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Every woman of reproductive age should be familiar with the ins and outs of fertility, pregnancy symptoms, pregnancy tests, and contraception. This overview answers some common questions.

“Could I be pregnant?” Many women are asking themselves right this minute. Some of them have been trying to conceive and are hoping that this will be their lucky month, while others don't want to be pregnant and are dreading the day they might miss their period.

Women from both categories will be on the lookout for signs and symptoms, and may be wondering how to interpret sensations they notice. In this article, we tackle pregnancy tests, ambiguous early pregnancy signs, and other common questions women who think they could be pregnant have.

What You Should Know About Pregnancy Tests

Human Chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) is a hormone produced by a component of the fertilized egg. This same component will turn into the placenta later on in pregnancy, but during the very early stages after conception, it can simply provide you with some useful information — hCG is, after all, the hormone expelled in urine that home pregnancy tests react to.[1]

Your body will start to secrete hCG as soon as one week following conception, and the more sensitive home pregnancy tests will already achieve a positive result at that time.

There are two common types of hCG tests. 

  • qualitative hCG test detects if hCG is present in the blood.
  • quantitative hCG test (or beta hCG) measures the amount of hCG actually present in the blood.

For the most accurate results possible, it is still best to wait at least 10 days after the unprotected sex before you take a pregnancy test, or you could wait until the day you are expecting your period and take the test when it turns out that you are not menstruating. Levels can first be detected by a blood test about 11 days after conception and about 12-14 days after conception by a urine test. [1]

A home pregnancy test is the easiest and quickest way to determine if you are pregnant. These tests are available inexpensively on the internet or at dollar stores, but those bought at a pharmacy tend to cost between $8 and $20. This is a small price to pay for the privilege of quick and accurate information. If you were to have a blood test taken, you'd have to make an appointment and wait for the results.

At 97 percent accurate (if the instructions are followed correctly), home pregnancy tests are just as reliable as a blood test done at your doctor's office.

Though most pregnancy tests will now give accurate results at any time of the day, it is still best to use your first morning urine, as this will contain the highest concentration of hCG if it is present. Never drink a large amount of water just so you can go to the bathroom and take a test, because diluting your urine in this way can actually lead to a false negative result.

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