Clarity for Your Pregnancy Test Questions (From an RN)

Why are there so many options? How quickly can a test show positive results? Can the results be wrong?

Have you ever walked down the aisle looking for a pregnancy test and felt overwhelmed? You are not alone. There are so many pregnancy tests on the market today. You can quickly become overwhelmed by all the options as you walk through the aisle of a local drug store, Wal-Mart, or Dollar Store. Have you found yourself asking why are there so many options and does it really matter which one I choose? Can I trust the results from the cheaper test, or should I spend more $$ on a more “sensitive” test? Is it too soon for a test? How early will a test be able to detect a positive pregnancy?

If the pregnancy is unexpected, standing in the aisle and picking a test may leave you feeling dazed! Here is some information I hope will make your decision easier.

  • Choosing the right test mainly depends on how far along in your cycle you are (how many days before or after your missed period).

  • Most brands recommend (for best results) waiting until 1 day after your missed period. In order to reduce risk of inaccurate results. the absolute best time to take a test is 1-2 weeks after your missed period. Why? Because of the way the test works. The test is trying to detect an increase in the level of a hormone called hCG. HCG is produced when a fertilized egg (embryo) has attached itself to the wall of the uterus (implanted). As the placenta begins to develop it continues to release hCG, causing your levels to rise. Most tests display a positive result once a certain amount of hCG is detected in your urine.

  • Some tests claim to detect a positive pregnancy even before you miss a period. For women with irregular periods or a longer cycle (30-45 days between periods) this would most likely not be the case and may give a false negative result.

  • Again, the best way to get accurate results is to test 1-2 weeks after your missed period. If you cannot wait that long, then testing the 1st day after your missed period is acceptable.

Now that you have bought your test or tests, taking the test is easy, right? The answer is “yes” and “no"...

While there are only a few steps to taking the test, you must read and follow the instructions and time limits given for accurate results. No matter which test you decide to use, keep these things in mind before taking the pregnancy test to ensure the most accurate results:

  • Check the expiration date! Do not use if it is expired as the test may not give accurate results.

  • Use your FIRST morning urine. It is the most concentrated with hCG. Later in the day the urine may be diluted and may produce inaccurate results.

  • Read the directions before taking the test and make sure you follow them. Most important is the amount of time the dipstick is in the urine sample/stream and how long you wait before reading the test.

  • Set a timer or stopwatch. You can use this for both the amount of time the test needs to be in the urine stream as well as the time for running the test. Most tests will say to read within 2-3 minutes, however, if it appears negative at first, it may take a little longer. Do not read or trust the results after 10 minutes!

Few women take only one test. Some even find themselves taking several tests over a few days just to be sure and are confused when some give positive results while others are negative. This can leave you even more anxious about which test to believe. It may also leave you wondering can a pregnancy test be wrong????

Most tests claim they have a 99% accuracy if tested after the missed period date. While this is true for the most part, there are circumstances that may cause a false-negative or false-positive result.

If you get a negative result, you are probably not pregnant unless one of the following occurred:

  • Used an expired test

  • Tested too early, before your missed period Pro Tip: Irregular periods or longer cycles: Up to 20% of women are unable to detect pregnancy on the first day of their missed period due to variability in their cycle. This just means you ovulated later in the cycle or implantation in the uterus may have happened later. Wait another week or 2 and retest!

  • Urine is too diluted. Pro Tip: Don’t drink too much right before the test and use the first morning urine.

  • Test performed incorrectly (usually related to times in the urine stream or reading the result before or after the time frame).

If you take a test and the result is positive, most of the time this means you are in fact pregnant. False-positive results are uncommon, but they do happen sometimes as a result of:

  • Using an expired test

  • Medication side effects - some medications can cause false positives so check with your doctor or pharmacist to determine this.

  • Blood or protein in the urine

  • Waiting too long to read the test. Pro Tip: If you wait too long to read the test, an evaporation line may appear. It will be faint and without color but may appear to give a positive reading. That is why the directions remind you not to read after 10 minutes.

Hopefully this information helped you make your decision, eased some anxiety, and answered questions you may have.

Another option available is to get a free test provided to you at a local pregnancy center or health department. If you are near Randolph County, North Carolina please give us a call at Your Choices Randolph! Our center offers free pregnancy tests to anyone! Please call 336-629-9988 for an appointment!

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