What Happens After You Get a Positive Pregnancy Test?

Taking a pregnancy test
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It's normal for a positive pregnancy test to bring about a slew of emotions, worries, doubts, and anxiety. Try to take a few deep breaths. Whether this was a planned pregnancy or not, there are a few important next steps you should think about and take. If, like most women, you're not sure what these next steps are, here's a handy list of things to do when your pregnancy test is positive.

Make an Appointment With Your Doctor or Midwife

​Call for a prenatal appointment as soon as your pregnancy is confirmed or you suspect you are pregnant.

Some practitioners may not schedule a first appointment until after you have missed two periods, while others have you come in right away. Even if you don't have an early appointment, do feel free to call with questions about things like medications you're currently taking, symptoms that are worrisome, or chronic health conditions that may affect your pregnancy.

If you have a history that might suggest you need to be seen sooner, make that clear. For example, a history of previous pregnancy loss, complications like pain or bleeding, or chronic conditions that you had before pregnancy like diabetes or hypothyroidism call for an appointment.

An appointment can also help you get rid of any doubts about the result of your pregnancy and confirm that you are indeed going to have a baby.

Confirm Your Pregnancy

With take-home pregnancy tests, sometimes you may have doubts about the result—is your result a false positive?

Consider Evaporation Lines

Usually, when people wonder about false positives, they are concerned they are seeing an evaporation line. This is when a pregnancy test appears to be positive—there is a faint line of some sort—but it’s actually not a positive result.

An evaporation line rarely has any color to it.

It’s more like a faint line where you would expect to see a pink line. Evaporation lines are more common with certain brands of pregnancy tests. 

Evaporation lines usually don’t appear on a test if you look at the recommended time. Most tests will tell you to look after a certain number of minutes, but before another certain number of minutes. For example, the pregnancy test may instruct you to look at the test three minutes after taking it, but not after ten minutes have passed. It’s important to follow these directions to prevent misreading your pregnancy test.

This problem is not an issue with digital pregnancy tests. Digital tests display results as "Pregnant" or "Not Pregnant." There are no lines to decode or overthink. This is one of the advantages of digital tests, though they are usually more expensive.

Consider False Positives

If your test is clearly positive, you’re very likely pregnant. False positive pregnancy tests are possible but rare. There are some medications and medical conditions that can cause a false positive. For example, if your fertility treatment included a "trigger shot" of hCG, you could get a positive pregnancy test result that doesn’t actually indicate pregnancy.

This is because hCG is the hormone that is being measured by the pregnancy test. Avoid this problem by waiting at least 10 days after your trigger shot before taking a pregnancy test. If you're having doubts, take another test or visit your doctor.

Consider Pregnancy Symptoms

We spend so much time talking about how to cope with pregnancy symptoms that we start to think that they are universal. Pregnancy symptoms and signs are not accurate indicators of pregnancy. Some women never experience morning sickness or other symptoms, but they are just as pregnant as those who do. A lack of pregnancy symptoms doesn't mean you aren't pregnant.

On the flip side, some women may experience cramping, which is usually associated with having a period, which would mean you're not pregnant. It's natural to worry if you get a positive pregnancy test but are having cramps. Know that slight pelvic discomfort during pregnancy is normal. There’s a lot going on in your uterus to help it get ready to host a baby. Also, if you’re anxious, you may be unconsciously tensing your abdominal muscles, which can cause mild cramping.

If you’ve taken fertility drugs, your ovaries may still be swollen from the stimulation. Mild ovarian hyperstimulation (OHSS) can cause pelvic discomfort and bloating. OHSS can be monitored or treated by your doctor.

If your cramps are intense or severe or accompanied by other worrisome symptoms, contact your doctor.

Differing Blood Work and At-Home Pregnancy Results

If your doctor ordered a qualitative pregnancy test, as opposed to a quantitative pregnancy test, your blood test may come out negative while your at-home test can be positive. A qualitative pregnancy test only gives a positive or negative result and often requires a higher level of pregnancy hormone than many at-home early pregnancy tests. Quantitative pregnancy tests can sometimes detect pregnancy hormone before an at-home test can.

Most fertility doctors will order a quantitative pregnancy test, which gives a measure of how much hCG is circulating. This is usually followed by another test a few days later to see how quickly the hCG levels are increasing (a sign of a healthy pregnancy).

It is also possible, if your blood test came back with a very early positive, that you can get a negative test at home a few days later because of an early miscarriage. In this case, your period will probably start soon. In either case, don’t be afraid to ask your doctor about why the results may be different.

Don't Panic

Not everyone has a planned pregnancy or is immediately happy with the news of their pregnancy. Don't panic. Sometimes, even if you were planning your pregnancy, it's normal to find yourself second guessing your plans. Take some time to let the news sink in while considering what to do.

Celebrate Your Pregnancy

While you shouldn't have alcoholic beverages during pregnancy, that doesn't mean you should stop having fun. A great glass of sparkling cider is a great way to liven up the night and to toast your new bundle of joy. Some women plan a romantic dinner to surprise their partners with the news of the pregnancy, others have bigger parties. How and when you celebrate may depend on many factors. Either way, remember that having fun is a perfectly acceptable part of pregnancy. By having fun, you're releasing stress and relaxing, which is good for you and the baby.

Share Your Pregnancy News

Telling your family and friends about your new family addition is fun and exciting. Some families wait until after 12 weeks, the first ultrasound, or a special date to begin telling everyone, while others begin telling everyone right away. There isn't a right or a wrong way to do it—choose what's best for you.

Learn About Pregnancy

Glimpse through a pregnancy calendar so that you know what to expect and follow your pregnancy week by week. See if you can sign up for an early pregnancy class at a local hospital or birth center. This will give you a bit of knowledge to start making the appropriate decisions for you and baby. Books are also a great source of knowledge about pregnancy, birth, and postpartum.

Take Care of Yourself

Getting a good night's sleep, eating well, taking a prenatal vitamin, and exercising in an appropriate way are all ways to encourage a healthy pregnancy, easier labor, and a healthy baby. Listening to your body's signals, whether it be morning sickness or exhaustion, will help you cope more easily with symptoms of pregnancy.

Your doctor can schedule successive pregnancy blood tests to make sure your hormone levels are increasing as they should and that your pregnancy is healthy. Ultrasounds and physical exams also confirm that your pregnancy is going as it should be.

While a pregnancy test will typically show up with a darker positive line the further along you are, using the darkness of the line on your pregnancy test is not an accurate way of measuring how healthy your pregnancy is. At-home pregnancy tests aren’t designed to measure how much hCG is in your urine. They are just meant to detect if there is a minimum amount.

Find a Support System

Whether you're talking to your family or friends, support is a must-have for pregnant women. So much will change in your life and you'll have many questions. You will need to surround yourself with people who can help you talk things through. Sometimes that will be your midwife or doctor and other times that will be your friends and family. Consider finding others who are due when you are due to share the ups and downs of pregnancy with. These friendships can last a lifetime and are often helpful.

Try to Enjoy Your Pregnancy

After all, it's only nine or ten months. While the end of pregnancy seems really far away, it does arrive more quickly than most moms anticipate. Planning ahead and preparing a bit every month will help you prevent a panicked feeling towards the end of pregnancy, when some moms "wake up" and realize that there are only a few short weeks before the baby arrives.

A Word From Verywell

The first few days and weeks after a positive pregnancy test may be full of mixed emotions. There are certain things that you need to start working on to have a healthy pregnancy, like getting started with prenatal care and beginning to take prenatal vitamins, if you haven't already done so. You should also be gentle with yourself if you feel a bit sensitive about the whole subject. It may take you some time to adjust to the news, and that's normal. Seek support if you need it!

Sources:

Avoiding Inappropriate Clinical Decisions Based on False-Positive Human Chorionic Gonadotropin Test Results. Number 278, November 2002 (Reaffirmed 2013). Committee on Gynecologic Practice. 

Er TK1, Chiang CH, Cheng BH, Hong FJ, Lee CP, Ginés MA. “False-positive urine pregnancy test in a woman with adenomysosis.” Am J Emerg Med. 2009 Oct;27(8):1019.e5-7. doi: 10.1016/j.ajem.2008.12.023. Epub 2009 Sep 22. 

Johnson S, Cushion M, Bond S, Godbert S, Pike J. Comparison of analytical sensitivity and women's interpretation of home pregnancy tests. Clin Chem Lab Med. 2015 Feb;53(3):391-402. doi: 10.1515/cclm-2014-0643.

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