Being pregnant brings on several known pregnancy symptoms that are associated with the condition. But the only way that you can be sure that you are pregnant is through pregnancy tests. So if you have the missed period or nausea or just feel like you might be pregnant, you can confirm your suspicions with pregnancy tests.
Let’s take a look at what pregnancy tests are, what they do, how they work, and the different kinds of pregnancy tests available today.
What are Pregnancy Tests and how do they work?
Pregnancy tests are basically used to determine whether or not a woman is pregnant.
The principle that they work on is actually quite simple. When you are pregnant, there are particular hormones released by your body to cope with the coming baby. Pregnancy tests just detect whether or not these hormones are present in your blood or urine. Since there is no other reason apart from pregnancy that your body would produce said hormones, positive pregnancy tests prove conclusively that you are pregnant.
The hormone in question is called hCG or human chorionic gonadotropin. It is commonly known as the pregnancy hormone. After conception, the fertilised egg implants itself in the uterus. When it has successfully done so, the body produces hCG, the level of which will rise each day that you are pregnant and peak between 60 and 90 days.
The hCG can be detected in your blood or urine almost as soon as you are pregnant, depending on the sensitivity of the pregnancy test you choose.
What are the Different Types of Pregnancy Tests and how reliable are they?
There are 3 types of pregnancy tests – urine tests, blood tests and pelvic examination.
Urine pregnancy tests
Urine Pregnancy tests are what most people know as a home pregnancy test. This is the first test that even a doctor will have you undergo if you think you are pregnant. The results of a urine test will be the same whether you take it at home are at your doctor’s since it is basically the same kit. It is the simplest of pregnancy tests as you have to do nothing more than feed a sample of your urine on to a receptacle on a pregnancy stick or pee directly on the stick and wait for the result to show. A urine test is more reliable a few days after implantation. Taken too early in the pregnancy, the test may not be able to accurately pick up on the relatively lower levels of hCG in the urine. So you may very well be pregnant but the test will show that you are not. This is called a false negative. If you repeat the test after two or three days, the results may differ. The reliability of home pregnancy tests will also differ if the kit you buy has expired, or if the brand that you buy is not very good.
Blood pregnancy tests
After a urine test, a blood test may be advised if there are discrepancies with the urine test – for example, the test shows negative even though you are experiencing obvious symptoms of pregnancy – or if you just want to be doubly sure. You will have to visit a testing lab or speak to your doctor about getting a blood test. These pregnancy tests can detect even the tiniest amounts of hCG in your blood and can thus confirm pregnancy mere days after conception. So they are far more precise than urine pregnancy tests, but are not used as often as urine tests since there are several other indicators of pregnancy and a positive urine test is usually enough confirmation for a doctor.
There are two kinds of blood pregnancy tests. One is called a quantitative hCG test or a beta hCG test. And the other is called a qualitative hCG test. While the former is able to tell you the exact level of hCG in your blood, the latter will simply tell you whether or not hCG is present. If a blood test is necessary to confirm pregnancy, then it will generally be the qualitative one that your doctor asks you to take. The beta hCG test has other uses besides confirming pregnancy. hCG levels may rise too rapidly or fall in case of problems with the pregnancy. So the quantitative test can tell a doctor if the levels are normal for the stage of pregnancy that you are in.