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Whether you are trying to get pregnant or are concerned about an unplanned pregnancy, a pregnancy test is an important tool. For many women, taking a pregnancy test can be stressful. It can bring up many emotions, including excitement and fear. But knowing you are pregnant as soon as possible can help you make the decisions that are right for you.
Here are some of the most common questions we hear women ask about pregnancy tests.
Pregnancy tests are usually simple urine tests that show if a woman is pregnant. They test for a hormone called human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG). HCG is released when a fertilized egg attaches to the lining of the uterus. HCG is only found in a woman's body if she is pregnant.
You can either take a home pregnancy test or go to a health care provider for one. Home pregnancy tests are sold in most drugstores and cost about $15. If you take a home test, it's important to follow all of the instructions in the package of the home pregnancy test. The results will be either positive — meaning pregnant — or negative — meaning not pregnant.
Health care providers can also test if you're pregnant by testing your blood. But blood pregnancy tests aren't done very often. This page focuses on urine pregnancy tests.
You can take a pregnancy test as soon as your period is late. Some pregnancy tests even work a few days before a missed period. Read the label on the pregnancy test box to see when the test may become effective.
Be aware that tests become more accurate as you get closer to the date of your expected period. They are most effective once you have already missed your period.
Pregnancy tests are very accurate. Most home pregnancy tests work 99 out of 100 times if used after a missed period. They can be less effective if you take the pregnancy test too early, if you do not use it correctly, or if the expiration date on the pregnancy test has passed.
If the pregnancy test is positive, that means you're pregnant. If you've taken a home pregnancy test, it's important to visit a health care provider for another test. A health care provider can confirm the results, discuss your options with you if you are unsure about what to do, and help you get prenatal care if you want to continue your pregnancy.
A negative result from a home pregnancy test means you're unlikely to be pregnant. But sometimes it means you've taken the pregnancy test too early to know for sure. Wait until a day or two after your missed period and take another test to be sure.
Women sometimes find the results of pregnancy tests hard to read. If it's unclear whether the home pregnancy test you've taken is positive or negative, visit a health care provider for another test. Staff at your local Planned Parenthood health center can give you a pregnancy test and talk with you about your next steps.
Q&A with Dr. Cullins