Everything you need to know – with testing tips!
On topic: Why Fertility Chart?
In comparing home pregnancy tests, selecting the best test is based on three key benchmarks: test sensitivity, the ease of use/interpretation, and price. In considering which test to buy, we also need to compare test formats and consider branded versus generic tests. Brand tests (found in drugstores) are typically quite expensive and come in midstream format. Unbranded tests (like those found at Early-Pregnancy-Tests.com) are very affordable, but equally reliable, FDA-approved, and typically more sensitive than drugstore tests (see our pregnancy test sensitivity chart below). Unbranded tests come in both midstream and test strip formats. Test strips are the most affordable option and are the same style of tests you will find at a doctor’s office, clinic, or university. All of the tests discussed below are very accurate; indeed, they exhibit over 99% accuracy in clinical settings.
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In order to review which tests are the best, we need to first look at how a pregnancy test works. Pregnancy tests are designed to detect the hormone “human chorionic gonadotropin”, commonly abbreviated as hCG, which is produced by the placenta in the very early stages of pregnancy. hCG is first produced when the fertilized egg (or embryo) “implants” in the uterus. This takes place about six days or so after conception, or the union of sperm and egg. To make a long story short, fertilization takes place in the fallopian tube. Once the egg is fertilized, the embryo travels down the fallopian tube to the uterus. Once in the uterus, the embryo will implant in the lining of the uterine wall. At this point, the placenta develops and hCG is rapidly produced. This whole process between ovulation and implantation may take five to seven days or so.
Following implantation of the embryo, the amount of hCG increases rapidly – on a daily basis nearly exponentially. The hCG hormone does travel through the woman’s system and ultimately appears in urine samples. Home pregnancy tests function by detecting the amount of the hCG hormone in urine. You can also go to your doctor to have blood drawn – another way of determining if you are pregnant. Most women opt to test at home first – mostly because home testing is now convenient, easy, reliable, and very affordable.
If you are pregnant and the amount of hCG in your urine reaches the specified sensitivity level of a given test brand, a positive result will be indicated. A positive pregnancy test will display a “control line” and a “test line”. The control tells you that you have performed the test correctly and it is functioning properly. The test line tells you if you are pregnant or not. Test lines can appear as a simple color band, a plus sign, or in he case of digital pregnancy tests you will see actual words or symbols telling you the good news. Our first piece of advice is to read the procedural and interpretive instructions of any test very carefully before proceeding!
Pregnancy Test Sensitivity
The most sensitive tests (like the ones available at Early Pregnancy Tests.com) are capable of detect hCG levels at the 20mIU/hCG threshold (mIU, or International Units, is a level of measurement). 20mIU/hCG is the level of hCG that is typically present, on average, in the urine of pregnant women at about seven to ten days past ovulation. 20mIU is really the perfect sensitivity level, allowing you to test early (before your first missed period) while not being overly sensitive. If a test is too sensitive, it can detect naturally-low levels of hCG that may be present in a non-pregnant woman’s system. Something to keep in mind. On the other hand, some drugstore brands offer very low sensitivity level tests (higher numbers, even over 100mIU/hCG). While there is nothing wrong with these tests, they do require that you wait longer to begin testing – well after a woman’s missed period.
Most women want to know as soon as possible, of course, and that is why high-sensitivity tests are very popular, especially among women who are actively trying to have a baby. For women who are fertility charting and know when they ovulate every cycle, having a high-sensitivity pregnancy test is perfect. At seven or eight days past ovulation, you can begin testing – the very minute it becomes permissible by instructional guidelines. Of course, a negative result does not rule out the possibility of pregnancy when testing this early! However, at this time frame is when a positive result can begin to appear (based on the average amount of hCG present in pregnant women at this time). As any woman who fertility charts knows, you can increase the accuracy and early-detection capability of a pregnancy test by using a “first morning” urine sample. This is because the amount of hCG in first morning urine will be higher than other times during the day. Read our chart below to find out which test is the most sensitive.
Pregnancy Test Brand
|Sensitivity (or the hCG threshold at which a positive result is indicated). The lower the number, the higher the test sensitivity.|
|Early Pregnancy Tests.com Standard Tests
||20 mIU/hCG (to purchase click here)|
|Answer Early Result Pregnancy Test||25 mIU/hCG|
|Confirm 1-Step||25 mIU/hCG|
|First Response Early Results Test||25 mIU/hCG|
|One Step Be Sure Pregnancy Test||25 mIU/hCG|
|Walgreen Digital||25 mIU/hCG|
|e.p.t. Home Pregnancy Test||40 mIU/hCG|
|e.p.t. Certainty Digital Test||40 mIU/hCG|
|Fact Plus Pregnancy Test||40 mIU/hCG|
|Clearblue Digital||50 mIU/hCG|
|Dollar Store Brand Pregnancy Test||50 mIU/hCG|
|Target Brand||50 mIU/hCG|
|WalMart Brand||50 mIU/hCG|
There is one disadvantage of high-sensitivity tests, and that is the case of a chemical pregnancy. A chemical pregnancy is essentially a miscarriage that takes place during the earliest stages of a pregnancy. With a chemical pregnancy, hCG is produced, but only for a short period of time as the pregnancy does not continue. In fact, a large percentage of pregnancies do result in miscarriage just shortly after implantation. This is a very different situation than a later-term miscarriage and women should understand that chemical pregnancies are not uncommon. Unless you are testing early, most women may not even be aware that they were pregnant as a chemical pregnancy will often end before any physical pregnancy symptoms manifest (including a missed period). With a very sensitive pregnancy test, it is possible to receive a positive result – and then later test negative if the woman experiences a miscarriage (chemical pregnancy).
Ease-of-Use & Interpretation: False Positive Tests & Ghost Lines
Ease of use and ease of interpretation are other key factors in comparing pregnancy tests. Almost all pregnancy tests today are rather easy to use. Most tests offer handles and you simply point the tip of the test into your stream of urine as you pee. Easy. If you feel like playing doctor (and saving a lot of money), you can use strips (also know as dip strips or aimsticks). With the pregnancy test strips, you do need to collect urine in a cup and then just dip the end of the strip into the collected sample. Both methods are equally reliable. Women who actively TTC (try to conceive) frequently use the strips because they are the most affordable – and when you fertility chart, frequent ovulation and pregnancy testing is part of the deal.
Interpreting the test is also typically very easy. As noted above, new digital tests will even tell you in a clear digital display if you are pregnant or not. The problem with digital kits is that they are expensive and are less sensitive than more traditional tests. When it comes to interpreting the tests, there are a few important keys to increasing accuracy and early-detection. These include:
1. Use first morning urine. Why? Because FMU will contain the highest amount of hCG. This means you can receive an accurate result sooner!
2. Hold your urine: If you need to test in the afternoon or evening, don’t flush your body with liquids or urinate before testing. Hold your urine as long as (comfortably) possible. This way the hCG in the urine will not be diluted. This is a good alternative if you want to re-test or if you cannot use FMU.
3. Adhere to the test reaction time! If you go to Drugstore.com or any product review site, you will find many women complaining about false positive pregnancy tests. Actually, a false positive pregnancy test is quite rare. What may be happening here is that the test user is trying to read the test after the given reaction time specified by the manufacturer. The fact is, every test has a time interval that must be respected, typically between five and ten minutes. Any result determined after the reaction time should be disregarded or considered “invalid”. Why? Two reasons. The first is that a test will become increasingly more sensitive over time and may indicate a very faint test line based on naturally levels of hCG (present in non-pregnant women and even men!). Second, sometimes the chemical composition of urine will cause a ghost line or evaporation line. Typically colorless, an evaporation line will only appear well after the given reaction time of the test. In other words, if you see an evaporation line, you should not be looking at the test anyway! In other words, if you see a ghost line, this is not a false positive, as the test reaction time has passed and the any result should be considered not valid.
A false negative pregnancy test is typically due to situations where the user is testing too early or there is not enough hCG in the urine sample. To avoid false negative results, observe tips one and two, and follow the testing guidelines of the manufacturer. There may also be instances where hCG levels differ among women. In other words, for women the rate of hCG production is slower, meaning that she may need to wait a few days longer before receiving a positive result. Also, implantation may occur later, which will also result in a bit of a delay in determining a positive result.
Internet Pregnancy Tests
The nice thing about the Internet is that you can purchase “clinical” style generic pregnancy tests. These tests are FDA approved and are as accurate as drugstore brands. In most cases, they are as sensitive and typically more sensitive than branded tests. Our tests have a 20 mIU/hCG sensitivity level – which we believe to be the best. Do note that there are some companies on the Internet that cut corners and sell “cut” pregnancy tests strips (i.e., strips that have been “halved” so as to make more money). There are also companies that sell tests with “late” expiration dates. If you are going the hCG strip route, then make sure that your pregnancy tests boast: 1. Full 5mm-wide test strips. This way the test is easier to use and read, and the result area is very wide for unambiguous results. 2. Maximum expiration dates: Pregnancy tests have a 2 expiration date. Make sure your tests are young and fresh with maximum 2 year expiration dates. (Please note that all test strips sold at Early-Pregnancy-Tests.com offer the maximum expiration dates and the maximum 5mm-wide strip).
TIP: If you are using a test strip, do make sure that the collection cup you are using is clean and dry and does not have any soap or dish-washing detergent present.
Hopefully this pregnancy test review and comparison has provided you with useful information and testing tips. There are a number of other less common factors that can influence pregnancy testing and the accuracy of results. The most important variable, however, is knowledge. Learning how to use a test and following instructions is the number one key to early, accurate results. Other issues that may confound results include residual hCG that may be present in the urine from a chemical pregnancy (miscarriage), the recent birth of another child, or fertility medications and infertility drugs. Please note that some fertility drugs do contain hCG – so if you are using a fertility medication, check to make sure it does not contain this hormone. The most popular fertility drug, clomid (used to stimulate ovulation) does not contain hCG and will not interfere with a pregnancy test.
Pregnancy Test Review by Pat Phillips, Staff Writer
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