At-Home Pregnancy Test Information

What is an at-home pregnancy test?

Pregnancy tests are used to detect the amount of hCG (human chorionic gonadotropin, the “pregnancy hormone”) in urine or blood.  HCG can be detected in both urine and blood in very small quantities around day 23 (of a 28-day cycle), or 5 days before the next expected period. The pregnancy stick changes color when it comes into contact with this hormone, hCG.1

Are at-home pregnancy tests accurate?

There are numerous brands of home pregnancy tests but quality and accuracy varies.  The primary reason for this is that there is no set detection limit of hCG needed in the urine to give a positive test, meaning test ranges are anywhere from 6.3 to 50 IU/L with an average of 20 to 25 IU/L needed for a positive result.2

Also, a company claim is not always consistent with what actually is tested.  It is usually recommended to wait at least one week after the missed period before taking a home pregnancy test. Each pregnancy test kit will come with its own set of instructions; these directions should be followed exactly.

What is the cost of an at-home pregnancy test?

The cost of an at-home pregnancy test can vary. Digital displays are easier to read and use but are typically more expensive. Higher end brands can be as high as $20. Most often, pregnancy tests range from $10-$15, while some of your discount brands can be purchased at dollar stores for as low as $1.

How early can I take an at-home pregnancy test?

Some pregnancy tests can be taken on the first day of a missed period. The more expensive and sensitive tests may even be able to detect abnormal levels of hCG earlier than this.3

Find more tips here about how to take an at-home pregnancy test.

What are the different kinds of pregnancy tests?

At-home pregnancy test types vary from test strips or dipsticks held in the urine stream or dipped into a sample of urine to collecting the urine in a cup placing drops of urine onto the test or dipping the test device into the cup of urine. Depending on the type of test, results are read as colored lines or given as digital read-outs. Studies have found that there can be discrepancies between technician interpretation and volunteer interpretation of test results. One study noted that “devices performed best when interpreted by a technician rather than a volunteer.” 4

Another study found that “women tended to read the positive standards as ‘not pregnancy’ more often than the technicians.”5


  1.  Retrieved July 16, 2015,
  2. Grenache, D. “Variable accuracy of home pregnancy tests: truth in advertising?” Clin Chem Lab Med 2015; 53(3): 339-341.
  3. Retrieved Sept 24 ,2015,
  4. Grenache, D. “Variable accuracy of home pregnancy tests: truth in advertising?” Clin Chem Lab Med 2015; 53(3): 339-341.
  5. Johnson, S., et al. “Comparison of analytical sensitivity and women’s interpretation of home pregnancy tests.” Clin Chem Lab Med 2014; aop