Nurse Answers Common Questions about Pregnancy Tests
Whether you’ve carefully planned your family’s expansion or are happily surprised with a new addition, your first positive pregnancy test might leave you with some questions.
We spoke with Melissa Mosczczynski, CRNP, a nurse practitioner specializing in Obstetrics and Gynecology at Abington—Jefferson Health, about the most common questions about pregnancy testing, what to expect in the first few weeks of your pregnancy and when you can safely share the news with family and friends.
Here’s what you need to know.
How do pregnancy tests work?
“Pregnancy tests measure the amount of the hCG hormone in your body,” said Mosczczynski. “If your number is above 25, the test will have a positive result.”
Human Chorionic Gonadotropin (hCG) is commonly known as “the pregnancy hormone” because it is created by cells in the placenta that are meant to nourish a fertilized egg.
What’s the difference between a home pregnancy test and a blood test?
“Home pregnancy tests are just as accurate as the blood test you can receive in a doctor’s office,” said Mosczczynski. “They are pretty sensitive, but if taken too soon, can cause a false positive.”
When are they most effective? How do false positives happen?
“Though many commercially available pregnancy tests claim they are effective before the missed period, that can be misleading,” said Mosczczynski.
It is possible for sperm to meet the egg, causing an increase in hCG, but for your period to begin before the process is complete. This is what is known as a “chemical pregnancy.”
“During a chemical pregnancy, the fertilized egg doesn't complete implantation and loss of pregnancy occurs,” she explains. “That results in bleeding about a week after your regular period was due, which can be upsetting for couples trying to get pregnant.”
In order to avoid that false positive, it’s best to wait at least week after your missed period to take a pregnancy test. However, Mosczczynski reminds patients that the missed period should be calculated according to your own schedule. This means, if you know you have a 25-day or 33-day menstrual cycle, it should be taken the week after.
“Don’t jump the gun. Pregnancy is complicated, and some women want to become pregnant so badly they get their hopes up and are disappointed by the chemical pregnancy,” she said.
When should I see a provider?
“Typically, with a positive pregnancy test, we expect patients to call right away,” said Mosczczynski. “So we have a phone line that is staffed by nurses ready to answer your questions and get you scheduled for that first appointment.”
Expect questions like “When was the first day of your last period?” and follow-ups about previous pregnancies, miscarriages and health issues.
When is a safe time to announce my pregnancy?
“This is a very popular question,” said Mosczczynski. “This is an exciting and scary time, especially before that first ultrasound.”
However, there’s no easy answer. Mosczczynski reminds expecting mothers that anything can happen at any time from conception to birth, so it’s important to lean on your support system.
“Think about your family and friends. Who do you trust with the news of that first positive pregnancy test? Whoever you lean on, you should tell them as soon as you’re comfortable,” she explains. These people are the ones who will provide understanding and support if there is an issue with the pregnancy.
Most expecting mothers will then widely share the news of their pregnancy at the beginning of the second trimester when an ultrasound has been conducted.
“But remember, if you’re not ready, that’s ok,” she said. “If you’re not announcing it, we’re not. You’re safe with us, and this is your call. We’re here to support you.”