Top 7 Home Pregnancy Tests to See if You're Expecting
July 23, 2021
You’ve been waiting for this moment for weeks. Never has a trip to the toilet felt so pivotal—it’s finally time to take a home pregnancy test. But before you beeline to the pharmacy and buy every product on the shelf (or mindlessly pee on a stick without checking the directions), take a second to slow down and read up. You’ll want to calculate the timing of your test and research the pregnancy test brands available. We’re sharing helpful tips straight from the experts—plus, revealing the best pregnancy test options to suit your needs.
If you think you might be pregnant, there’s an easy way to find out for sure: Take a home pregnancy test! You can go to a doctor’s office or hospital to have a urine or blood test done, but many women prefer to get the answer from the comfort of their home—or, more specifically, their bathroom.
A serum (aka blood) pregnancy test is super-sensitive at measuring human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG), the pregnancy hormone, and “can detect a pregnancy at its earliest stages,” says Christian Pope, DO, an ob-gyn at St. Luke’s Hospital in New Bedford, Massachusetts. Home pregnancy tests look for that same hormone but in your urine, where it may take a bit more time for it to accumulate. A blood test can detect pregnancy about six to eight days after conception, whereas a home pregnancy test generally works as early as 14 days after conception. (Some early-results pregnancy tests can offer results roughly eight days after conception, but the longer you wait, the more accurate the test is.)
At-home pregnancy tests are designed to scan your urine for the presence of hCG, a hormone that your body only produces once an embryo has implanted in your uterus. The longer you’re pregnant, the higher your hCG levels become and the easier it is for the test to detect the hormone—which is why the later you wait to take a pregnancy test, the more accurate it’s likely to be.
Different types of home pregnancy tests
Home pregnancy tests all search for hCG in your urine, but there are various styles available that are used in slightly different ways. Dye pregnancy tests come in the form of strips or wands; some you pee directly onto, while others you dip into your collected pee. If hCG is detected in your urine, it’ll incite a chemical reaction that makes a positive result line appear. Digital tests, on the other hand, typically display the word “positive or “negative.” Many women find that these high-tech options are more user-friendly, and while they may be slightly less sensitive to hCG, they eliminate the possibility of misinterpretation.
If you’ve been trying to conceive, you’re probably anxious to take a test—and stat. But you’ll want to plan your fateful potty-trip wisely. The truth is: Home pregnancy tests are “most accurate when you take them after you have already missed your period,” explains Jane Frederick,** MD, reproductive endocrinologist and medical director of HRC Fertility in Orange County, California.
Early-result pregnancy tests are designed to detect the hormone as early as six days before your missed period. Still, the odds of getting a false reading narrows as you approach the date of your expected period. You should also try to take your home pregnancy test when you wake up, as “first morning urine… is most concentrated,” meaning a test is more likely to detect hCG levels, explains Pope.
Home pregnancy tests involve peeing on a stick or dipping a strip into a cup of urine. Follow the directions, and within a matter of minutes you’ll have your result. It’s that simple.
Common mistakes to avoid when taking a home pregnancy test
Home pregnancy tests are fairly intuitive and pretty accurate. However, user-error is possible—and there are some common mistakes you should try to avoid making. “Always check the package for expiration dates to maintain the accuracy of the test,” advises Frederick. Pregnancy tests have a shelf life, and using an expired one can result in a false positive reading.
Also, be sure to read the specific directions for the test you’re taking and follow the steps accordingly. Most importantly, check the result within the advised time frame. Wait too long, and you could detect an evaporation line. This is “a line that appears in the results window of a pregnancy test as the urine dries,” explains Frederick. In other words, it makes a test look positive when it’s actually negative.
How to read a pregnancy test
If you’re taking a blue or pink dye pregnancy test, a control line will always appear to indicate that the test is working; if the test line appears within the instructed time frame, there is hCG in your system (you got a positive result!). Consider setting a timer so you don’t wait too long to check the result and risk seeing the appearance of an evaporation line.
A positive result can bring on a surge of excitement; it can also come with its fair share of anxiety. If you want to take a second test for reassurance, go for it; just don’t feel compelled to buy out the pharmacy’s entire stock. “If one test is positive, the rest will be too,” says Pope. It’s time to schedule a prenatal appointment with your doctor and follow up for next steps.
Of course, a negative result can be devastating, but you shouldn’t feel defeated. If you’re testing early, follow up and test again after your missed period. If it’s been a few cycles and you’ve yet to get a positive pregnancy test, contact your doctor to discuss next steps; there are options.
Home pregnancy tests are generally considered very accurate (most are about 99 percent accurate on the day of a missed period)—so if you get a positive result, give yourself permission to celebrate.
Still, it’s important to note that, while very rare, false positives are possible. Certain fertility drugs contain hCG and can result in a positive reading when you’re not actually pregnant, warns Frederick. An expired test can also lead to a faulty reading. False negatives can happen too. Most commonly, this would be the result of testing too early.
Keep in mind that pregnancy tests may have slightly different sensitivity levels. “One might be positive and another negative on the same day in a woman who is newly pregnant, and the difference is the quality and sensitivity of the pregnancy test,” says Sara Twogood, MD, an ob-gyn at Cedars Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles and author of Ladypartsblog.com. Still, home pregnancy tests purchased at stores and pharmacies are regulated by the FDA, so suffice to say, most are considered very reliable.
Wondering which are the best pregnancy test options to use? Whether you want one that’s easy and intuitive or a whole box full of strips, we’re sharing our top picks.
Best early pregnancy test: First Response early result pregnancy test
How it works: The First Response Early Result (FRER) is your typical pee-on-a-stick home pregnancy test, with a curved shape and wide tip that makes it easy to use. Hold it in your urine stream and it will pick up any pregnancy hormones. Three minutes later, the test will show one pink line if you’re not pregnant and two lines if you are. (And yes, a faint line still counts as a positive as long as you’ve read it within the recommended time frame.)
How accurate it is: Regarded as one of the most sensitive early pregnancy test out there (and backed up by scientific studies), the makers of the FRER say it can tell you you’re pregnant about five days before your expected period. Just keep in mind that pregnancy hormones might not have accumulated enough in your system yet (everyone’s different!), so it’s only 76 percent accurate five days beforehand, according to the brand’s testing. The accuracy increases the closer you get to your expected period.
Buy it: $9 for 2, Walmart.com
Best digital pregnancy test: Clearblue digital pregnancy test with smart countdown
How it works: Pee on the wide absorbent tip, then wait. Impatient for a result? A progress bar is displayed on the digital screen so you know the test is working. After three minutes, it’ll switch to “pregnant” or “not pregnant.” It doesn’t get easier to read than that, right?
How accurate it is: This at-home pregnancy test can be taken as early as four days before your expected period—trouble is, it’s only 51 percent accurate at that time. But take it one day before your expected period, and that stat jumps way up to 95 percent, and on the day of your expected period, it’s 99 percent accurate.
Buy it: $13 for 3, Amazon.com
Best dip-strip pregnancy test: Wondfo pregnancy test strips
*How it works: These little strips aren’t the fancy handheld contraptions you’re used to seeing. They’re more like litmus paper from eighth-grade science class. Pee into a cup, dip the stick into the urine and wait five minutes. Similar to other tests, a single line will appear if you’re not pregnant and two lines will appear if you are. Plus, at about $0.33 a strip, you can’t beat the cost here. If you’re someone who wants to test frequently, at least you won’t feel guilty blowing through these strips, especially since 50 come in a box.
How accurate it is: The instructions say the Wondfo can detect pregnancy one day after a missed period, but some moms-to-be claim this test worked really early for them—we’re talking as soon as 8 to 10 days post-ovulation.
Buy it: $17 for 50, Amazon.com
Best rapid-detection pregnancy test: Clearblue Rapid detection pregnancy test
How it works: Short on time and patience? This home pregnancy test features a color-change tip that turns pink when urine is absorbed to provide reassurance that it’s working. Better yet, for those with zero chill, it also provides results in as fast as one minute, in case you really need to know asap. Moreover, it reveals either a plus (+) or minus sign (-) that makes this option easy to read.
How accurate it is: Like most pregnancy tests, this option boasts a 99 percent accuracy rate when used on the day of your expected period.
Buy it: $17 for 3, Walmart.com
Best multi-pack pregnancy test: First Response triple check
How it works: Feeling super-nervous? Consider a kit that offers you triple assurance. This box contains three tests: An early pregnancy test, a rapid-detection test and a digital option. Use them all at once (if you want!) or have back-up options ready for another day.
How accurate it is: All three tests are over 99 percent accurate when used on the day of your expected period, according to the brand.
Buy it: $13 for 3, Amazon
Best pregnancy test with app: Modern Fertility pregnancy test
How it works: Want to track your cycle to determine the best day for testing? Download the Modern Fertility app to get a better grasp of when you ovulate and when you should test, and then scoop up this kit with four pee-on dye sticks.
How accurate it is: While this early pregnancy test can be used up to six days before your missed period, it’s 99 percent effective on the day of a missed period.
Buy it: $14 for 4, Amazon
Best eco-friendly pregnancy test: Lia flushable pregnancy test
How it works: If you’re concerned about your carbon footprint (and all the plastic that comes with typical pregnancy tests), this may be the best option for you. The innovative Lia test is 100 percent biodegradable; you can flush it, compost it or save it if you please. It’s easy to use: Pee for five seconds, lay it flat, remove the tear tab to see your results and dispose as desired.
How accurate it is: According to the brand, Lia was found to be more than 99 percent accurate in laboratory tests when used from the day of an expected period.
Buy it: $14 for 2, Lia.com
About the experts:
Jane Frederick, MD, is an ob-gyn and reproductive endocrinologist. She serves as the medical director of HRC Fertility in Orange County, California. She earned her medical degree at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, California.
Christian Pope, DO, FACG, is an ob-gyn at St. Luke’s Hospital in New Bedford, Massachusetts. He received his medical degree at the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine.
Please note: The Bump and the materials and information it contains are not intended to, and do not constitute, medical or other health advice or diagnosis and should not be used as such. You should always consult with a qualified physician or health professional about your specific circumstances.