Pregnancy Tests

What types of pregnancy tests are there?

Pregnancy tests are usually simple urine tests that screen for a hormone called human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG). HCG is released when a fertilized egg attaches to the lining of the uterus and is only found in the body if you are pregnant. You can take a home pregnancy test or go to a medical provider to be tested. Brown students can make an appointment for a pregnancy test at Health Services by calling 401.863-3953. The test is covered by your Health Services fee, so there is no charge at the time of your visit. Home pregnancy tests are available in the Health Services pharmacy for about $5 for a package of two tests. Tests are also available at most drugstores and are usually about $15.

If you take a home test, it's important to follow all of the instructions carefully. The results will be either positive — meaning pregnant — or negative — meaning not pregnant.  When used as directed, the home tests have similar results to the urine pregnancy tests in most medical providers' offices.

Your medical provider can also determine whether or not you're pregnant by testing your blood. But blood pregnancy tests aren't done very often. This information on this page is specific to the more commonly used urine tests.

How soon can I take a pregnancy test?

When you become pregnant, the egg is usually fertilized by the sperm in one of your fallopian tubes. Within 9 days after fertilization the egg moves down the fallopian tube into the uterus and attaches to the uterine wall. Once the fertilized egg implants, the placenta starts to develop and begins to release hCG into the bloodstream. Some of this hCG also passes in the urine. In the first few weeks of pregnancy, the amount of hCG in your urine gets higher very quickly, doubling every 2-3 days.

You can take a pregnancy test as soon as your period is late. Some pregnancy tests even work a few days before a missed period. Read the label on the pregnancy test box to see how early the test can be used. All tests become more accurate as you get closer to the date of your expected period and are most accurate once you have already missed your period.

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How accurate are pregnancy tests?

Pregnancy tests are very accurate. Most home pregnancy tests work 99 out of 100 times if used after a missed period. They can be less effective if you take the pregnancy test too early, if you do not use it correctly, or if the expiration date on the pregnancy test has passed.

What if my pregnancy test is positive?

If the pregnancy test is positive, that means you're pregnant. If you've taken a home pregnancy test, it's important to visit a medical provider for another test. Your medical provider can confirm the results, discuss your options with you if you are unsure about what to do, and help you get prenatal care if you want to continue your pregnancy. Brown students can make an appointment at Health Services by calling 401.863-3953.

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What if my pregnancy test is negative?

A negative result from a home pregnancy test means you're unlikely to be pregnant. But sometimes it means you've taken the pregnancy test too early to know for sure. Wait until a day or two after your missed period and take another test to be sure.

What if I can't tell if my pregnancy test is positive or negative?

Women sometimes find the results of pregnancy tests hard to read. If it's unclear whether the home pregnancy test you've taken is positive or negative, visit a medical provider for another test. Brown students can make an appointment at Health Services by calling 401.863-3953.

Links you can use

WebMD

Planned Parenthood

Am I Pregnant? tool
The Am I Pregnant? tool at Planned Parenthood's website can help you decide if you need to take a pregnancy test.

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Disclaimer: BWell Health Promiotion is part of Health Services at Brown University. Health Promotion maintains this site as a resource for Brown students. This site is not intended to replace consultation with your medical providers. No site can replace real conversation. Health Promotion offers no endorsement of and assumes no liability for the currency, accuracy, or availability of the information on the sites we link to or the care provided by the resources listed. Health Services staff are available to treat and give medical advice to Brown University students only. If you are not a Brown student, but are in need of medical assistance please call your own health care provider or in case of an emergency, dial 911. Please contact us if you have comments, questions or suggestions.