Anxiety plagued me when I was trying to conceive (TTC). It wasn't just the worry over if or when I'd get pregnant, but also worry over ovulation kits, pH-balanced lubricant, vitamins, and pregnancy tests — all those little details that build up in your mind as you try to get pregnant. When you finally think you're ready to see if all that checking of your cervical mucus paid off, you buy a test. But how early can you detect a pregnancy?
The two tests typically performed by OB-GYNs to determine pregnancy both detect the same hormone — human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) — and providers can use either blood or urine to detect the presence of hCG. The urinalysis requires roughly double the amount of hCG present than the blood test requires, or about 20 mIU/ml of hCG in urine. Blood tests are sensitive at around 10 mIU/ml, detecting pregnancy about two days earlier than urine — or eight days post-ovulation. Home pregnancy tests detect pregnancy typically from the day of your missed period, and ultrasounds aren't often used until around seven weeks.
The routine for me was that I would have my egg retrieval and transfer, and then exactly 12 days later I would go in and the vampire squad would drain me of several vials. I'd know within minutes if I was pregnant or not (usually not). However, when I wasn't using the assistance of modern reproductive technology, I'd wait until the first day of my missed period before heading out to buy a home pregnancy urinalysis test. Why do doctors use blood instead of urine at fertility clinics? It's simple — they're faster and more reliable. According to a study completed by Dutch researchers, blood tests detect even the smallest amount of hCG compared with urinalysis and home pregnancy tests, which require slightly higher levels as it moves from the blood into the urine. A blood test can detect 5 mIU/ml of blood, whereas even the most sensitive home pregnancy test can only detect when the concentration of hCG reaches 20 mIU/ml in the urine.
Blood tests are also more accurate at detecting pregnancy, according to a German study. Blood tests were greater than 98 percent accurate, whereas the urine tests were only just over 95 percent accurate at the same testing period. Certified Nurse Midwife Jana Aguilar tells Romper that urine tests are preferred in most clinical situations because they're fast and painless, but blood tests become necessary when you're looking for very early pregnancy in the event the mother requires treatment for another condition that might compromise a growing fetus.
Ultrasounds, on the other hand, specifically the trans-vaginal ultrasounds used in early pregnancy, are not shown to be remarkably helpful before the seventh week of gestation, or about five weeks after you miss your period, according to Human Reproduction. While I agree that seeing that little pocket of baby land on the grainy screen is gratifying, if that's what you're waiting on to find out for sure that you're pregnant or that your pregnancy is viable, as I had to do, your wait is not going to be a short or easy one.
When it comes to detecting pregnancy, nothing is better than blood, but since home pregnancy tests can detect hCG in the urine up to five days before you miss your period, you'll likely not be waiting as long as you think if you don't have quick access to a blood test like those of us who are on the "get pregnant at the doctor's office" plan. Home pregnancy tests have come a long way, and likely, you'll also get your first scan at your first doctor's appointment around week eight. It's nerve wracking to wait, but it's also wonderful.
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