Understanding your Pregnancy Test Results

Pregnancy Tests Video Transcript

The following is the Pregnancy Test video transcript.

My name is Dr Peter England. Today I want to talk to you about pregnancy tests.

So you think you might be pregnant. What are you going to do to prove that? As you would all know, the simplest way is to do a urine pregnancy test. Now these tests are quite cheap, they are very sensitive, meaning they will pick up pregnancy at a very early stage, and are quite simple to do. They are best done when you are actually late for your period.

Unfortunately, there is a lot of pressure and a lot of this comes from the advertising and marketing of these pregnancy tests, that you can test well before your period is actually due.

The unfortunate thing about doing that, is you will get a lot of very weak positive tests in the days leading up to your period, but your period will still come.

This is not new.

Research in 1970s and 1980s have shown that weak positive pregnancy tests the late part of your cycle will be about 50% of the time, will be followed by your period.

We often use the term ‘biochemical pregnancy’ for this. We don’t really regard this as a miscarriage, but a normal occurring event. So you might be tempted to test regularly before your period is even due and a lot of people do so, but it can lead to a little bit of worry and heart ache unnecessarily. My advice would be to do the test when your period is late.

The tests are quite simple. You just pass a bit of urine into a cup or a jar, open up a test kit and follow the instructions. A negative test will have a single line. A positive test will have two lines. The ‘C’ is the control, and the ‘T’ is the positive line for a test kit. Sometimes that T line is very faint and you might want to check it again in a day or two.

You will also know that blood tests are available to test for pregnancy, so usually once a woman has a confirmed urine pregnancy test, she will book in to see her General Practitioner, her Obstetrician, or both. And as part of that first assessment, blood can be taken for a variety of things including a measurement of your pregnancy hormone level. This pregnancy hormone is called HCG (human chorionic gonadotropin), and that’s what’s tested in the urine sample. The urine test will test as low as 20 units which is a tiny amount, both just a + or – result. A blood test gives us a number and that can be helpful for tracking a pregnancy in the early stages.

This is particularly useful when you are less than 6 weeks pregnant and you might get a little bit of spotting and a tiny amount of bleeding, and we want to try and work out if everything is ok. A helpful way is doing two blood tests for the HCG hormone, two days apart. What should happen is the hormone should rise roughly at a rate of doubling every 48 hours, give or take. That’s an easy way to track things early on.

From 6 weeks onwards, ultrasound becomes reliable for looking for a heartbeat and development of a foetus. Sometimes the blood tests can have unusual patterns. If the pattern is falling in the presence of bleeding that will generally indicate an early miscarriage. Another pattern which is less common but doctors need to be careful with, is if the hormone level is staying flat or only rising very slightly in early pregnancy in the presence of bleeding, sometimes we need to exclude what’s called an ectopic pregnancy, which is something I spoke about in a short video last week.

Overall, the urine pregnancy test is very simple and an easy thing to do. Once again, try to resist the temptation of testing many times well before your period is due as many times this is simply what’s referred to as a biochemical pregnancy and periods will often arrive on time.

Hope you have a good week and that the information is simple and helpful. Will talk again soon and next time I will talk about bleeding in early pregnancy generally.

If you are pregnant, you can book an appointment to discuss your pregnancy, by calling the team.

My free A-Z of Pregnancy Book is also filled with lots of information and can be downloaded here.