20 October 2021 (updated)

When to Take a Pregnancy Test, and How Does It Work?

Have you been feeling off recently? You’re a little extra tired, maybe emotional, and you haven’t gotten your period in a while. A pregnancy test can bring you some certainty – but when is the right time to take it and how do you know it is actually positive?

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How Does a Pregnancy Test Work?

Most of us think of a pregnancy test as just urinating on a little stick, but we’re not really sure what we’re looking for beyond the “yes” or “no.” But the pregnancy test is actually measuring the concentration of the human hormone chorionic gonadotropin (hCG).

What’s that? This is actually a special protein that functions as a hormone. hCG is formed by the placenta. Its task is to give the pregnancy a ‘start signal’ and to maintain it.

Approximately five days after the fertilized egg has implanted itself in the uterus, the hCG level in the female body rises. It reaches its peak in the tenth to twelfth week of pregnancy and then slowly falls off again. Therefore, most pregnancy tests are based on hCG concentration.

What Types of Pregnancy Tests Exist?

To determine the amount of hCG, a pregnancy test measures the concentration either in the blood or the urine. A blood test can be performed by your gynecologist and gives a reliable result approximately one week before the expected menstrual cycle. In contrast, the products that are available in drug stores are all urine tests. Here, too, two types differ.

You can use so-called early tests up to four days before the menses is due. However, these pregnancy tests are not particularly reliable, as many women do not yet have the required amount of hCG for a positive result. That means the test can be negative even though you’re pregnant.

Therefore, it is better to wait until your menstrual cycle is really overdue before taking the pregnancy test. Most test providers advise waiting for three to five days after the absence of the period.

What Do I Have to Consider When Using the Pregnancy Test?

Most pregnancy tests are quite simple. However, before using it, you should read the instructions so that you can keep an eye on the waiting time. Most difficulties aren’t from the test itself. They’re from misreading the test result.

The rapid test is the cheapest and simplest variant of the pregnancy test. (Shopping tip: You can get these at any grocery or drug store, but I’ve been really happy with the ones I got at the Dollar Tree. So don’t overpay for these!)

The result is normally displayed using lines. Usually, a single line means that the test has worked but is negative. Two parallel or crossed lines state a positive result.

If you test very early and the hCG concentration is still very low, the second test line may be very pale. This leads to great uncertainty: Am I pregnant or not? To save you this stress, you should really only test after you have missed your period. If you have tested negative and still feel signs of pregnancy, taking a second test at a later time is a good idea. Some also prefer to rely on a digital pregnancy test. These indicate in writing whether you are pregnant or not and, if you are, in which week of pregnancy.

My Pregnancy Test Was Positive – What Happens Now?

If you are holding a positive pregnancy test in your hand, it is best to first talk to your partner or someone you trust.

Depending on your personal situation, this moment can be a life-changing event with a lot of emotions and it’s great if you can talk to someone. With the help of FamilyApp you can talk or chat with your lovely person, also when she or he didn’t live in the near.

You should also make an appointment with your gynecologist. Depending on how far along you are in your pregnancy, she will directly perform another blood test or an ultrasound examination to confirm the result of the pregnancy test. The gynecologist will also advise you about further examinations.

Good luck!

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