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Home Pregnancy Tests

Test Overview

Home pregnancy tests can find the presence of a pregnancy hormone (called human chorionic gonadotropin, or hCG) in a sample of urine. High levels of hCG are made during pregnancy. The home tests have similar results to the pregnancy tests done on urine in most doctors' offices if they are used exactly as instructed.

There are two basic types of home pregnancy tests.

  • The most common types of home pregnancy tests use a test strip or dipstick that you hold in the urine stream or dip into a sample of urine.
  • A second type uses a urine collection cup with a test device. To use this type of test, you may place several drops of urine into a well in the test device. Or you may put the test device into urine collected in a cup.

The accuracy of home pregnancy tests is different for every woman. That's because:

  • The days of a woman's menstrual cycle and ovulation can change each month.
  • The exact day of implantation of the fertilized egg is not always known.
  • Each home pregnancy test kit has a different sensitivity to find hCG.

A few home pregnancy tests may be sensitive enough to show a pregnancy on the first day of a woman's missed period. But most test kits are more accurate about a week after a missed period.

Why It Is Done

A home pregnancy test is done to detect pregnancy by detecting human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) in your urine.

How To Prepare

Equipment

You can buy home pregnancy test kits at the drugstore or grocery store. You don't need a prescription.

The test kits generally have plastic dipsticks or test strips and instructions that explain how to do the test. Some kits have a urine collection cup and a dipstick that you dip in urine. Midstream kits have a test strip that you hold in your stream of urine for several seconds. All kits tell you to wait a specific amount of time before reading the results.

When to test

Most home pregnancy kits can be used on the first day of a missed menstrual period. But the test results are more accurate if you wait a few days longer. If you do the test as soon as you have missed a period and the results show you are not pregnant (negative results), repeat the test in 1 week if your menstrual period has not started, or have a pregnancy test done at your doctor's office or a clinic.

General instructions

For any home test, you should follow some general guidelines:

  • Check the expiration date on the package. Do not use a test kit after its expiration date—the chemicals in the kit may not work correctly after that date.
  • Read the instructions that come with your test carefully and thoroughly before doing the test.
  • Follow the directions exactly. Do all the steps, in order, without skipping any of them.
  • If a step in the test needs to be timed, use a clock. Do not guess at the timing.

How It Is Done

Carefully read the instructions that come with the home kit. Instructions vary from kit to kit. Be sure to read the result at the appropriate time indicated in the instructions for accurate results.

If you have a kit that asks for a morning urine sample, test urine that has been in the bladder for at least 4 hours. Test the urine within 15 minutes of collecting the sample.

If you are using a midstream kit, urinate a small amount first and then hold the dipstick in your urine stream as you finish urinating.

Test the urine sample according to the directions included in the test kit package.

Risks

There are no known risks from having this test.

Results

Home pregnancy tests can find the presence of a pregnancy hormone (called human chorionic gonadotropin or hCG) in a sample of urine. Read and follow the instructions that come with the pregnancy test to see if you are pregnant.

Credits

Current as of: October 8, 2020

Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:
Sarah Marshall MD - Family Medicine
Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine
Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine
Siobhan M. Dolan MD, MPH - Reproductive Genetics
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