Pregnancy Information Pregnancy Test

My friend, who is interested in getting pregnant, has a drawer full of home pregnancy tests. “Just in case,” she says. If she misses her period by even one day, she can retrieve one of the handy sticks and find out if conception has taken place.

As little as twenty years ago, women waited several weeks after a missed period and even felt some early signs of pregnancy before the doctor performed a definitive test. The first home pregnancy tests were advertised in a 1978 issue of The Ladies Home Journal almost a year after the FDA approved them. The first test, E.P.T., or Early Pregnancy Test, allowed women to test for pregnancy in the privacy of their own homes.

Early Signs of Pregnancy and HCG Levels

Early pregnancy testSeveral home pregnancy tests are on the market today. The tests consist of a cup to collect urine and a test strip, or a test strip that you can urinate on directly. The test strip detects the presence of beta-human Chorionic Gonadotropin (hCG) in the urine-one of the early indicators of pregnancy. The hCG hormone is necessary for pregnancy.

Once the egg has been fertilized and has moved through the fallopian tube, it attaches to the wall of the uterus. This attachment or implantation is the beginning of the formation of the placenta. The placenta is the nourishment center for the fetus throughout the entire pregnancy. The placenta development process triggers the hormone hCG. The hCG is then released into the blood and urine.

If used before the expiration date, home pregnancy tests are up to 99 percent effective. Most tests can be used as early as the first day of the missed period, but they may produce false results. For accurate results, wait a week between the start of the missed period and the pregnancy test. A missed period, otherwise known as amenorrhea, is the most common early sign of pregnancy, but it may also be a symptom of other conditions.

For the best results, follow the instructions that come with the pregnancy test. Most brands recommend using a sample of the first urine of the morning. This concentrated sample is more likely to have higher concentrations of hCG if pregnancy is positive. In a normal pregnancy, hCG levels rise quickly in the first trimester. A positive home pregnancy test should be followed by visit to your doctor to verify conception with ultrasound and begin a prenatal plan.

The Pregnancy Ultrasound

If the home pregnancy test is positive a visit to the doctor should confirm the result. The doctor will order a blood test that detects the presence of hCG. This blood test can also tell the doctor the exact hCG levels in the blood.

Exceptionally high hCG levels may indicate the presence of more than one baby. Lower hCG levels might warn of an ectopic pregnancy or possible risk of miscarriage. One way to determine whether the pregnancy is positive and progressing normally is with an ultrasound test. An ultrasound bounces sound waves off structures to create a picture. In the pregnancy ultrasound, pictures of the mother’s pelvic organs and the location of the fetus can be determined.

The ultrasound is performed in the first trimester, between 30 and 35 days after implantation. Many ultrasonographers prefer that a woman have a full bladder to help them visualize the organs inside the body. Women are asked to drink two to three glasses of water an hour before the procedure and avoid urinating until after the procedure is completed. A thick gel is applied to the abdomen to allow proper conduction of the ultrasound transducer. The technician moves the transducer probe over the abdomen and pelvis to pick up the sound waves that create a picture on the monitor.

The Value of the Ultrasound

The initial ultrasound can confirm a positive pregnancy and determine the gestational age of the baby, and determine whether the fetus is implanted in the uterus. If the fetus is implanted in another area such as the fallopian tube, the pregnancy is considered ectopic.

The ultrasound can also detect abnormalities of the placenta or uterus. And, with ultrasound technology, the doctor can detect the presence of more than one fetus. For various reasons, an ultrasound may be performed more than once during a pregnancy.


Beers, M. H.