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Buyer's Guide to Pregnancy Test Kits

How do pregnancy test kits work, when should you try them and how accurate are they?


Posted: 28 September 2009
by Laura Lee Davies


Something that any couple trying for a baby usually buy, long before booties and a buggy, is a pregnancy testing kit.
Just as the one your doctor will confirm a pregnancy with, these are done based on a simple urine sample. However, different kits can be used earlier in the pregnancy than others.
First Response Pregnancy Test

How home testing kits work
Once a woman is pregnant, her body produces a hormone called HCG. A pregnancy test kit looks for this hormone in the urine sample. Tests vary in how sensitive they are to this hormone, with the lowest kits (ACON or Adavanced) claiming to be able to measure just 10mlU of the hormone. However, to give you a guide, a sensitivity of about 25mlU is much more common for kits like Clearblue (with kits like Boots tending to be at about 50mlU).
These are all pretty much 99 per cent accurate these days, though as we say, your GP will want to confirm the pregnancy with his or her own test.

Some kits can be used earlier than others
The lower the amount of mlU the kit is sensitive to, the earlier you will be able to use it for an effective result. The amount of HCG produced doubles every two days, so by the time your period is due, it is estimated to be around 100mlU which is why waiting until your period is due tends to be a safe bet. If the kit says it has a much lower mlU sensitivity it will be possible to use it a week after conception. However, buying many tests can be expensive and waiting just a few more days might be better if your result is negative because the HCG levels were just too low.

Accu Clear Pregnancy Test

Kits which can be used any time of the day
It used to be the case that urine samples had to be taken from the first passing of water in the morning. It is true that this sample may be more concentrated, but a sample anytime of the day is usually fine now because most tests are so sensitive.
Read the instructions of your particular kit carefully to make sure you are using the optimum sample for accuracy.

Stick and cup kits
Most kits look like a stick, which you prepare (very simply by exposing the chemical-sensitive part, usually) and then hold under the stream of your urine. However, some come with a cup for you to wee into, and the tester is a dipstick.

Clearblue Digital Pregnancy Testing Kit

Digital read-out
For any given product, there will always be a deluxe version!
Clearblue do a 'digital' test which has a liquid crystal read out. This literally spells out whether or not you are pregnant, which is great for women who squint at blue lines or empty display windows trying to see if there is any doubt they are or are not pregnant. The read out result will appear in the window for one hour - in case you want to run and show your partner!
This digital model is also useful in telling you, before the results, whether or not you have taken the test correctly.

Test kit addiction!
It is very easy to become hooked on rushing to the test kits every couple of days, especially if they are ones you can use before your period is due. However, kits are not cheap, even if you buy them bulk on the internet.
Try to be patient so that you are sure the result is accurate rather than getting a negative from doing a test that is really too early for the kit you have bought. If you do this you will be tempted to retry it more often and this can lead to further disappointment. Doing one test per month is enough if you time it right, according to the kit you've bought.


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