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A human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) urine test is a pregnancy test. A pregnant woman’s placenta produces hCG, also called the pregnancy hormone. If you’re pregnant, the test can usually detect this hormone in your urine about 10 days after your first missed period. This is when the fertilized egg attaches to the uterine wall.
During the first eight to 10 weeks of pregnancy, hCG levels normally increase very rapidly. These levels reach their peak at about the tenth week of pregnancy, and then they gradually decline until delivery.
HCG urine tests are commonly sold in kits that you can use at home. The hCG urine test often is referred to as a home pregnancy test.
The hCG urine test confirms pregnancy about one to two weeks after your missed period. This is a qualitative test, which means that it will tell you whether or not it detects the hCG hormone in your urine. It’s not intended to reveal specific levels of the hormone. The presence of hCG in your urine is considered a positive sign of pregnancy.
The only risks associated with an hCG urine test involve getting a false-positive or false-negative result. A false-positive result indicates a pregnancy, even though there isn’t one. Rarely, the test may detect abnormal, non-pregnancy tissue, which requires follow-up by a doctor. These results are rare because usually only pregnant women produce the hCG hormone.
There’s a higher risk of getting a false-negative result. If you get a false-negative result, in which case the test says you aren’t pregnant but you really are, you might not take the precautions necessary to give your unborn baby the best possible start. Such results may occur more commonly in early pregnancy or if the urine is too diluted to detect hCG.
There are no special preparations necessary to take an hCG urine test. You can ensure the most accurate results with simple planning.
If you’re taking a home pregnancy test, you should do the following:
Discuss any medications you’re taking with your pharmacist or doctor to see if they could affect the results of an hCG urine test.
Diuretics and an antihistamine called promethazine can cause false-negative results.
Anticonvulsants, drugs for Parkinson’s disease, hypnotics, and tranquilizers can cause false-positive results, which means they can indicate you’re pregnant when you’re not.
You can take an hCG urine test at your doctor’s office or at home with a home pregnancy test. Both will require the collection of a urine sample. An hCG urine test conducted at home is similar to the test that your doctor conducts. Both have the same ability to detect hCG in your urine.
Most hCG urine tests sold for home testing follow a similar procedure for accurate testing. While you should carefully follow the instructions included with your kit, the process typically follows these steps:
The accuracy of your hCG urine test results will depend on your ability to closely follow the test kit’s instructions. If you have a negative result, you should consider these results to be uncertain, as they may indicate a false negative. Until you can be sure that you’re not pregnant, you should be cautious and avoid doing anything that could hurt a developing fetus. Smoking, using alcohol, and certain medications can harm your baby in early pregnancy.
A false-negative result can happen after any of the following:
If you have a negative result, you should repeat the test in about a week to confirm the absence of pregnancy. If you believe the tests are indicating a false negative and that you’re pregnant, you should consult your doctor. They can conduct an hCG blood test, which is more sensitive to lower levels of the hCG hormone than the hCG urine test.
If you have a positive result, it means that the test detected hCG in your urine. Your next step should be to consult your doctor. They can confirm pregnancy with an exam and additional testing, if necessary. Getting prenatal care early in your pregnancy gives your baby the best chance for healthy growth and development before and after birth.
Written by: Anna Giorgi
Medically reviewed on: Oct 29, 2015: Janine Kelbach, RNC-OB
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