How to choose a pregnancy test at the store and why digital tests aren’t necessarily better
Originally Published Dec 13, 2019 on Pregnancy Test | By Ashley Laderer
If you’re looking for the most accurate result, it’s best to wait for the hCG levels to be detectable in the urine. Getty
- There are two main ways you can take pregnancy tests. Blood tests at a doctor’s office and store-bought urine tests can both be 99% accurate when used correctly.
- There are digital and non-digital pregnancy tests you can purchase at the store. Digital tests take the guesswork out of analyzing a pregnancy test, but they are not necessarily more accurate.
- Some doctor-recommended store-bought pregnancy tests include First Response, Clearblue, EPT, and Easy@Home.
- These and many other pregnancy tests will say that they can detect pregnancy days before your first period. However, doctors agree that if you’re looking for the most accurate result, it’s best to wait until your missed period.
- This article was reviewed by Olivia P. Myrick, MD, who is a clinical assistant professor with the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at NYU Langone.
- Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.
Whether you’re hoping to get pregnant or not, the first thing you’re probably going to do if you think you might be pregnant is spring for a pregnancy test – but with so many options, how do you know which is the most accurate?
All legitimate pregnancy tests work in the same way: by detecting the pregnancy hormone called human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG).
There are two main ways you can take pregnancy tests:
- At a doctor’s office with a blood or urine test. “The most accurate will be blood tests, followed by a urine test in the doctor’s office,” says Sheryl Ross, MD, OB-GYN in Santa Monica, California. “Ten days after ovulation, the blood testing is 99% accurate. If you miss a period, the urine testing reaches 99% accuracy.”
- At home with a store-bought urine test. This test can also be 99% accurate if used under the right circumstances. Usually, it’s 99% effective from the day of your missed period onwards, and less effective before that.
DIY methods like mixing urine with bleach are not recommended by doctors and should be avoided.
How to choose a store-bought pregnancy test
Since a doctor’s visit is often less convenient and more expensive, most people will opt for the store-bought test you can take at home. But it’s not as simple as it sounds because there are a lot of options.
For example, there are digital and non-digital tests. Digital tests are the ones that read “pregnant” or “not pregnant” and the non-digital ones usually have lines that you must interpret. Even a faint line might still denote a positive result.
So, digital tests take the guesswork out of analyzing a pregnancy test, but they are not necessarily more accurate. Ross personally recommends non-digital tests.
Moreover, there’s the cost to consider. Even the most expensive tests have the potential to be inaccurate if they’re taken too soon. You should also always check the expiration date, according to Ross, especially if the product is on sale at the store.
Some popular brands include:
- First Response: First Response‘s tests often top “Best Pregnancy Test” lists, and Ross agrees. “I think First Response would be my favorite. It’s really checking more accurately than some of the other ones,” she says. The brand’s Early Result Pregnancy Test is a fan favorite.
- Clearblue: Clearblue is another brand that Ross vouches for. It’s Digital Pregnancy Test with Smart Countdown, for example, is designed with “Floodguard™ technology” which, Clearblue says prevents urine from flooding the test and causing false results.
- EPT: EPT which stands for Error Proof Test (although, really, no home pregnancy test is error-proof) has standard tests, both digital and non-digital.
- Easy@Home: If you’re okay with no-frills pregnancy tests and want a bunch of them, Easy@Home could be a good fit. The tests are simple strips, and they come in bulk packages of twenty or even forty. These are at a lower price point than the aforementioned tests, but certainly can still be accurate, Ross says.
Don’t buy a test based on how early it can detect pregnancy
These and many other pregnancy tests will say that they can detect pregnancy days before your first period. For example, First Response’s Early Result Pregnancy Test states it can tell if you’re pregnant up to 6 days before a missed period. However, doctors agree that if you’re looking for the most accurate result, it’s best to wait for the hCG levels to be detectable in the urine.
“Waiting for a missed period and [testing your urine] first thing in the morning is going to probably be the most accurate way, other than going to your doctor’s office,” Ross says. “If you’re checking a few days before your period, whether it’s digital or non-digital, it’s not going to be as accurate as if you’re testing a day after your period was expected to come.”
What matters more than the test you choose
When it comes to different brands, cheap versus expensive, or digital versus non-digital, there are two other factors that are actually more important for accuracy: how concentrated the urine is and how far out you are from conception.
If pregnant, your urine will be most concentrated with hCG during your first pee of the day, and each day of pregnancy that goes by in the first 11 weeks of pregnancy, hCG levels increase. This is why the tests are more reliable with the more time that passes after a missed period.
“In any of these home tests, there’s going to be pros and cons for all of them,” says Ross. “I would say the number one thing is you want to make sure you want to really know your dates. [Ask yourself] ‘When could I have gotten pregnant? When am I missing a period?'”
Once you have these benchmarks, you can figure out when your period is late and when you should start testing to have more reliable results.