Pregnancy test: how to do it

Which one to choose, when to do it, how to do it, how much it costs, how reliable it is. Everything you need to know when you suspect you are pregnant and it is time to take a pregnancy test

Do you have the feeling that you are pregnant ? To be sure, just go to the pharmacy or supermarket to buy a DIY pregnancy test . The advantage of this type of test compared to those of analysis laboratories is obvious: you can do it comfortably at home and within a few minutes you will remove all doubts.

How the pregnancy test works

All pregnancy tests work on the same principle: they establish whether or not beta-hCG is present in the blood or urine, a fraction of the chorionic gonadotropin , the so-called pregnancy hormone . It is a hormone that is produced from the first sketch of the placenta already starting from the implantation in the uterus of the embryo, which occurs approximately 6-7 days after fertilization and is very important for the smooth progression of the first weeks of pregnancy. .

As soon as its production begins, the hormone first passes into the  blood – where it can be detected as early as 7-10 days after  conception – and after a few more days it is disposed of in the urine . The classic do-it-yourself pregnancy test sticks available in pharmacies or supermarkets detect the presence of beta-hCG in the urine usually from the first day of delay in menstruation (12-14 days after fertilization), or in some cases even from two – four days before.

Testing for beta-hCG in the blood is usually done in testing laboratories (a blood sample is required), but recently a do-it-yourself test, to be done at home, has been put on the market . analysis of a small drop of blood taken from a finger. 

How to do a urine pregnancy test

The operation of DIY pregnancy tests on urine is very simple: just place the appropriate strip under the urine stream for a few seconds, or dip it into the urine collected in a clean container and the result will arrive after a few minutes. Reading the results is very simple: the package insert that accompanies the kit clearly explains how to do it.

In traditional tests there is a window with a single line: in case of pregnancy the lines become two , while if you are not pregnant only one line remains. In digital tests, text may appear instead of lines 

  • you’re pregnant
  • or you are not pregnant

or smiley faces:

  • smiling when pregnant,
  • sad otherwise. 

If the second line of the test is faded

Sometimes it can happen that the second dash of a DIY pregnancy test on the urine is lighter than the other, not very visible or faded. In this case, the result must still be interpreted as positive, but for safety, the test can be repeated a few days later. At that point the second line should also be more marked. Alternatively, if you really want a response within the day, you can perform a blood test in an analysis laboratory, with measurement of the amount of Beta-hCG.

When to take a pregnancy test

The test must be done when the  menstrual cycle  is late compared to its canonical ‘schedule’, or symptoms are felt details, such as:

  • feeling excessively fatigued during the day;
  • falling asleep in the evening after dinner;
  • feel a feeling of  nausea  or discomfort from some smells and tastes;
  • experience excessive tension in the breasts or menstrual-like pains “

Do-it-yourself tests in the supermarket or pharmacy are fine but always to wait at least the first day of delay in menstruation , to avoid disappointments and exaggerated anxieties.

In case of a positive result, some latest generation tests also suggest how long you may have been pregnant.

If possible, it is better to test on the first urine in the morning. Even if even if those currently on the market are valid and sensitive and the risk of false positives (ie the test says that the woman is pregnant but it is not true) and false negatives (ie the woman is pregnant but the test says no) it’s very rare,

This is unless there is a valid reason to take the test in the middle of the afternoon or in the middle of the night: For example an annoying disturbance that alarms you. Then it’s okay at any time, and if the test is negative you can. repeat the next day in the morning.

Early pregnancy tests

Some tests are able to detect minimal amounts of hCG hormone and can therefore also be used 2-4 days earlier than the day expected for the arrival of menstruation, about 12 days after sexual intercourse considered to be at risk. However, many experts believe that those indicated from the first day of delay in the menstrual cycle are more reliable .

There are also tests that claim to identify a pregnancy up to a week before what should be the date of the new menstruation (as long as you have regular cycles of 28 days): they are always DIY home tests, but to be performed on blood . With a kind of pin a small prick is made on a fingertip, and squeezed a little to release a drop of blood. At this point, the test stick is brought close to the drop of blood, to load it into a special channel which must be completely full. You put the test on the plane, wait 10 minutes and that’s it: if only one line appears it means that you are not pregnant, if two appear that you are.

But be careful: even if there may be situations in which it is useful and important to know as soon as possible, if there is a pregnancy in progress (for example if the woman carries out a job at risk or takes drugs that are not allowed during pregnancy ), the use of very early tests can increase a woman’s anxiety. 

Do it yourself pregnancy test, the cost

The cost of a home pregnancy test ranges from $7 for 2 test sticks.

Positive pregnancy test

The pregnancy test is positive: congratulations, you are pregnant! “The first thing to do at this point, if you’re not already doing it, is to make sure you’re taking one folic acid tablet a day,” says Rossella Nappi. “Also, be careful to wash fruit and vegetables well and avoid raw cured meats and undercooked meats: you may be sensitive to toxoplasmosis . Finally, of course, it is time to notify your trusted gynecologist or midwife and to schedule the first visit during pregnancy. “. 

Negative pregnancy test

There are two reasons why you may have gotten a negative test result: because you are not actually pregnant or because you did it too early and the test was unable to detect too low levels of hCG hormone . If you still have the doubt that you might be pregnant, you can repeat the test a few days later: even a week or two later, if you have very irregular menstrual cycles . If the test continues to be negative and your period just doesn’t come, contact your gynecologist. 

DIY pregnancy tests, how reliable they are

Home pregnancy tests have a reliability of around 98-99%, so in the vast majority of cases they give a certain and reliable result . For this to happen, however, they must be done correctly and carefully following the manufacturer’s instructions.

False positives

It can happen – very rarely – that the test says you are pregnant even if it is not. This could occur due to the interference of some drugs (particularly fertility drugs containing hCG) or in the presence of ovarian cancer.

False negatives

Always rare, but a little more frequent, are the so-called false negatives : in this case the test gives a negative result, but in reality the pregnancy is there. A false negative result can occur if the test was performed too early, when the hCG levels in the urine were still too low to be detected. Or if the test was read too quickly or, again, if it was performed on excessively diluted urine. That is why it is very important to carefully follow the manufacturer’s instructions which also indicate how long to wait before reading the result, and to avoid drinking too much before taking the test.

As already mentioned, if the test is negative but you still suspect that you are pregnant and your periods continue to fail, the best thing to do is to repeat it after a few days (better a week or even two, to be safe, if your periods are irregular) .

Blood pregnancy test: when it makes sense to do it

In the past, the measurement of beta-hCG in the blood by laboratory analysis was used to get an idea of ​​the progress of pregnancy in the first weeks . If all goes well, in fact, the blood concentration of this hormone increases a lot in the first trimester and, especially in the first weeks, it tends to do so very regularly,  doubling approximately every 2-3 days .

Today, however, it is believed that it no longer makes much sense to propose this dosage of routines (although some doctors still recommend it), because to know if you are pregnant you just need a urine test, while  to understand how things are going it is more. an ultrasound is useful , performed starting two weeks after the positive test

The examination, however, remains useful in some circumstances and that is when when the  first ultrasound  – perhaps performed very early because there has been  blood loss  – is doubtful, or because you do not see anything, or because what you see does not correspond to the expected. For example,  an ovular chamber is seen but the embryo is not seen . This can occur in three cases:

  1. when the pregnancy occurs, but  is further behind than expected ;
  2. when there was a pregnancy, but there was an abortion;
  3. when the  pregnancy is extrauterine , that is localized outside the uterus.

In these circumstances,  a series of two / three successive doses of betahCG is recommended  at a distance of a couple of days from each other, because their progress can help to understand what is happening. If they double the pregnancy proceeds, if they decrease unfortunately it has stopped and if they increase without doubling it is possible that it is an ectopic pregnancy .