Confirming that you're pregnant
Once you suspect that you might be pregnant you'll want to confirm it as soon as possible. There are a number of tests you can have that can be done at different intervals following conception. Some are more accurate than others. At one time women had internal examinations, but now that most women have an ultrasound scan at around 12 weeks these are rarely needed.
The pregnancy hormone human chorionic gonadotrophin (hCG) can be detected in your urine. Urine tests can be done at home, in hospital, at your doctor's surgery, at family planning clinics, or at a chemist. These tests are more than 99 per cent reliable. They can be carried out as early as two weeks after conception, although you'll get the most reliable result if you wait a little longer (see also Is your test result right?).
This test is carried out by your doctor, usually only when there's a problem such as bleeding or pain, or after a cycle of assisted reproduction. The test accurately detects the hCG in the blood as early as two weeks after conception - about the time your next period is due.
Home pregnancy testing
You'll probably prefer to find out whether or not you're pregnant in the privacy of your own home. There's a range of pregnancy testing kits available from chemists. They're all simple to use and give immediate results that are more than 99 per cent accurate.
How pregnancy tests work
Urine tests check for the presence of hCG, the hormone that's made by the developing embryo. Two of the main types, the ring and the colour tests, involve mixing a chemical solution with a sample of your urine. The chemicals react according to the amount of hCG in your urine. The reaction is shown by a colour change in the tube or window strip, or coagulation is prevented, causing a dark ring to appear in the tube. A third test can be done by simply placing the absorbent part of the test strip in contact with the urine.
Although signs of hCG may be detected in urine as early as two weeks after conceiving, most kits advise using the test between one and four days after the first day of your missed period. If you do perform the test early, repeat it two weeks later when the hCG is more concentrated and the result will be more reliable. Most kits provide two tests.
Taking the test
Use a sample from the first urine you pass in the morning because it will contain a higher concentration of hCG. Don't drink anything before the test as this will dilute the sample. Make sure you collect your sample in a clean, soap-free container. If you can't do the test immediately, store your urine sample in the refrigerator, but don't keep it for more than 12 hours. Always follow instructions exactly.
Sometimes you may have a positive first test but a negative second test, followed by your period starting a few days later. Don't worry. Half of all conceptions don't become established pregnancies, as the fertilized egg fails to implant in the lining of the uterus and there's a natural termination. Your first test may have been positive because it was done before the fertilized egg was lost. To avoid this error do the test around the time of your first missed period. If there's a weak but positive result, repeat the test a few days later with a fresh sample.
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