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Pregnancy: Knowing if you are Pregnant

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A missed period is often the first clue that a woman might be pregnant. Sometimes, a woman might suspect she is pregnant even sooner. Symptoms such as headache, fatigue, and breast tenderness, can occur even before a missed period. The wait to know can be emotional. These days, many women first use home pregnancy tests (HPT) to find out. Your doctor also can test you.

All pregnancy tests work by detecting a special hormone in the urine or blood that is only there when a woman is pregnant. It is called human chorionic gonadotropin (kohr-ee-ON-ihk goh-NAD-uh-TROH-puhn), or hCG. hCG is made when a fertilized egg implants in the uterus. hCG rapidly builds up in your body with each passing day you are pregnant. Read on to learn when and how to test for pregnancy.

Home pregnancy tests
HPTs are inexpensive, private, and easy to use. Most drugstores sell HPTs over the counter. The cost depends on the brand and how many tests come in the box. They work by detecting hCG in your urine. HPTs are highly accurate. But their accuracy depends on many things. These include:

When you use them – The amount of hCG in your urine increases with time. So, the earlier after a missed period you take the test the harder it is to spot the hCG. Some HPTs claim that they can tell if you are pregnant one day after a missed period or even earlier. But a recent study shows that most HPTs don't give accurate results this early in pregnancy. Positive results are more likely to be true than negative results. Waiting one week after a missed period will usually give a more accurate result. You can take the test sooner. But just know that a lot of pregnant women will get negative test results during the first few days after the missed period. It's a good idea to repeat the test again after a week has passed. If you get two negative results but still think you're pregnant, call your doctor.
How you use them – Be sure to check the expiration date and follow the directions. Many involve holding a test stick in the urine stream. For some, you collect urine in a cup and then dip the test stick into it. Then, depending on the brand, you will wait a few minutes to get the results.

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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.