How do you do a home pregnancy test?

Different types of test use different methods but most home pregnancy tests involving holding the stick under the flow of urine; some tests ask you to urinate into a small cup and then transfer a sample onto a testing stick using a pipette. All tests detect the presence of the pregnancy hormone and the vast majority require you to urinate straight onto the stick. However, it is important that you read the instructions carefully to ensure you are doing the test correctly.

You should try and take the test in the morning, as your urine will be most concentrated at this time of the day. Avoid drinking large volumes of fluid before taking the test as this can affect the concentration of HCG in the urine and may cause the result to be inaccurate. If you are taking fertility medication, this may affect the result as many medications contain the HCG hormone. It is advisable to consult your GP if you are taking fertility medication and feel you may be pregnant.

You need to read the instructions that come with your test to find out how long you need to wait before the results appear; most tests take a few minutes for the results to appear.

When the right amount of time has elapsed, you should check your test; some tests use lines to indicate that you are pregnant while others use a plus symbol and some use the words ‘pregnant’or ‘not pregnant’. If you are using a test which has lines, if a line appears this means you are pregnant, even if the line appears to be faint. The same is true for tests that use signs; if the plus sign appears, this means you are pregnant.

Other important information

Home pregnancy tests come in many different forms and it is essential that you read the instructions as per the particular test you have bought. The symbols used to indicate whether you are pregnant or not can differ, and this is something that needs to be understood. Below are two main factors you should be aware of:

What is an evaporation line?

Most home pregnancy tests have a results window, which indicates a positive result when a line appears. The line may appear for a certain period of time and then fade; this is known as an evaporation line and this is caused by the urine evaporating.

It is important to read the instructions on the test carefully, as this will ensure you do the test correctly. You need to read the instructions to find out how long you should leave the test before checking the results; usually, this takes between 3 and 10 minutes. If you leave the test too long, the lines may become misleading and you may get an inaccurate result. If you leave your test too long or you do it incorrectly, do another test and discard the results from the old test. If you have done more than one test and you are still not sure of the result, consult your GP.

What does a faint line mean?

Home pregnancy tests differ in terms of what symbols they use to indicate a positive or negative result; some use plus and minus symbols, some use lines and some use actual words. The instructions will tell you how to do the test and which symbols to look out for. Most tests also have a symbol, which appears to tell you that you’ve done the test correctly.

If you have done a test which uses lines to indicate pregnancy, the symbol will usually appear as a dark, clearly visible line but sometimes a faint line appears and this can cause confusion. If the symbol to indicate you’ve done the test properly has not appeared and there is faint line, the chances are that you haven’t done the test properly; if this is the case, you should do another test and make sure you read the instructions carefully.

If you have done the test properly and the line is still faint, you may have left it too long to read the results, you may have used too much urine or you may have urinated on the wrong part of the stick. You should do another test if you have got an unclear result. If you have done a number of tests and have still not got a clear result, contact your GP.

Testing after a miscarriage, abortion or ectopic pregnancy

If you have suffered a miscarriage or an ectopic pregnancy, you will probably have experienced obvious physical symptoms, which are emotionally and physically challenging and difficult. Going through a miscarriage or ectopic pregnancy is a very hard time and every woman is encouraged to make the most of the support on offer to them from the NHS; many charities also offer advice and support. Likewise, abortion can also be a very emotionally and physically challenging time and you may need support and advice; you can get this on the NHS or from a charitable trust such as Marie Stopes.

After you have had an abortion, miscarriage or ectopic pregnancy, tests may still indicate that you are pregnant; this is because the pregnancy hormone HCG will still be present in your urine and blood stream. It may take up to six weeks to produce a negative test, although this will depend on the stage of the original pregnancy.

If you have any concerns about doing a test after suffering a miscarriage or undergoing an abortion, you should discuss this with your GP.

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