Pregnancy Blood Test: Do You Need One?
You’ve been trying to get pregnant for months. Or perhaps you’ve used contraception to prevent it. Either way, something’s changed. You just feel a bit different, and you suspect you’re expecting. You’ve heard of a pregnancy blood test, but won’t an at-home urine test do the trick?
Test Your Options
Pregnancy blood tests aren’t the only way to determine if you’re pregnant. There are two main types of pregnancy tests currently available:
- Urine pregnancy test. This may take place in a healthcare provider’s office or your home. Either way, you urinate on a dipstick for a few seconds. A few minutes later, you have results. Some kits, including those used by your provider, may have you urinate into a small cup. The dipstick is then held in the cup for a few seconds.
- Pregnancy blood test. There is no at-home option for a blood-based pregnancy test. For the test, a healthcare provider draws blood from your arm. This blood goes to a laboratory for testing. Soon after, you find out if you’re pregnant or not.
How They Work
Whether you use a urine-based test or pregnancy blood test, they’re both looking for the same thing: hCG. Short for human chorionic gonadotropin, hCG is produced when a fertilized egg attaches to the uterine wall. Over the course of a pregnancy, hCG rises dramatically during the first trimester. After 10 or 11 weeks, it tapers off.
In urine, hCG levels are highest early in the morning. If you plan to use an at-home test, don’t use it at night. You’ll get more accurate results if you wait until the morning and test with the first urination of the day.
Why You Need a Pregnancy Blood Test
Used properly, urine pregnancy tests are between 97% and 99% accurate. With such accuracy, a pregnancy blood test isn’t always necessary. So why would your provider prescribe a pregnancy blood test or why would you want to get one on your own?
- Increased accuracy. Both urine and blood tests are accurate, but blood tests are more accurate. Today’s blood-based tests are approximately 99% accurate. Since pregnancy blood tests are performed by a medical professional, there is less risk of a mistake.
- Earlier detection. For the most accurate results with a urine test, you’ll need to wait a week after a missed period. Not up for waiting that long? A blood-based test detects hCG as early as six days after ovulation. That means you can find out if you’re pregnant before missing your period.
- Extra information. Unlike urine tests, blood pregnancy tests can do more than confirm a pregnancy. They can also indicate how high your hCG levels are. This helps your provider determine how far along your pregnancy is. An excessively high or low level can also indicate that you’re pregnant with more than one child, have miscarried, are anemic or are experiencing other pregnancy issues.
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