How to Read a Pregnancy Test: Positive and Negative Results

How to Read a Pregnancy Test

December 21, 2018

How to Read a Pregnancy Test

How to Read a Pregnancy Test
How to Read a Pregnancy Test

Whether or not you’re trying to conceive, missing your period—one of the clearest signs of pregnancy—can be a nerve-wracking and overwhelming experience.

To relieve this anxiety, many women choose to take at-home pregnancy tests. But with all the options out there, it’s hard to know which one to pick and how they work to get the most accurate results.

How Home Pregnancy Tests Work

At-home pregnancy tests have become more accurate because they are more sensitive to the hormone human Chorionic Gonadotropin (hCG) which indicates pregnancy. When an egg is fertilized and attaches to your uterine wall, the placenta begins to form and produces hCG, which flows throughout your bloodstream and urine (that’s where the pee part of pregnancy tests comes in). As you get further along in pregnancy, hCG levels rise more rapidly, doubling every couple of days. At-home pregnancy tests measure the level of hcG in your urine.

How Soon Can I Take a Pregnancy Test

Many at-home pregnancy tests say they are 99% accurate on the first day of a missed period. According to Mayo Clinic, however, you should wait at least a week from the day of your missed period to take the test for more reliable results. Before taking the test, keep these things in mind:

  • Carefully read the directions in the box—meaning the fine print. Make sure you clearly understand the results time window and how to pee on the test.
  • If you are taking any fertility drugs, be sure to call your doctor to see if any of the medications you are taking will interfere with your test results.
  • Don’t have to pee? Although common sense might tell you to drink a gallon of water, it’s actually recommended not to because this could dilute your hCG levels. Just take the test when you actually have to go.
  • Make sure to check the expiration date of the pregnancy test.

How to Take a Pregnancy Test

Take the test in the morning right when you get out of bed since this is when your hCG levels are at their highest.

Tip: Catch a “midstream sample” for the most accurate results. This basically means peeing a little bit into the toilet before peeing on the test.

You can either pee directly on the test for up to 5-10 seconds (or however long the instructions say) or you can pee in a cup and put the pregnancy stick inside for no longer than 10 seconds—whichever is more comfortable for you. When you pee on the stick, make sure to keep the results window facing you. Pregnancy tests typically only take a couple of minutes, but it’s important to read the directions to determine how long test results take to process.

How to Read a Pregnancy Test

Nowadays pregnancy tests range from the traditional to the more high-tech. Here’s how to read positive and negative results for both.

Positive Pregnancy Test

Traditional at-home pregnancy tests come with a single window or two windows on the pregnancy stick. All tests will have a test line to make sure that the pregnancy stick is actually working.

For single window tests a positive result would show both the test line and another line to indicate that you are pregnant.

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For the two-window tests, in one window a test line would appear and in the second window a plus sign (+) will appear even if it is faint to indicate that you are pregnant.

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Some women prefer digital tests because they are easier to read and there are no lines (faint or bold) to interpret. There will also be some type of countdown to indicate when the results are ready.

A positive pregnancy result will say “You’re Pregnant” or it would say “Yes” in a digital test

Negative Pregnancy Test

If you are not pregnant, a single window test would only show the single test line. For two-window tests, the first window would show the test line and the second window would show a single line that looks like a minus (-) symbol. This means you are not pregnant.

On a digital test, a negative test result will say “Not Pregnant” or “No” to indicate that you aren’t expecting.

Faint Line on Pregnancy Test

You might end up with a faint line, also called an evaporation line. It can be confused with a false positive. The line usually appears several minutes after the time of the test and is caused by evaporating urine. If the line seems faint or you are at all uncertain, take another test.

How Accurate are Pregnancy Tests

False positives: This is rare but can definitely happen. If you receive a false positive it could be that infertility drugs are messing with your hCG levels, you recently gave birth or had a miscarriage, or the test could be broken. If you get a positive result, go to your healthcare provider to have confirmed by the lab.

False negatives are also rare but more common than false positives. Around 5% of tests may lead to false negatives. Factors that could give you a false negative result range from taking the test too soon and having a faulty test. For the best results be patient and wait at least a week to take the test.

If you tested early and it came up negative, but you end up missing your period, test again. If your home pregnancy test says you’re pregnant, it’s time to make an appointment with your gynecologist to confirm the results.

Once you’re pregnant? Check out our week by week pregnancy guides and sign up for our pregnancy emails to keep track of your growing baby and changing body.

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