You can often tell if you’re pregnant by noticing at least one common symptom. If you’re experiencing any of the symptoms of pregnancy, you should take a home pregnancy test or visit your doctor to confirm the pregnancy.
You’ll likely get accurate results from a pregnancy test one day after your first missed period. However, it’s best to wait at least a week after your missed period to be sure that you get the most accurate test results.
Home pregnancy tests
A home pregnancy test (HPT) can be used on the first day of your missed period. Some very sensitive tests can be used even earlier.
These tests work by detecting the hormone human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) in your urine. This hormone is only found in the body during pregnancy. A chemical in the stick changes color when it comes into contact with this hormone. Waiting times will vary depending on the test, but most take about 10 minutes to deliver an accurate reading.
Most manufacturers recommend that HPTs be taken twice, since results may vary if you take a test too soon after your first missed period. In some cases, your hCG levels are too low to catch early on. Applicators vary from brand to brand, but the tests are generally inexpensive.
Pregnancy tests are accurate when they’re used correctly. It's possible to have a false negative, which happens when you’re pregnant but the test says you aren't. If you missed your period and it doesn’t arrive after a few days, repeat the test or check with your doctor.
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Clinical urine test
You can get a clinical urine test at your doctor’s office. These tests aren’t necessarily more accurate than an HPT. However, your doctor may be able to help eliminate any possible errors that might affect the accuracy of the test. Depending on your health insurance plan, a clinical urine test may cost more than an HPT.
Results of a clinical urine test can vary depending on the medical facility that you visit. However, you can usually expect your results within a week of taking the test.
These tests are taken at your doctor’s office. A laboratory tests your blood to detect hCG.
There are two types of pregnancy blood tests:
Qualitative hCG blood test: This test checks to see whether any hCG is being produced in the body. It gives a simple yes or no answer as to whether you’re pregnant.
Quantitative hCG blood test: This test measures the specific level of hCG in the blood.
If your hCG level is higher or lower than expected based on how far along you think you are in the pregnancy, your doctor may order further tests. They can include an ultrasound or repeat the hCG test in a couple of days. The most common reason for the hCG level to appear abnormal is being unsure about your dates. This would mean you are either further along in the pregnancy or not as far as you thought.
Quantitative hCG blood tests are very accurate because they measure the exact amount of hCG in the blood. They can detect smaller amounts of the hormone than a qualitative hCG blood test or a urine test.
Blood tests can detect hCG earlier than urine tests. Blood tests are usually more expensive than home tests, and you have to wait longer for your results. Blood test results can take more than a week, and sometimes two, to be delivered.
Early symptoms of pregnancy
Some symptoms of pregnancy are especially noticeable early on, including:
a missed period
urinating more than normal
sensitive, swollen breasts
If you notice any of these symptoms, talk to your doctor, especially if you’ve recently had unprotected sex.