Pregnancy test

Pregnancy Tests: Four Signs You Should Take An HCG Test

If there is even the slightest chance you might be pregnant, the smart thing to do is take a pregnancy test. The most prevalent pregnancy test is the HCG test, which detects the human gonadotropin hormone in your urine. This hormone is produced only when a fertilised egg is implanted in the uterus.

However, timing your pregnancy test is crucial because it can give false-negative results if you take a test too early. Generally, over-the-counter (OTC) pregnancy tests or pregnancy home test kits require a urine sample. In contrast, you can get more accurate results from an HCG blood test.

What is the HCG test?

The HCG test measures the levels of human chorionic gonadotropin hormone produced by the placenta. It can be detected in the bloodstream within 6-8 days of conception, whereas it takes over 10-14 days to appear in the urine, at sufficient amounts where the HCG urine test can accurately give results.

How does it work?

A reaction between the HCG and the detecting chemical happens in a test kit. An at-home kit contains a strip or a small chamber. If there is at least 25 mIU/mL HCG in the urine, it will indicate a positive result with a colour change. A lab blood test is performed similarly but is more sensitive and can detect even lower amounts of HCG.

Signs that it is time to take the HCG blood test

 Your period is late or missing

For women having regular menstrual cycles, missing a single period is a good sign to get a pregnancy test. It is vital to chart your ovulation and figure out roughly how long your cycle is. On average, it is 28 days, but some women can have 32-day cycles. If your period is taking longer than usual, and you have had sex in the previous month, you should get an HCG test done.

 Your breasts feel tender

A rise in oestrogen and progesterone levels causes the breasts to swell and feel tender. If you are pregnant, your body will produce more of these hormones, and you will feel the following changes:

●       Tender and swollen breasts

●       Enlarging and darkening nipples

However, these changes can happen even as part of the regular menstrual cycle. Usually, these changes are seen before your period when the levels of these hormones rise. Hence, this sign alone does not indicate pregnancy.

 Your contraception failed

Whether devices, condoms or pills, most contraceptives don’t have a 100% success rate. Hence, there are no guarantees that you will not get pregnant.

 Most often, contraception fails because of mishaps. Especially if there are situations like a broken condom and forgotten pill, you should get an HCG blood test within 10-20 days of your estimated period.

 You feel cramps and bloating

Cramps and bloating can happen before and during your period, but egg implantation, the attachment of a fertilised egg to the uterus wall, can also cause cramps. There may also be some bleeding or spotting. Therefore, if you have any reason to suspect that it is not just your period, you should get an HCG test.

Some facts about the HCG test

The HCG test is pretty simple, and you can get the results on the same day. The OTC urine HCG test price is about INR 100-300.

 If you want quick and more accurate results, it should be done at a diagnostic centre. An HCG blood test cost can range from INR 500 to 1000. Some centers may offer discounts.

You should remember that an HCG test is a presumptive diagnosis. Moreover, an OTC test can give false results. Hence, if your doctor thinks it is necessary, they may recommend further testing.

By Michael Caine

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