Understanding The Best Pregnancy Tests
If you have been trying to become pregnant, finding out you are can be one of the most exciting days of your life. If you have been trying to avoid becoming pregnant, it can come as a shock. However, thinking that you are pregnant and knowing that you are pregnant are two different things. Many women are poorly informed when it comes to understanding the methods for determining pregnancy. They also frequently need information about what they should do for themselves and their unborn baby to ensure good health for both, as well as a successful delivery. Although information about pregnancy tests is complex, it is also important, since early detection of pregnancy means you can get started early on making changes to your lifestyle and planning for your new baby.
Am I Pregnant?
The uncertainty of pregnancy can be disturbing, since without certainly you have no idea what you should or should not do. Unfortunately, there are many misconceptions about the process. Various old wives tales suggest that a woman will simply “know” when she is pregnant because of some kind of sixth sense. Supposedly, her friends and family will also be able to tell because she has a “glow.” Sadly, in the real world, what we feel might be something else, and what our friends take for a glow could be just a healthy flush from exercise.
There are various signs of pregnancy that you can look for, but these tips have to be taken with a grain of salt, since all could result from some other cause than pregnancy.
- Have you missed your period? This might happen once due to stress or other reasons, but more than once might mean pregnancy.
- Has your period been different or usual in its duration? This is also a possible sign.
- Morning stomach upset or vomiting. Pregnancy often results in metabolic changes that cause morning sickness.
- Has your sexual appetite suddenly increased? Surprisingly, this is also often a sign of pregnancy.
- Soreness and swelling in your breasts.
- Are you suddenly finding yourself having to urinate all the time? The increased pressure on the bladder from pregnancy can cause this.
- Unusual food cravings for things you normally would not eat, or at least not eat all the time.
- When you wake up in the morning, do you feel as though you would rather just stay in bed all day? This kind of pregnancy fatigue is quite possible in the first trimester, although more common later.
- Are there raised bumps around your areola? This can be a sign you body is preparing to produce milk.
- Enlarging abdomen. Obviously, while this could be a sign of pregnancy, it could also be something else.
- Stretch marks are another possible sign of pregnancy, as are other changes to your skin, such as a sudden and unusual outbreak of acne.
Virtually all of the above symptoms of pregnancy could, and often do, have some other explanation. However, if you have two, three or even more of these symptoms, you might have greater evidence toward the idea that you are pregnant. However, this circumstantial evidence is still not proof. For proof, you will need to take a pregnancy test. If you have several of the above symptoms of pregnancy, it might well be time to move on to actual tests.
Online sources of information
If you would like to learn more about the signs and symptoms of pregnancy, as well as what other conditions these same symptoms might indicate, there are many sites you can turn to. Most of these sites can also provide other information for expectant mothers. Here are just a few.
Women’s Health.gov is a site operated by the Office of Women’s Health under the auspices of the United States Department of Health and Human Services. It provides the public a wide range of useful information about women’s issues, including facts about pre-pregnancy nutrition and health, how to know you are pregnant, and child heart care. There are also a number of pregnancy fact sheets and other guides that you can download and print out.
Women’s Health.gov offers other pages to help new mothers prepare for their new child and its needs. To do this, the site has provided resources that explain all about breastfeeding, purchasing the supplies you will need, finding safe baby furnishings and many other planning related matters. There are also several quizzes to help you prepare to be a mom
Once you have brought your new baby home, Women’s Health.gov provides information about caring for your baby, returning to work, getting back in shape and much more. In addition, there are resources to help you find nearby birthing classes.
Another smaller but still useful federal site related to pregnancy and testing is the MedlinePlus Pregnancy Test page provided by the National Institutes of Health. This page describes the types of tests that doctors use for detecting pregnancy and how those tests work in a technical sense.
This site also explains how the tests are conducted and what you can expect to happen on the day you have the test administered. It goes on to explain the possible test results you might get back, both good and bad.
KidsHealth is a private organization site offered by the Nemours Foundation. A part of this site is devoted to a Pregnancy and Newborn Center. This site provides a huge number of individual pages on many pregnancy related topics.
The Pregnancy and Newborn Center starts with the process of pregnancy itself and its many aspects, such as the stages of pregnancy, eating during pregnancy and infant screening tests. It goes one to cover a range of topics, from childbirth itself and what you can expect to medical concerns and emotions upheavals during and after pregnancy. It also has sections about doctors, hospitals and medications.
Pregnancy-Info.net is a free site that that offers much of the same information as the previous two sites, but has more of an emphasis on the medical aspects of pregnancy. These aspects include things like what you can do that will help you become pregnant, as well as problems you might have during or after pregnancy, such as postpartum depression.
Doctor Administered Pregnancy Tests
The history of pregnancy test goes back thousands of years, with tests being mentioned as far back as ancient Egypt. Europeans of the 17th century often dipped a woman's urine in a solution and then incinerated it to learn if she was pregnant. Unfortunately for woman living in these distant times, these tests were all utterly worthless. There was no real understanding of the biochemical processes involved in pregnancy until the early 20th century. Without this knowledge, it was impossible to create a test that actually worked.
It was in the early 1930s that it was discovered that the placenta of women who were pregnant produced a hormone call human chorionic gonadotropin (or hCG). It was also found that by injecting the urine of a woman into a mouse or rabbit, the ovaries of the animal could be examined for ovulation, indicating whether the woman was pregnant. It was later discovered that a similar result could be obtained with a blood sample.
Today, getting a test at your doctor's office is quite simple and highly reliable. Thanks to the ability to use chemically based tests on either blood or urine to determine pregnancy, the mice, rabbits and frogs used in the past have been dispensed with. In the case of blood, your doctor will draw a small blood sample that will be sent to a laboratory for the test to be conducted. With the urine based test, a drop of your urine will be placed on a strip and the results will be obtained in seconds.
These tests work in slightly different ways. Some pregnancy tests are qualitative, meaning that they merely tell you if hGC appears in the sample. Others tests are quantitative and reveal just how much of hGC is present, which can be more revealing, since a very small amount might mean you are not pregnant. On the other hand, a very large amount might indicate that you are having twins, or that you are pregnant and something has gone wrong in your pregnancy.
This is a major difference between the at home test kits and those you might get at your doctor’s office. A test at your doctor’s office can also be used to make determinations beyond whether you are pregnant or not. It can tell the doctor the condition of your pregnancy and whether you are having a problem that will prevent you from successfully carrying the baby to term.
While these tests when done at a doctor's office often produce the most accurate results, many women choose to do an at home test first, both to avoid unnecessary expense and any potential awkwardness or embarrassment if it was an unplanned pregnancy.
Home Test Kits
The first home test kits to detect pregnancy came on the market in 1976. Using test tubes and strips instead of modern day digital devices, they were cumbersome to use, which in turn made it difficult to get a reliable result. The result was also often difficult to interpret. Still, these tests did allow women to get some idea if they were pregnant without consulting a doctor, producing almost 100% percent accurate positive results. However, they were accurate only 80% of the time when indicating a negative result.
Almost 30 years later, a new type of home pregnancy test came on the market that offered a much simpler method for testing, making the results more accurate. Instead of test tubes and strips with thin blue lines, with their hard to interpret and sometimes ambiguous results, an easy to use digital readout revealed the results with a straightforward yes or no answer. There are now many brands on the market based on this basic design.
ClearBlue was the very first of these new test kits on the market, and perhaps the best known because of that. The test is very sensitive, and can detect hCG levels as low as 25 mIU. ClearBlue works by having the user test by either placing the exposed tip of the device in her urine stream for 5 seconds or by placing it in a clean container of urine for 20 seconds . The latter approach seems to get more accurate results. After three minutes the digital display will read pregnant, not pregnant, book error or blank. It the book error occurs, you may have committed some mistake in testing, which means you will have to test again with another ClearBlue device. If the blank error appears, you should contact the company, since this represents a fault.
First Response is another very popular brand of pregnancy testing kit. Working in a way virtually identical to ClearBlue, it can detect hCG levels as low as 15-25 mIU, which means even earlier detection. However, you do not have to use one of the major name brands to get good results. Many drugstores such as Walgreens and Target sell kits that are just as sensitive and reliable, but at a lower price.
False Positives and Negatives
It is important to keep in mind that at home test kits are not always 100% accurate. Many factors can influence the results, such as when you take the test relative to your cycle, whether you perform the test correctly, whether the pregnancy is proceeding normally and any drugs or medications you might be taking. For example, if you have been taking fertility drugs to promote conception, this could result in a false positive.
On the other hand, false negatives are most often the result of not taking the test at the right time or taking it incorrectly. For example, leaving the device in the urine sample for longer than you should will often result in a false positive.
Once you have a positive result from a home kit, it is a good idea to confirm it with a doctor. However, after that you will no doubt start thinking about the things you have to do to prepare for your new baby. There are a number of things to consider.
Preparing for Birth
One of the first things that you will want to think about when you learn you are pregnant is where you will have you baby. While some women choose to give birth at home, perhaps with the assistance of a midwife or other trained professional, most prefer to give birth in a hospital or specialize birthing center, since these provide greater security should anything go wrong.
Items You Will Need
As your pregnancy progresses, there are many things you will need. One of the most obvious of these is maternity clothing. As you body changes, you will need clothing that fits you better and more comfortably. It is best to choose maternity clothing with lots of elastic or adjustable straps. This way, you will have to buy new clothing less often. Remember that anything you buy can be used in the future if you become pregnant again. Alternatively, you could give it to a friend, relative or a charity.
Items the Baby Will Need
You should also spend some of you time during your pregnancy to gather the things that your new baby will need. These items include clothing, baby bottles, a crib, diapers and toys. Many of these things may be given to you at a baby shower, so that you will only have to purchase some of them.
An important part of a being pregnant is recognizing that your health and that of your child is linked. As a part of this, you will want to take a close look at the foods you are eating to ensure that you are getting the best nutrition for you and your child. Also, while you do not want to overeat, you also have to make sure you are eating enough to support both and your child. You doctor can help you set up a diet that works for you.
While women who are pregnant for the first time sometimes feel that they virtually have to become invalids to protect their child from harm, this is not the case. Unless there is some underlying medical condition that restricts your activity, you can still get moderate exercise while pregnant. You may want to avoid heavy lifting, but walking, yoga or similar exercises should be fine. However, make sure you consult with your doctor before you proceed with any exercise program.
Things to Avoid
Along with the things you should do, there are a number of things you should not do while you are pregnant. One of these is smoking. Smoking has been demonstrated to contribute to low birth weight in infants, and well as premature deliveries and a number of birth defects. Both alcohol and many drugs can have similar negative consequences for your child. In addition to avoiding illegal drugs, you should also only take medications that you doctor prescribes, since even many prescription medications can have a detrimental effect on your unborn baby.
Having a baby is a major, even life altering, responsibility. By getting early testing to learn if you are pregnant, you can take the steps necessary to ensure the health and happiness of both you and your child.