you test too early (perhaps just days after ovulation), you could get a false negative and you will need to test again later. Each day of early pregnancy, your body will create more hCG. When pregnant, levels of hCG rise quickly, doubling every 2 to 3 days until they reach peak levels, usually between the eighth and eleventh week of pregnancy. The more hCG in your body, the more likely that a pregnancy test will show as positive. An at-home pregnancy test can't measure the exact amount of hCG in your urine. It simply detects whether a minimum amount is present.


At-home pregnancy tests do not require a prescription and are readily available in most grocery stores, pharmacies and even online retailers. The price of at-home tests varies widely and some are more sensitive to detecting hCG than others. The sensitivity level of a pregnancy test can be found on the packaging and is measured in mIU/ml (milli-International Unit per milliliter). Whichever test you choose to purchase, it is very important to read the directions thoroughly before you begin and then follow the instructions precisely. Not following the directions exactly as the manufacturer indicates can lead to inaccurate test results.

Here are a few other suggestions to follow when you take an at-home pregnancy test:

  • If possible, use your first morning urine. This is the time of day when your hCG levels will be the most concentrated and easily detected. If you take the test at another time of day, try to make sure your urine has been in your bladder for at least four hours.

  • Do not drink excessive amounts of fluids before you take a pregnancy test. Many people think drinking more fluids will increase the volume of urine and help produce more accurate results, but it can actually dilute (thin out) your hCG levels and lead to more inaccurate results.

In addition to free pregnancy tests, Birthright of Boise also provides support services if you are expecting, such as maternity clothes, diapers, wipes, baby clothes and blankets. We also have access to an extensive list of other community resources. Stop by our Birthright office any time during our business hours for a free pregnancy test; no appointment is required. You can also call us at 208-342-1898 to get answers to your questions. Birthright volunteers are not medical professionals so if your test is positive, we advise a woman to seek professional medical attention for her and her baby’s care during her pregnancy but we are here to provide you a listening ear, compassion and support for as long as you need us.









Sources:

Pregnancy Tests: How They Work, Types & Accuracy (clevelandclinic.org)

Pregnancy Tests: When to Take One, Accuracy, and Results (webmd.com)

7 Best Pregnancy Tests to Take in 2021 (babylist.com)

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