When a woman becomes pregnant, her body starts to produce a hormone called human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG). This hormone can start to appear in the blood and urine of a pregnant woman shortly after conception.
A pregnancy test can detect if the HCG hormone is present and can measure HCG levels. The test can be done with a blood or urine sample. Knowing the level can help a healthcare provider determine a due date.
When should you take a pregnancy test?
Most women will take a pregnancy test when they start to experience early pregnancy symptoms. Early signs of pregnancy can include:
- Missed period
- Sore or tender breasts
- Sensitivity to smells
- Frequent urination
For the most accurate result, wait to take a pregnancy test until the week after your missed period. If the test is taken too early in your cycle, you may receive a less reliable result.
There are pregnancy tests you can take at home, but these may not be able to detect pregnancy as early as a test given by a healthcare provider. If you have a positive pregnancy test result at home, you may still want to take another pregnancy test at a healthcare provider’s office to confirm the results.
What should you expect with a pregnancy test?
You don’t have to do anything to prepare for a pregnancy test. For the urine test, you urinate into a cup. You may want to provide a urine sample in the morning, when the HCG hormone is more concentrated. Results are ready in a few minutes. For the blood test, a healthcare provider will use a needle to draw a sample of blood. These results could take longer.