If you suspect you may be pregnant, it’s important to confirm with a pregnancy test. Knowing this information early is critical for health and safety. At-home versions can be very useful, as long as you handle them properly. While nothing is more accurate than professional pregnancy testing, home tests can still offer reliable results, especially when you follow these simple but helpful tips.
1. Know the Symptoms
The most common and notable symptom of pregnancy is a missed or late period. However, many other factors can make you late, including:
- Physical activity
- Lack of sleep
- Changes in birth control
- Other underlying conditions
Even so, if you’re sexually active and more than a week late, it’s a good idea to take a pregnancy test. This is especially true if you’re also noticing nausea, cramps, and breast tenderness. Keep in mind that many pregnant women do not notice any changes until much later in pregnancy, so keep track of your menstrual cycle to be sure.
2. Time Your Test Well
You may be eager to know the results of a pregnancy test as soon as possible. While at-home tests do make this achievable, they’re much more accurate the later you wait to test. In general, it’s ideal to wait about a week after your missed period. This allows the body plenty of time to manufacture the hormone HCG, which pregnancy tests measure to either confirm or negate a pregnancy. While you can take a pregnancy test any time, the margin of error decreases the longer you wait.
3. Take a Test First Thing in the Morning
Because home pregnancy tests measure HCG in urine, you’re more likely to get an accurate reading first thing in the morning. HCG concentration in urine is highest in the morning after the hormone has accumulated throughout the night. If you wait until later in the day, you may get a false negative, especially if it’s very early in pregnancy. If possible, set everything up for your test so it’s ready to go the night before, then take it the first time you urinate the next day.
4. Follow the Instructions Carefully
Most pregnancy tests operate the same way, but it is still important to read the instructions before use. Oversaturating the testing strip or pointing it in the wrong direction could impact results. Home pregnancy tests should be left to sit for anywhere between three and ten minutes before reading the results, depending on the instructions. However, waiting too long can also affect the appearance of the device and may result in an inaccurate reading. For all of these reasons, it’s critical to read the instructions and follow them carefully.
5. Follow Up With a Medical Professional
If your test yields a positive result, be sure to contact a physician or women’s health center right away to determine your next steps. Most offices will perform additional professional testing to confirm a pregnancy. If your test was negative but you are still late or experiencing pregnancy symptoms, test again in a few days and reach out to your doctor.
Home pregnancy tests can be a helpful tool for women’s health. Use them properly to ensure more reliable results and be sure to see a professional after a positive test or continuing symptoms.