Miscarriages and Home Pregnancy Tests

It's Best to See Your Doctor If You're Worried About a Pregnancy Loss

Woman taking pregnancy test
Can a home pregnancy test tell you if you've miscarried?. Zave Smith/UpperCut Images/Getty Images

If you have had a positive home pregnancy test after trying to conceive, congratulations! Yet you may be wondering how much a home pregnancy test can really tell you. Could it be positive if you aren't pregnant or negative if you are? And can a home pregnancy test tell you if you have miscarried?

What a Home Pregnancy Test Can Tell You

As long as you have used the test correctly (for example, you have not used an expired test or have read the test beyond the stipulated time limit), a positive pregnancy test is a pretty reliable indicator that you are pregnant.

Specific test brands can vary, but with most of these tests, false positives are uncommon. (Learn more about false positive home pregnancy tests if this is your concern.)

What a Home Pregnancy Test Can't Tell You

Although pregnancy tests are great tools for telling you whether you're pregnant, you should keep in mind that they really can't tell you much more than a "yes" or "no" answer. Here are two noteworthy points about pregnancy tests that can be especially relevant for women who have experienced a miscarriage in the past or who are worried about pregnancy loss:

  • Having a dark test line one day and a very light test line the next day is not a sign of miscarriage, but more likely an indicator of how much water you have had to drink that day. You may be tempted to take multiple pregnancy tests over the next few days to make sure that the result is real. If you do, remember not to think too hard about the shading of the test line. The only time a home pregnancy test result can suggest miscarriage is if you have a pregnancy test show a negative result after having taken a previous pregnancy test that was positive. This can be a sign of a chemical pregnancy—a very early miscarriage.
  • If you are having miscarriage symptoms and want an answer on whether your pregnancy is viable, don't rely on a home pregnancy test. See a doctor instead. Even in women with a confirmed miscarriage, a pregnancy test may show a positive result for up to a month afterward. Depending on where you are in your pregnancy, the doctor can check your cervix, monitor your hCG levels and/or perform an ultrasound to determine whether you are miscarrying.

    The New Pregnancy Test - Can it Really Predict Your Risk of Miscarriage?

    The above notes refer to the majority of currently available pregnancy tests on the market You may have heard, however, that a test is available which may be able to predict your risk of miscarriage. The product "Clearblue Advanced Pregnancy Test" states clearly on the label, however, that it is not meant to be a test used to monitor for miscarriage. With this test, as with other pregnancy tests, the notes above pertain. If you are worried you may have miscarried, talk to your doctor. She may perform an exam, check a blood test of your hCG levels, or perform an ultrasound to confirm or alleviate your fears.

    How to Avoid a False-Negative Pregnancy Test

    False-negative pregnancy results are much more common than false positives. Thinking you're not pregnant when you are is not ideal—for a number of reasons.

    Fortunately, there are a few things you can do to reduce the likelihood of a home pregnancy test telling you you're not pregnant when you actually are:

    • Wait a week after your missed period. False negatives are more likely to occur the earlier you are in your pregnancy. For the most reliable home test results. it's best to wait a week after your missed period to take the test.
    • Be patient with the results. Set a timer and look at the stick only when it goes off—not before.
    • Take the test in the morning. Morning pee tends to be concentrated because you haven't gone for at least a few hours. And the more concentrated your urine, the better the test will pick up the pregnancy hormones in your urine.

    If you have a positive home pregnancy test, you can call the doctor to confirm the pregnancy and start prenatal care.

    Sources:

    Cole, L. hCG, The Wonders of Today’s Science. Reproductive Biology and Endocrinology. 2012. 10:24.

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