They Are Not All Created Equal

The time has come, and you go to the store to buy a pregnancy test. Why are there a million different kinds, and what’s the difference? Read on to find out why.

Pregnancy tests

Pregnancy tests look for something specific in your urine that you only produce when you’re pregnant. Human chorionic gonadotropin, also known as hCG, will trigger a positive response on a urine or blood test. As you won’t be drawing your own blood at home (phew!), we’ll focus on home urine tests.

Mid-stream tests

Most tests available at your local drugstore (or other retailer) are what is known as a mid-stream pregnancy test. They are designed for the user to hold on one end and place the absorbent tip in a urine stream. They are easy to use this way, but if you aren’t all that great at, well, aiming your pee (mine tends to have a mind of its own), you can pee in a clean cup and dip the stick that way.

Most of these tests are the two-line variety (one line is no, but two lines are yes), but there are other versions, such as those that will make a + in the window if you’re pregnant.

There are now tests on the market that claim to detect pregnancy several days before your period is even due. This is because the tests will read very low levels of hCG (ironically, many urine tests at the doctor’s office are less sensitive). Testing earlier will increase your chances of false negatives, however -- if you’re pregnant but your hCG levels are very low, even the most sensitive pregnancy test won’t pick it up.

Digital tests

Most digital pregnancy tests are also mid-stream tests, and often, they can be less sensitive than their analog counterparts. So, they are often used as a back up to a traditional pregnancy test or a little later when a false negative is less likely.

Some moms avoid them altogether -- it’s one thing to just see one line, but can be pretty depressing to see a test say “no” or “not pregnant.” I wasn’t keen on a pregnancy test talking to me so I waited until I had a for-sure line on a regular test before I used a digital one -- and I only used it because I wanted to see those words, and yes, take a picture of it.

“Dip stick” tests

Available online and even at your local dollar store, you can find a test where you have to use a cup to collect your urine. These are often quite sensitive and available very cheaply on the internet -- and even cheaper when you buy in bulk. The lines can sometimes be hard to interpret unless they are pretty dark, but the good news is that you won’t be throwing away another $8 on a store test if you need to use another one.

tell us

What is your favorite kind of pregnancy test? Did you test more than once, or just for fun? Do tell!

More on pregnancy testing

Days in waiting: The wait to take a pregnancy test
Pregnancy tests: The mystery of evaporation lines -- explained!
Pregnancy testing can make you crazy

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