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Types of Pregnancy Tests

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If you compare pregnancy to a roller coaster ride, the testing process is the nerve-racking, exciting climb up the first hill. Although all pregnancy tests detect human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG), a hormone present only in pregnant women, some can be done at home, while others must be administered under medical supervision.

Home Testing

Over-the-counter test kits may instruct you to urinate on a test strip, dip the strip in urine collected in a cup, or use a dropper to mix urine with chemicals that react with hCG. A line or plus sign says it's positive. Some tests claim they're accurate one day following your missed period. However, the United States Office on Women's Health says testing this early may cause false negatives. Save yourself the uncertainty by testing one week after your missed period.

Digital Home Tests

Sometimes early testing with traditional home pregnancy tests can show results that are so faint they are hard to read. Digital tests were approved by the FDA in 2003. It works the same way as the traditional home test, but, when it picks up hCG, a display simply shows the words "pregnant" or "not pregnant." As of 2014, you can expect to pay $1 to $5 more per test for digital varieties.

Professional Testing

Medical professionals use blood samples to detect even minuscule traces of hCG. Blood tests are accurate within a week after ovulation. Some can estimate how far along a mother is by measuring the amount of hCG in her system. These tests are often used to monitor women who conceive using fertility treatments, or who suspect they may have miscarried. Blood hCG levels that remain at very low or high levels may warrant extra medical attention. Some women will go for a blood test to confirm a home test result.

Important Precautions

Always check expiration dates on home pregnancy tests and follow the instructions carefully. Since hCG tends to be more concentrated in first morning urine, test as soon as you wake up for more accuracy. Some medications used to treat infertility contain hCG and can trigger false positives. If you're ever in doubt about the result of a home pregnancy test, try testing again in several days to see if your hCG levels have become more prominent. If things are still unclear, discuss alternate test options with your physician.

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