Home pregnancy tests for dummies

Home pregnancy tests are now so reliable (about 97% accurate) it’s all you need to do when you suspect you’re pregnant

They work by detecting the pregnancy hormone HCG (human chorionic gonadotrophin) in your urine and it’s really as simple as peeing on a stick.

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Urine tests use monoclonal antibodies – manmade molecules used in laboratory tests to test for HCG, so if the pregnancy hormone is present in your body it reacts with the monoclonal antibodies causing a colour change or a line to appear. The test can detect HCG as early as two weeks after conception, but you’ll get the most reliable result if you wait till after your next period is due. If you test too early and get a negative result it may be worth trying again in a couple of weeks in case the HCG levels were too low.

How to use a home pregnancy test.

Most home pregnancy tests vary slightly so it’s always best to read the instructions. They will almost certainly contain a stick which needs to be soaked in urine. As the urine moves up the test you will see a control line which is always present, and, if you are pregnant another line. (All tests vary – some use lines, others use crosses and some say ‘pregnant’ or ‘not pregnant’) Although it might seem like an eternity, it takes a certain amount of time for the test to work, so make sure you take notice of this in the instructions. The test will be most effective in the morning as the HCG levels in your urine are more concentrated, making it easier for the test to return a positive result if you are pregnant.

Here's a quick reminder before you use the test:

  • Read the instructions first - all tests vary.
  • Most tests ask you to hold the test stick in your flow of urine for five seconds.
  • For best results test in the morning with your first wee of the day as your urine is more concentrated and not affected by what you have drunk.
  • The test usually shows up after ten minutes.
  • If you see a faint line, it may mean that you are pregnant but the HCG levels in your blood are not strong enough yet. Test again in four days.

The information in this feature is intended for educational purposes only. If you have any concerns about your health, the health of your child or the health of someone you know, please consult with a doctor or other healthcare professional.

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