A Quick Guide to Pregnancy Testing


It’s official – after months of trying to conceive a child, you’ve missed your period. Now it’s time to have a pregnancy test in order to confirm what you’ve been hoping for. There are two main types of these tests – those performed in the comfort of your own home with a test purchased from the pharmacy or drug store, and those that are done in a doctor’s office.

Both can confirm whether or not you’re pregnant, and many women have both of them conducted in order to truly be sure. Which one is best? How are they different? We’ll clear up some of these questions here in this quick guide to pregnancy testing.

Over the Counter Tests

We’ll refer to the drug store-purchased tests as “over the counter” ones because that’s essentially what they are. Anyone can go to the store, whether it’s solely a pharmacy, a drug store that sells additional items, or even a grocery store, and buy one. There are several different types of these tests, including ones that claim to be able to detect pregnancy within a few days of conception.

In addition, most of them state that they are around “99% accurate.” Is this true? Well, it can be. However, the only way to truly know for sure is to go to your OBGYN (also known as an Obstetrics Gynecologist.)

How Do These Over the Counter Tests Work?

Once you get home with your over the counter pregnancy test, the first thing that you’ll want to do is open the package and read the instructions. These tests run on urine – your own, of course – and measure the levels of HCG (short for “human chorionic gonadotropin”) in your bloodstream. This is the main hormone that’s associated with pregnancy.

When an egg becomes fertilized and implants in your uterus, this hormone is created. While it’s best to wait until after you’ve officially missed your period to check for this hormone in your system, the more sensitive over the counter tests can detect lower levels of it in your urine.

Generally, the instructions for these tests are the same. They come with a small cup to catch your urine when you go to the bathroom. The system is very similar to that of a drug test if you’ve ever had one for work or for life insurance purposes. The test itself is shaped like a stick, and there’s one end that is dipped into the urine cup.

Once you’ve done this, you just have to wait a certain length of time (every test is different, but be prepared to wait for a few minutes) and then the other end of the test will state whether or not you’re pregnant. Some of these have a series of lines that appear, while others just say “pregnant” or “not pregnant” based on how the test is set up.

Keep in mind that you could end up with a false positive or a false negative. Either way, you’ll want to make an appointment to meet with your OBGYN for the next test.

Pregnancy Tests Done By a Doctor

These tests are quite different than the ones that you purchase in the store. When you arrive at your OBGYN’s office (although keep in mind that a general practitioner can do these tests as well), to get a pregnancy test, your doctor will order a blood test. This involves having blood drawn from your arm by a professional.

Your blood is then sent to a lab where the levels of HCG (the same hormone found in your urine) is measured.

HCG Blood Tests

There are two different types of these HCG tests. They are called quantitative and qualitative. The former – quantitative – determines exactly how much HCG you have in your bloodstream. An exact figure is determined. This is good to know, just in case run into problems or complications with your pregnancy.

For example, someone with a history of twin in their family who is carrying twins themselves will have a higher level of HCG in their blood than someone carrying a single child. Your blood HCG levels will be able to detect this long before any type of ultrasound.

The other type of blood test, the qualitative one, just looks at the amount of HCG in your blood and provides a simple yes or no answer. That is, it will come back with “yes, you’re pregnant” or “no, you aren’t.” While this type of test has its merits, in some cases, your doctor will order the quantitative one instead.

Although both types of HCG blood tests are useful and will determine whether or not you’re pregnant with more accuracy than the over the counter tests, they do take some time. You’ll have to wait a week or so before you receive any results. This is why it’s important to do both types of tests.

Author Bio:

This guest article is a work of Sam Knight in support of Pathways of Pella. If you are on the lookout for pregnancy testing near Des Moines, look no further than Pathways of Pella.