Maybe you jump for joy at becoming pregnant, or perhaps you anxiously bite your nails. Whatever your emotion, an at-home pregnancy test is a quick and easy tool to use to find out if you are having a baby or not. Such tests are available over-the-counter without a prescription from your doctor. And it only takes a few minutes to do.
An at-home pregnancy test measures the amount of a substance called human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) in your urine. This substance is found in your blood shortly after an egg and sperm join together, and the developing baby implants in the lining of your womb. HCG levels rise quickly in the early weeks of pregnancy.
If you are pregnant, you may get a plus sign, a smiley face, or other symbol or word on the test stick, depending on the brand you use. Many brands say they are 99% accurate, but this isn't true if you take the test in the first days after your missed period. You are more likely to get a correct result if you take the test at least 1 week after you were supposed to get your period.
Have a positive pregnancy test? Here is what you should do next:
- Call your doctor or nurse to schedule a prenatal appointment. Proper prenatal care is essential for the good health of you and your baby. Your doctor or nurse will order a blood test to confirm the pregnancy and see how far along you are. You probably will not be seen until you are 8 weeks pregnant, but that depends on your health history and symptoms.
- Make sure you tell your health care team about any concerns or symptoms you have, especially vaginal bleeding and cramping.
- Stop drinking alcohol. Drinking during pregnancy can lead to fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS), a dangerous condition in the baby. FAS can cause birth defects, and lifelong problems with mental development. No amount of alcohol has ever been proven safe to use during pregnancy.
- If you smoke, quit. Smoking during pregnancy increases the risk for premature birth, sudden infant death syndrome, low birth weight, and other serious complications.
- Ask your doctor or nurse if the medicines you take, if any, are safe to take if you are, or think you are, pregnant. This includes over-the-counter medicines, herbs, and supplements. Never stop taking any medicine without asking your doctor first.
- Make sure you take 600mcg of folic acid every day during pregnancy. If you are trying to get pregnant, you should take a multivitamin with at least 400mcg of folic acid. Folic acid helps prevent many birth defects.
- Follow a healthy diet. You are eating for two now, so it's even more important to make healthy choices.
- Do not eat fish high in mercury. Nix the shark, swordfish, king mackerel, and tilefish. Limit amounts of tuna, shrimp, salmon, and other fish. Ask your doctor or nurse for more information.
- Avoid hot tubs and saunas. While the idea of a soaking in a hot tub may sound soothing, the heat can be dangerous for the developing baby.
- Have someone else change the cat's litter box. Cat feces can contain a parasite that causes toxoplasmosis, which can lead to miscarriage.