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All the Pregnancy Tests! What Works and What Doesn't

Am I Pregnant?

If this is a question you’re asking yourself, you likely don’t want to wait for an answer! Perhaps you’ve seen videos or read stories about homemade pregnancy tests, and perhaps you’re tempted to try them. If so, we’re here to help. We’ve found people who have tested every conceivable easy at home pregnancy test, and we’re ready to let you know which are worth trying and which you should skip.

Pregnant Woman Holding Heart Sign
Maybe baby? Photo Credit

What is a DIY pregnancy test?

A DIY pregnancy test involves mixing urine with things you probably have around the house, including cleaners and toiletries. The idea is that chemicals in each of these products will react with the hormone human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG), which is important for pregnancy and indicates that a woman is pregnant. If you get the desired reaction, you’re pregnant! If not, you’re not. But do they work? Let’s find out.

Sugar Pregnancy Test

The method: Add a teaspoon or so of sugar to a few ounces of urine.

The promise: Sugar will dissolve in normal urine. If your urine causes the sugar to form clumps instead, you’re pregnant!

The truth: The sugar dissolves. Or it sits on the bottom of the container if you use too much. There was a case where a woman thought she saw “tiny clumps” of sugar forming, but not enough to be definitive.

The conclusion: Save your sugar for baking a sweet treat.

Sugar Cubes

Got a sweet tooth? Photo Credit 

Toothpaste Pregnancy Test

The method: Mix a few drops of urine with a tablespoon of white toothpaste.

The promise: If your urine causes the toothpaste to turn blue, you’re pregnant!

The truth: Nothing happens. No one who tried this method saw any change in the toothpaste-pee mixture. 

The conclusion: Save your toothpaste for preventing cavities from all those sweet treats you baked. 

Salt Pregnancy Test

The method: Add 2 tablespoons of salt to several ounces of urine.

The promise: If this mixture, when swirled, appears milky or cheesy, you’re pregnant!

The truth: While the urine of a pregnant woman did appear “slightly more milky” than the control (the urine of a non-pregnant woman), the difference was barely noticeable. Besides, do you plan to have a friend pee alongside you so you can compare results? We didn’t think so.

The conclusion: Save your salt for...literally anything else. Cause this doesn’t work.

Baking Soda Pregnancy Test

The method: Add a few scoops of baking soda to a few ounces of urine.

The promise: If this mixture froths and foams, you’re pregnant!

The truth: There was some foaming. But the control foamed some as well. Maybe that’s just what happens when baking soda hits urea? Maybe it was shaken too much? Hard to say, but I personally wouldn’t be satisfied with inconclusive results.

The conclusion: Try it, I guess.

Baking Soda
Fizz fizz. Photo Credit

Bleach Pregnancy Test

The method: Mix some powdered or liquid bleach with several ounces of urine.

The promise: If it gets foamy and bubbly, you’re pregnant!

The truth: There was some foam, but it was in both the test and the control urine. That is reason enough to mistrust any results from this method, But there are more compelling reasons to avoid this particular mixture. When bleach mixes with ammonia, chlorine gas is released. Chlorine gas is fatal in sufficient doses, and can still be dangerous in small doses. Inhaling even a small amount of chlorine gas can cause: watery eyes, irritation in the nose and throat, coughing, shortness of breath, wheezing, chest pain, nausea. Urine contains ammonia, so mixing it with bleach puts you at risk for exposure to chlorine gas. 

The conclusion: Stay away from this dangerous idea. 

And the list goes on. There is a wine pregnancy test, a vinegar pregnancy test, and a Tylenol and hydrogen peroxide pregnancy test. You can “test” using dandelion leaves, PineSol, a bar of soap, or the juice from a can of tuna. In the end, they all have the same result: no result. Making your own pregnancy test just doesn't work. 

These tests, while popular and maybe even fun, are not reliable, and can even be dangerous. And, if you test negative but you are actually pregnant, it is possible you could accidentally do something to harm the baby, such as strenuous exercise or alcohol consumption. If you think you may be pregnant, buy a store-bought pregnancy test, and don’t rely on these DIY pregnancy tests.

Which Pregnancy Test is Best?

Now that we’ve decided to go with a professionally made pregnancy test, which one is the best? Which is the most reliable? Which is the fastest? Which is the cheapest? Once again, we’ve got you covered.

What is the Most Reliable Pregnancy Test?

Good news! Unlike stirring together urine and ketchup, a store bought pregnancy test will tell you whether you’re pregnant, as long as you take it in the right time frame. The technology for home pregnancy testing has been around long enough that even a Dollar Tree pregnancy test gives reliable results. So reliability need not concern you as long as you’re going with a store-bought pregnancy test. 

What is the Cheapest Pregnancy Test?

If you’re thinking that that dollar store pregnancy test must be the cheapest one, you’re actually mistaken. There are cheaper ones on Amazon! Read below to see reviews on several brands of pregnancy tests.

Test: VeriQuick Dollar Store Pregnancy Test

Price: $1

Time to develop: 23.7 seconds

Notes: This test uses a dropper system to drop urine into the correct place. If you want results now and can’t wait for Amazon to deliver, a dollar store pregnancy test is cheap, accurate and easily available. It might be the winner for you!

Test: Clinical Guard Pregnancy Test Strips

Price: varies depending on how many you buy. If you buy a pack of 20 for $7.29, they are $0.36 each. If you buy 100 for $17.99, they are $0.18 each. Either way, they’re even cheaper than what you get at the dollar store.

Time to develop: 22.4 seconds

Notes: These test strips are the same as what is found in a conventional pregnancy test, but the plastic packaging portion has been stripped away. Why would you need so many tests? Anyone who struggles with fertility, who is actively trying to conceive, or who plans to have many children may need to take regular pregnancy tests, and having 20, 50 or even 100 may not seem so crazy. If that’s not you, get with a friend or two and split the package up. These little strips are quick, easy and accurate, and come delivered to you with all the efficiency Amazon can offer.

What is the Earliest I Can Take a Pregnancy Test?

The best way to know when to take a pregnancy test is to understand fertilization and implantation. Implantation of a fertilized egg can occur anywhere from six to 12 days after fertilization, but most of the time it implants between eight and ten days. Once a fertilized egg has implanted, your body begins production of hCG, which is what pregnancy tests are looking for. If you get pregnant the day you ovulate, the earliest you could likely detect hCG would be 8 days after ovulation. Your period traditionally starts 14 days after ovulation. So if you wait until you miss a period to take a test, any test should work. In fact, Mayo Clinic suggests waiting until you miss a period to test to get the most accurate results from a home pregnancy test. If you’re actively trying to conceive and you’ve been tracking your ovulation, however, you may be able to test sooner. That’s where early tests come in. They are able to test for pregnancy 5 or 6 days earlier than most other tests, or 8 days after ovulation, the earliest a fertilized egg is likely to have implanted, even though you won’t yet have missed a period (since it’s not due for another 6 days). Here’s a few you may want to try. 

 Test: David Pregnancy Tests

Price: Pack of 6, including 3 sticks and 3 strips for double accuracy, which comes to $1.36 per test, or $2.72 per test if you take one of each.

Time to develop: 23.3 seconds strip, 39 seconds stick

Notes: This test is designed to be effective 6 days earlier than normal pregnancy tests. The two-test method is a nice reassuring addition.

Test: PregMate Pregnancy Test Strips 

Price: Box of 50 for $14.95, $0.30 each

Time to develop: 2 min 15 seconds

Notes: These can detect pregnancy 5 days earlier than other tests, but not all the strips in the box gave an accurate result. Somewhat inconsistent, not to mention slow! Though Amazon recommends this brand, we do not. 

Test: Clearblue 6 Days Sooner Early Pregnancy Test

Price:Box of 2, $4.49 each

Time to develop: 49 seconds

Notes: Quick, accurate, and a trusted brand.Costs slightly more, but still not much in the grand scheme of things.

What is the Fastest Pregnancy Test?

Sometimes you’re impatient to know your results! If that’s you, try a rapid pregnancy test. 

Test: Clearblue Digital and Rapid Pregnancy Tests 

Price: Box of 4, 2 digital and 2 rapid. $4 per test, or $8 if you use the two types together

Time to develop: 17 seconds for the rapid, 2 min 12 seconds for the digital

Notes: This kit comes with 2 tests. The rapid test will give you an answer nearly instantly, and the digital test will confirm the first test, giving you surety. The digital test is nice if you’re worried about correctly interpreting the results of traditional line tests. They take longer to develop, but the digital readout gives you a definitive answer. It will either say “Yes,” or “Pregnant,” or sometimes both.  

Test: First Response Triple Check Test Kit 

Price: $14.39 for 3 different tests, $4.79 each

Time to develop: 46.5 seconds for the “regular” test, 41 seconds for the “rapid” test, 3 min 28 seconds for the “digital” test

Notes: This kit was the most expensive and the slowest of all the ones tested. Honestly, I wouldn’t recommend it. 

 Man and Woman Holding an Ultrasound Photo

We’re expecting! Photo Credit

Pregnancy Test Problems

Sometimes, even when you purchase a pregnancy test (or several) the result is still incorrect. Here’s a short list of possible problems and what you can do about them. 

False Negatives

A false negative is a test that tells you you are not pregnant when you in fact are. It is far more common than a false positive, and there could be several reasons it may happen to you.

Not enough hCG

Pregnancy tests work by detecting hCG in your body. hCG is not produced until the egg is implanted in the uterus, so if you test after fertilization but before implantation, you will get a negative result. 

When should I take a pregnancy test?

Take the test 2 days before you’re expecting your period if you’ve been tracking your cycle. You can take it as early as 8 days post ovulation if you’ve been tracking that, but if not, you should probably wait a few more days to allow hCG to build up in your system and avoid wasting tests.

Other reasons for low hCG

It is recommended that you take pregnancy tests first thing in the morning, when the hCG in your urine will be the most concentrated. Taking it later in the day may lead to not enough hCG for the test to detect. Drinking a lot of fluids throughout the day can also dilute the urine. So using the first urine of the morning is best.

A Faulty Test

Like all scientific tests, pregnancy tests include a control. This is a line that appears to show you that the test is working. If this line appears and the test is negative, you can be (fairly) confident that it is accurate. But if the test line doesn’t appear, the test hasn’t worked, and you’ll need to test again. 

False Positives

Even though false negatives are the more common problem, false positives are also possible. 

Evaporation Line on a Pregnancy Test

The instructions of a pregnancy test tell you to read the results between one and three minutes after taking it, and not to read the results after five minutes. This is because of evaporation lines. This is a line that can appear after the recommended amount of time, and it has no bearing on the results of the test. The lines of the test should be either pink or blue, depending on the brand of test, but an evaporation line is grayish, almost colorless. It is very faint and thin, almost non-existent. But if you’re hoping to conceive, anything resembling a positive result may grab your attention. Don’t be fooled by evaporation lines. Read the results of the test in the recommended time period, then throw the test away. (Unless it’s genuinely positive, and you want to share it with the world. Then maybe take a picture, because the results can fade as the urine dries.)  

Too Much hCG

There are a few ways your body could have detectable hCG but not be truly pregnant.

Early Miscarriage

If you test very early, you may catch a pregnancy that miscarries before you have your period. It’s not really a false positive, because for a short time you were pregnant, but due to chromosomal or other issues, the pregnancy was not viable. These early miscarriages often happen so quickly that you would never know if you hadn’t tested at just the right time. When your period resumes after testing positive, you may be confused. You can test again or see a doctor.

Ectopic Pregnancy

Ectopic pregnancy occurs in about 2% of pregnancies in the US. An ectopic pregnancy is one in which the fertilized egg implants somewhere other than inside the uterus. It is not a viable pregnancy, and if left untreated, can cause severe bleeding and even death. Because an egg has implanted, however, the body produces hCG, and a pregnancy test will come back positive. As the egg begins to grow, it is likely to miscarry on its own. However, a woman with an ectopic pregnancy may experience pain in the pelvis, abdomen, neck or shoulder that come in sharp waves. She may also have vaginal bleeding or feel dizzy or faint. If you suspect you are having an ectopic pregnancy, get to a doctor or emergency room right away.

IVF Injections

When a woman is undergoing IVF, she is sometimes given hCG to help trigger the release of an egg, which is then harvested, fertilized and implanted. If she then takes an at home pregnancy test, it could show a false positive as the test detects the hCG that was injected to help the egg release. If you are in the process of IVF, it is strongly recommended that you do not take a home pregnancy test, but rather wait to have your blood drawn at the doctor’s office. This will eliminate false positives due to IVF-related hCG injections.

Medical Problems 

In rare cases, a false positive on a pregnancy test has indicated certain types of cancer, including ovarian cancer, or chronic kidney disease. Some tumors can also secrete hCG. If you have a positive pregnancy test but experience unexplained pain or bleeding, see a doctor.

When to See a Doctor

Overall, knowing when you should have a period and then testing one day after your missed period gives the most accurate results. Once you see a positive result, you should schedule an exam, which will probably occur around 10 to 12 weeks of your pregnancy. If you have had previous complications, or if you suspect something is wrong, ask to go in sooner. It never hurts to be well-informed.

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