Reproductive Health

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 $5-$10. 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. It takes approximately two weeks for a pregnancy test to be accurate, regardless of when you expected your period. 

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. 

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. 

Related Links


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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