When Should You Get a Pregnancy Test?

If you think there’s a chance you could be pregnant, you’re probably worrying about what to do – and whether you need to take a pregnancy test. Learn all about pregnancy tests and how they work here, and schedule an appointment to get free pregnancy testing at our center today.

Free Pregnancy Testing Services

Signs You Should Take a Pregnancy Test

If you aren’t sure you need to take a pregnancy test, or you don’t know what signs to look for, you’re not alone. Early pregnancy symptoms can be hard to detect and easy to misinterpret. That’s why it’s a good idea to take a pregnancy test if you’ve been sexually active and you are noticing any of the following symptoms:

  • Missed period
  • Unexpected changes to your body such as soreness, headaches, tiredness, breast sensitivity, nausea, or vomiting.
  • Unexplained mood changes like irritability, mood swings, or food cravings and aversions.

These are a few of the most common and well-known pregnancy symptoms. However, most women experience these symptoms differently, and some may have very few of them at all. That’s why it’s very important for you to schedule a pregnancy test when you experience these symptoms.

How a Pregnancy Test Works

Pregnancy tests work by measuring the levels of HCG, or human chorionic gonadotropin, present in your bloodstream or urine. HCG is a hormone that is only produced by women when they are pregnant.

Urine-based pregnancy tests display a positive result if HCG is detected. Some pregnancy tests use digital readouts to make the results more clear, but all urine tests work essentially the same way.

When to Take a Pregnancy Test

Most doctors recommend that you wait until the first day of your missed period before taking a urine pregnancy test. This is usually about two weeks after conception. However, some tests are more sensitive than others and can be taken earlier.

Our pregnancy tests can detect the HCG pregnancy hormone as early as 7 days after conception or 21 to 24 days after the first day of your last menstrual period (LMP). Most pregnancy tests aren’t accurate until at least 7 days after fertilization, which is when the embryo implants into your uterus. Before 7 days, the levels of HCG in your body are simply too low for the test to detect them accurately.

How Accurate Are Pregnancy Tests?

If you do end up taking a pregnancy test, you might wonder how accurate your results are. This is a common concern, and it often leads women to take extra tests unnecessarily. In truth, pregnancy tests are extremely accurate when they are performed correctly. Most inaccurate test results are because of a mistake performing the test, not a problem with the test itself.

When taken properly, a urine-based pregnancy test is over 99% accurate in determining pregnancy. However, pregnancy tests can give you inaccurate results if you:

  • Take the test too early.
  • Take the test while using certain medications, such as sleeping pills, diuretics, and some fertility medications.
  • Drink too much fluid before taking the test (this can dilute your urine, which lowers the concentration of HCG for the test to detect).
  • Use an expired pregnancy test.
  • Don’t follow the instructions.

Pregnancy tests can give two false results – a false positive (where a pregnancy is indicated when you aren’t really pregnant) and a false negative (where the pregnancy test says you aren’t pregnant when you really are). False negatives are relatively common, whereas false positives are exceedingly rare.

A false negative can be triggered in many ways. You could be trying to take the test too soon after intercourse, in which case you should wait a few days and try again. You could be drinking too much fluid before taking the test. You could even be performing the test incorrectly. Make sure you double-check all the directions and follow them exactly as they are written.

In contrast, a false positive only has a few possible causes. The first is the presence of drugs in your system such as fertility medications. The second is the possibility of a “chemical pregnancy” – an egg that was fertilized but never implanted in your uterus. In most cases, however, a positive pregnancy test is a good indication you are pregnant.

What Do I Do Next?

If you suspect you’re pregnant and are not sure what your next steps should be, we can help. Call Lighthouse Pregnancy Resource Center today at (973) 238-9045 to schedule your free pregnancy test appointment, and we’ll support you every step of the way. If you’ve already had a positive test result, we can offer you a medical confirmation of pregnancy using ultrasound, which is important to have before determining your next step.

Is there any connection between pornography, STDs and unplanned pregnancy?

Last month was Teen Pregnancy Prevention Month (among other designations).  Efforts were focused on reducing the number of teens facing unplanned pregnancies – a number that has declined significantly in recent years.  This is a good thing, but focusing solely on pregnancy prevention, while overlooking other painful consequences of the misuse or too-early use of sex hurts young adults in the long run.

Typically pregnancy is only a possibility three to six days a month for the average female. But STDs – sexually transmitted diseases or infections (STIs) – can be acquired any day of any month that a guy or girl is sexually active.  And the effects of STDs can be as life-altering as pregnancy, with no upside at all – unlike pregnancy, which results in people like you and me! Lighthouse offers free testing for the two bacterial STDs most commonly found in young adults.

Another often overlooked negative consequence is addiction to pornography.  At first glance, pornography use might seem to offer a way to avoid both unwanted pregnancy and STDs.  But that first glance leads to another, and another . . . and eventually your ability to connect with real people in healthy ways is crippled.

When we ask teens in high school classes to name some good things about sex, one common answer is, “It brings you closer to your partner.”  Yes, it does – physically speaking, anyway.  But the physical act of sex may not bring you closer emotionally, especially if you haven’t done the hard work of getting to know your partner, and being vulnerable so she or he knows you.  Pornography never brings you closer to a real person. It actually puts distance – literally and figuratively – between you and your partner or future spouse.  It may even create distance between you and your friends.

These negative consequences of pornography are connected to how our brains are wired for oneness.  Neurochemicals like dopamine and vasopressin released in men during sex help bond them to their partners, and in particular, to who they are looking at during sex.  If the “who” happens to be a fake image, and not a flesh and blood person, bonding still takes place – but not to a “real” partner.  And the bonding and arousal processes at work are addictive – drawing the participant further away from real-life relationships, while creating unrealistic expectations for future partners.

New studies report that one out of every three men ages 18 to 25 are now experiencing some form of sexual dysfunction, due to porn consumption.  Some of these young men may even lose interest in real life sexual relationships all together. 1

Of course, avoiding relationships with real people does prevent unplanned pregnancy. But fortunately, there are healthier and wiser ways to prevent unplanned pregnancies and STDS than pornography use.  The plan that protects your body, your heart and your relationships with others, involves saving sex for the one partner you commit to for life.


1 Sexual dysfunctions among young men:  prevalence and associated factors (2012). J z Health

Happy Mother’s Day to Julias everywhere . . .

After a dozen years, it still doesn’t get old.  Every Mother’s Day, I am reminded of the women Lighthouse has supported to make brave choices – choices that have changed their lives and their children’s forever, for the better. I smile when I think of how their first courageous choices – which seemed nearly impossible at first – resulted in joy and more life-enhancing choices for themselves and those around them.

As Mother’s Day approaches, I am grateful that Lighthouse is able to offer free life-affirming support to women facing unplanned pregnancies.  Some of our confidential services include pregnancy testing, medical confirmation of pregnancy, STD testing and relationship support for women like Julia.  Here is the story of Julia’s pregnancy journey, shared with her permission:

Hi, my name is Julia.  I came to Lighthouse in 2011 after googling free pregnancy test center sites. 

Being an unemployed recent college graduate and newlywed, I was worried about how having a baby would burden me with responsibilities I wasn’t ready to handle.  I thought this unplanned pregnancy would throw my plans for a foreign service career out the window and possibly keep me unemployed for several years.   

I admit that I did consider abortion so I liked the fact that the Lighthouse website reached out to undecided, unprepared women like me and that it was free.  When I finally made an appointment to get that free pregnancy test, I met Marissa, who provided me with the free resources available to not only test for pregnancy but also to care for the baby afterwards.  My husband and I were amazed at how much easier and more possible giving birth became, just by knowing that an organization like Lighthouse was ready to support us every step of the way to delivery and even beyond childbirth. 

How could we resist the love of God we received through Lighthouse?  Lighthouse had given us our first picture of Brian taken at 6 weeks, and that was enough to cancel out any thought of abortion.  My first visit was followed by phone calls from Marissa, who continued to care and provide me with resources that prepared me for childbirth.  So then, my husband and I benefitted further from watching videos on the childbirth process and bringing home some items for Brian like baby clothes, toys and a washtub. 

In this way, Lighthouse became an example to us and our parents of how Christian love builds families and communities.  Please pray with us that like Lighthouse, we, too, will be able to touch and improve the lives of others around us.  Thank you.   

This Mother’s Day I am also thinking of and praying for another young woman named Julia. She bravely placed her son in the arms of a loving adoptive couple.  She sacrificed much to give her son the life she believed he deserved.  Placing her child into the waiting arms of an adoptive couple took a great deal of courage – no matter how much sense the decision made.  May God fill her life – and yours – to overflowing with peace and love this Mother’s Day.

When Sex isn’t Sexy

While most television shows and movies include casual sexual encounters, rarely are the lovers (and I use that term loosely) shown getting tested for sexually transmitted diseases (STDs, for short).

Some consequences of uncommitted sex make it to the big screen.  Unexpected pregnancies have become an expected plot twist, thanks to movies like Juno and Knocked Up that center on the concept of an ill-timed conception.  The emotional drama after a relationship turns sexual or a sexual relationship ends makes for interesting viewing (think 500 Days of Summer, Friends with Benefits, or Vanilla Sky). But STDs seem to be the unspoken, unexpected consequence.

It’s not that surprising.  Unplanned pregnancy leads to a little person who’s quite easy to love, after the initial shock wears off.  Emotional drama is related to the bonding that occurs when neurochemicals are released during sex.  This bonding process heightens the excitement.

But STDs don’t have any positives to weigh against their negatives. They’re not cute – or sexy.  Talking about them won’t make you the life of the party.

Having sex with multiple partners will likely result in a sexually transmitted disease.  Consider the odds – each new partner exposes you to whatever STDs or infections their partners may have had – and to what their partners were exposed to, and so on.  One random hook up may expose you to the infections of more partners than you can or care to count.

The US Center for Disease Control (CDC) calls the all-time highest spike in reported cases of syphilis, chlamydia, and Gonorrhea “alarming.”  According to the CDC, more than 1.5 million cases were reported in 2015, a 6% increase from 2014.  Chlamydia and gonorrhea are the highest reported STDs among young people aged 15-24.  Those are the reported cases. Many cases are untested and unreported.

Although these diseases affect both men and women, women face the most serious health consequences.  Your sexual health matters not only for your overall wellness, but also for your future fertility.  Undiagnosed STDs causes more than 20,000 cases of infertility each year.  If you are sexually active and have new or multiple partners you should be tested annually.  If you are pregnant, it is especially important to be tested for gonorrhea early in your pregnancy.  Untreated gonorrhea may cause miscarriage or premature birth, and may be passed from mother to newborn baby during vaginal delivery.

At Lighthouse, we offer free screening for chlamydia and Gonorrhea.  If you do have a positive test result for an STD, it is important for you to tell your partner and for both of you to be treated.  If you or your partner has an untreated STD, you can pass it back and forth to each other during sex or transmit it to others in the future.

Health officials recommend using condoms to prevent spreading sexually transmitted diseases, but even when used correctly they don’t work 100% of the time – especially for an infection like HPV (the Human Papilloma Virus) that can be spread through skin-to-skin contact.  Plus, condoms don’t protect you from the broken heart which may result from your casual encounter.

Limiting yourself to one partner for life is the only sure-fire way to avoid the un-sexy side of sex.  Commitment is good for your emotional and physical well-being.  In the end, nothing is sexier (or healthier) than committed love.   # # #

Every crisis contains an opportunity – even an unplanned pregnancy

Crisis.  Gut wrenching, knee buckling, breath-sucking, life-changing personal crisis. We’ve all been there. Usually we wonder what to do next or how we will ever overcome the unexpected problem.  We had plans and dreams . . . and suddenly those visions are gone and even our day-to-day living seems threatened.

When life-changing obstacles threaten our plans, most of us don’t – or can’t – see the potential benefit of the ordeal.

The Chinese language has two words that mean “crisis.”  They mean danger and opportunity.  This translation reminds us that in every crisis event we not only find immediate panic but also the potential for a positive outcome. We will survive, but not without change and some loss of life expectation.  Perhaps we experience the loss of a job, a relationship, a loved one, or a life goal.  How we see the challenge and move forward amid the fear of it helps us to reach the other side – safely.

If you’re facing an unexpected pregnancy, you may be anxiously wondering what your next step should be.  How will you tell your parents?  How will your partner react?  How will this pregnancy impact your life?  How will you continue to work . . . or go to school?   You have time to answer these questions.

Be patient and allow yourself to be in the moment and to fully understand the options that are available to you.  Lighthouse Pregnancy Resource Center offers valuable resources – free of charge – that are vitally important to resolving this crisis.  Has a doctor confirmed your pregnancy?  Lighthouse offers medical confirmation of pregnancy, at no cost, to determine whether you have a viable pregnancy and how far along you are.  Knowing this before making your next step is critical.

Learning your options in a supportive atmosphere where you won’t be judged, and you can slow down and think through ALL your options is important. In the heat of the crisis, abortion may appear to be an easy solution, but it’s an irreversible decision with risks and significant consequences.

The feelings you are feeling are temporary.  Just ask Elainie Gonzalez, Lighthouse’s Paterson Center Assistant, who can easily relate to someone facing an unexpected pregnancy.  She was that someone the first time she walked through our doors.

Elainie vividly remembers her first ultrasound and the fear and anxiety she felt as she arrived to her appointment.  The Lighthouse nurse recognized Elainie’s high level of emotion since she had seen similar reactions in other mothers in crisis.  Elainie recalls the calming words the nurse used to reassure her:  “Your situation is temporary.  You don’t know where your life will be a couple of years from now.”

Elainie remembered those words and the support she felt that day as she chose to make a birth plan that included single parenting.  Her son turned three recently, and is the light of a full life that includes a job she loves, a supportive church community, and her own apartment. Two years after giving birth, she answered the call to work at Lighthouse and now helps support other mothers facing unexpected pregnancies.

Elainie’s crisis contained an opportunity to discover strengths and abilities she didn’t realize she had.  Because she slowed down, found support, and made an informed decision, she not only survived the crisis, she is thriving after the crisis.

Today’s crisis might be tomorrow’s blessing. Only time will tell.

Valentine’s Day on Social Media—a Lot Not to Like

Like many holidays, Valentine’s Day stirs mixed emotions for many people.

To celebrate it, we buy chocolate or flowers for those we love, and even send children to school with bags full of handwritten notes and treats for their classmates. Couples go out to dinner or exchange gifts to mark the holiday.

But what about those who are single on Valentine’s Day? What about the person whose spouse has passed away? Many people have an attached sadness to this day every year. These feelings of sadness can easily turn into an (understandable) sense of bitterness towards the day.

While this is no new concept, there is something in society that I feel has made this experience worse for many people – even people who are in a relationship on this Valentine’s Day:  social media.

On February 14, people will scroll through their Instagram feeds to find countless pictures of the bouquet of beautiful flowers from a romantic boyfriend, the scrapbook made by a thoughtful girlfriend, or the fancy candlelit dinner setting for two at an extravagant restaurant. Facebook feeds will be filled with paragraphs written about how amazing some husbands and wives are.

So what is the problem? Are any of those things wrong? Absolutely not. In fact, such things are worth celebrating and capturing once in a while.

However, here is where it gets a little tricky:  Those pictures, posts, and statuses do not show the entire reality. In fact, they often create a false reality of perfection – especially for people who are sitting alone on Valentine’s Day viewing the posts from afar. Worse yet, social media fosters an unhealthy comparison between couples, and the day turns from a celebration of love into a competition of who gets the most likes on a post or picture.

While I definitely do enjoy Instagram, I have come to the conclusion that social media never gives the whole story. People never post about the fight they had on the car ride to the restaurant or the financial struggles that have them celebrating on a tight budget. And rarely do you read about the uncomfortable conversations needed to navigate different faith backgrounds. These just don’t make it onto our social media feeds. Social media posts simply show the highlights of people’s lives – usually through rose-colored filters.

So, for the people who are in a relationship this Valentine’s Day, what if instead of bragging about your husband, wife, boyfriend or girlfriend on social media, you write them a letter saying what you would have posted?  Or better yet, you tell them face to face?  Social media can be an amazing, creative outlet and is made to be enjoyed, but I wonder what would happen if we thought twice about what we post and ask ourselves:  Will this picture create a false reality? Might it lead to unrealistic expectations?

For the people who are not in a relationship this Valentine’s Day, when you are scrolling through social media on February 14, remember that those posting have their own struggles, and hardships in their lives that a box of chocolate or beautiful bouquet of flowers cannot fix. Their lives may look perfect, but that is only through the lens of social media.

Jesus Christ is the only perfect and pure example of what true love looks like. Instead of getting our ideas about love this Valentine’s Day from our Instagram feeds, may we all look to the cross.

“This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters.” I John 3:16

Hope to be married someday? Stop hoping and start dating!

I recently heard that 85% of Americans hope to marry someday, according to a study by Rutgers University, which also found that 82% of female high school seniors say that having a good marriage is extremely important to them.  Whether you are a high school or college senior, or even a senior citizen, a good first step to marriage is a date.

A date, what’s that? – all but the senior citizens are asking.  If you are clueless as to how to begin the dating process, consider the following helpful tips posted on the Love & Fidelity Network’s blog recently. (Click here for the entire article: http://www.loveandfidelity.org/2016/02/18/3-tips-bring-dating-back/) The author describes herself as “now happily married, having survived college dating (despite the scariness).”

Read More

A Lifetime of Love

My first Valentine’s Day as a married woman, at the ripe old age of 22, I had a major meltdown when stores began to close and no flowers appeared. It was a Saturday night in the days before supermarkets sold fresh (or what passes for fresh) flowers.  In desperation, my husband bought the next best thing:  a vase from Macy’s that would hold flowers the following Valentine’s Day when he would be older and wiser.

Thirty years later, I still love gifts of flowers (and I even got a bouquet a few days early this year, to mark the anniversary of our first date!).  But my idea of what counts as an expression of love has changed. For the better, I think.  My friend, Anne, says it best in her poem, Love, which is reprinted here with her permission.  (For more of her thoughts, check out www.anneethompson.com.)

Love

No more,
Do I carve big hearts in the sand.
Neither do I scribble our names entwined.
Nor do I keep your photo’ under my pillow.
Nor chant your name like a rhyme in my head.
I do not whisper about you with friends,
Nor blush when I hear your voice.
I do not loiter in the places you may pass,
Nor practice smiles for you before a mirror.

Yet still,
My heart thrills at the sound of your laughter,
And I watch the clock when your arrival is near.
I am content when I manage to please you,
And I watch your face when you drive or read.
I learn every wrinkle that creases your smile,
And I bend to your moods as they change.
For though time may mellow and age us,
My love for you remains
The same.

by Anne E Thompson

Thank you, Anne.  And thank you, Fred, for living love, instead of buying it.

A Gift That Keeps on Giving

This Christmas season as I scanned my Instagram feed, I came across a photo of my friend Abby’s son in front of a big tree in her workplace.  It warmed my heart to think of how her life has been changed for the better by a pregnancy decision more than five years ago.

When I first met Abby, she was attending a college in Massachusetts, and had come home to make a decision about an unexpected pregnancy.  It was a difficult decision.  Continuing with her pregnancy meant she might be the only pregnant student at her school.  It might mean lost opportunities.

Some women in her situation might have opted for abortion.  Many do.  In fact, the majority of women having abortions are in their 20s.

Shawn turned 5 this week.  But if Abby had opted for abortion, she would have missed the gift that he is, and so many other gifts his life continues to bring.  They say, “Hindsight is 20/20.” If you’re pondering a pregnancy decision right now, perhaps Abby’s hindsight can help you:

    shawn by tree My son Shawn is this huge, amazing, and brilliant miracle that has blessed my simple small life. He is here because Lighthouse gave me the strength to drive-on, despite my fears and doubts. Lighthouse was strong for me when I simply couldn’t do it alone.

     Shawn’s dad and I had not yet made anything of ourselves, when I found out I was pregnant, and that was probably the scariest part of all. Feeling like we’d never be able to support this child emotionally, spiritually, and financially – because as a couple, we weren’t close to being ready for a child. (And neither of us was individually stable in those areas.)

     I felt like if I had this baby I’d never become anything, and we’d always struggle.

     When I became pregnant, I was a cadet in an Army reserve officer training program (better known as ROTC) – which I believed I would absolutely have to drop out of to take care of this baby. Today I am in the process of submitting my promotion paperwork to Captain (my second promotion since graduating ROTC). Both my husband and I have wonderful and successful careers, and we are even homeowners. Never did I think I’d own my own home! 

     God works miracles in our lives when we stand up for what we know is right, and he will NOT let us fall (even when it feels like we are at times). Lighthouse was the strength and support I needed to get through the dark times, so that today I can have and enjoy my beautiful life and family! Because I have my amazing little miracle to go home to every day, I am eternally grateful to Lighthouse.     

 – Abby

P.S.  If you didn’t make the same choice as Abby, Lighthouse is here to help you grieve the gift you missed.  Please visit www.LifeAfterAbortion to learn more.

 

Christmas Center Hours

Please take note of  our special center hours for the upcoming 2015 holiday season.

For Christmas, Lighthouse will be closed on Thursday Dec 24, Friday Dec 25 and Saturday Dec 26. The Prep Shoppe (formerly the Exchange Room) will also be closed on Saturday Dec 26.

For New Years, Lighthouse will be closed on Thursday Dec 31, Friday Jan 1 and Saturday Jan 2. The Prep Shoppe (formerly the Exchange Room) will also be closed on Saturday Jan 2.

Have a blessed Christmas season!