We have a lot of women come through our clinic that ask, “How do I know if I’m pregnant?” There are a few different symptoms that can indicate you might be pregnant, but the most obvious one can be a missed period.
Ultimately, a pregnancy test from your doctor is the most accurate indicator, so if you suspect you might be pregnant then you’ll want to get a pregnancy test ordered.
Possible Symptoms of Pregnancy
Some women suspect they might be pregnant even before a missed period. However, a lot of the symptoms you may feel before a missed period can be the same as a premenstrual cycle, so sometimes it can be difficult to tell.
If you’re on the fence about whether or not you could be pregnant, here are a few things to look out for:
- Tender breasts
- Fluctuating emotions
There are over-the-counter tests that claim to detect pregnancy before a missed period. These can be a good option before a missed period if you think you might be pregnant (we recommend learning more about the accuracy of these below).
When to See a Doctor
If the test result is positive, it’s time to see your doctor. If you get a negative result but then you miss a period, it’s time to see your doctor. It may turn out that after some tests your doctor determines you are pregnant, or you may be dealing with a different medical condition and your doctor can help determine what that is. If you feel that something abnormal is happening within your body (whether pregnant or not), it’s always a safe decision to see your doctor, even if it’s simply to put your mind at ease.
How Pregnancy Tests Work
All pregnancy tests work the same. They detect a special hormone in your blood or urine called human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG) that is only present in pregnant women. When a woman is pregnant (i.e. a fertilized egg implants in her uterus), HCG starts to rapidly increase and build up in her body with each passing day of her pregnancy. As the HCG levels rise, it becomes easier for a pregnancy test to pick up and give that positive result.
There are two types of pregnancy tests you can choose from if you think you’re pregnant: home pregnancy tests and blood tests. Let’s dive into those differences!
Home Pregnancy Tests
The beauty of home pregnancy tests (and why so many women choose this option first), is that they provide privacy, are inexpensive, and they’re simple to use. They are sold over the counter at most drugstores, and the cost can range anywhere from $1-$18 depending on the brand and amount of tests that come in the box. Home pregnancy tests are very accurate at detecting HCG in your urine, but accuracy can depend on the following:
When to use the home pregnancy test
As we stated earlier, HCG increases the further along you are in your pregnancy. So if you take a home pregnancy test before a missed period, it’s not likely going to be as accurate as if you take it after a missed period.
Recent studies show that home pregnancy tests (no matter a brand’s claims) are most accurate one week or more after a missed period. You can take the test sooner than one week after your missed period, but there is a higher likelihood that you will see a false negative. If you continue to see negative results week after week, but you still think you’re pregnant, schedule an appointment with your doctor.
Also, keep in mind that a positive result on a home pregnancy test is more likely to be true than a negative result.
How to use the home pregnancy test
Many women aren’t aware that home pregnancy tests can expire. They may have some sitting in their cupboards to use at a later date and be completely unaware that if they are to use them past their expiration date then they won’t be accurate. Before you use a home pregnancy test, make sure to check the expiration date!
There are a few different methods home pregnancy tests require of women, including holding a test stick in their urine stream, or collecting the urine in a cup and then dipping the test stick into it. Despite what a brand claims, research suggests that a woman should wait 10 minutes to get the most accurate result (many brands claim a result in 3 minutes). Pro tip: Use a pregnancy test first thing in the morning to get a more accurate result.
Make sure to pay attention to the “control indicator” on your home pregnancy test. This typically is the first thing to appear on your test result window. If the line or symbol doesn’t appear, don’t trust the result of that test, as this means it isn’t working properly.
How accurate are at-home pregnancy tests?
Every woman is different when it comes to HCG levels in their urine. Some women may have high levels of HCG (at least enough to trigger a positive result) the day after a missed period, while other women need to wait much longer. Some women may never get a positive result from a home pregnancy test (things like medications can affect them) even though they are pregnant. This is why, if you think you might be pregnant, you should go see your doctor.
With all pregnancy tests, no matter the type or brand, make sure to read the instructions thoroughly and follow them to get the most accurate result.
All pregnancy blood tests are done in a doctor’s office. They are highly accurate and can detect pregnancy earlier than urine tests. Blood tests are able to tell that you are pregnant roughly 6-8 days after you ovulate (about a week before a missed period). There are two types of blood tests to check if a woman is pregnant:
- Qualitative HCG blood tests: These blood tests simply check to see if HCG is present in your bloodstream or not and they give a yes or no answer. This test has about the same accuracy as a urine test.
- Quantitative blood tests (or beta HCG tests): These blood tests measure the levels of HCG in your bloodstream. They can detect even trace amounts of HCG (the indicator that you are pregnant), and they are extremely accurate.
Do you think you might be pregnant or have questions about getting pregnant? Schedule an appointment with us! We’ll make sure you get your questions answered and receive the best care possible.