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.

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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.