Watching those two coloured bands appear on the pregnancy stick is an exciting moment for most women. The news of becoming pregnant is often delivered with a simple home pregnancy test that works on the principle of detecting a certain placental hormone in your urine. The outcome of this simple test is often immense joy and can mark an important milestone in your life.
The home pregnancy test or the urine pregnancy test is the most convenient, inexpensive and 97% accurate way to confirm pregnancy. The test detects the level of the hormone human chorionic gonadotrophin (hCG) in the urine and within minutes gives your result. A change in color, double bands formation or a digital reading show the results on the pregnancy kit.
False Positive and False Negative Results explained
With any laboratory or clinical test kit, there is a real risk of obtaining a misleading result which is not true. When a test result is positive (for pregnancy in this case) but in reality, the woman taking the test is not pregnant, then the result is called a false positive result.
Conversely if the test result is negative for pregnancy, but the woman in question is actually pregnant, then the result is called a false negative result.
What Do My Results Mean?
Most of the time a pregnancy kit result will give you a straightforward answer as to whether you are pregnant or not; other times, the results can be ambiguous. It is recommended to repeat the urine pregnancy test a few days later to confirm any doubt in the first test. Particularly if the result was ambiguous or equivocal.
A false positive result can sometimes come about when a very early miscarriage or a chemical pregnancy occurs. As many as 1 in 4 confirmed pregnancies end in a miscarriage. The number is likely much higher for those who did not know about the pregnancy until miscarriage occurs. The percentage of miscarrying is highest in the first trimester. A false positive result may also be due to hCG injections (part of conception therapy) that are used prior to intercourse. Another likely explanation for a false positive result is not following the pregnancy kit instructions properly (reading the results too late).
A false negative reading that can occur when the pregnancy test is performed too early (before detectable amounts of hCG appear in the urine), when the kit is not sensitive enough, or when the urine is too diluted.
Recognising Your Pregnancy Through Symptoms
Women who have been pregnant before can quickly recognise pregnancy symptoms before having to confirm the pregnancy through a test. Signs to watch out for in the early days are swollen and painful breasts, loss of appetite, nausea and vomiting, mood changes and fatigue.
Lifestyle Changes in Pregnancy: Myths and Truths
When you announce your pregnancy to the world, you’ll find countless pieces of advice being dished out to you. Changes in diet and lifestyle are important but not everything you hear about pregnancy is true. Pregnancy myths have existed for centuries and they continue to mislead newly pregnant women. Here are a few pregnancy lifestyle myths that need to be taken with a pinch of salt:
- Eating for two: Sure, you have another human being in your womb but that does not mean you should double your amount of food intake. Pregnant women are advised only to increase their caloric intake by 300 kcal/day.
- Certain food can induce or prolong labor: It is widely believed that ghee can help in easy delivery while spicy food can induce labor. The truth is that ghee will only help you gain a couple of extra pounds and spicy food can cause stomach ulcers and heartburns.
- Papaya can cause abortion: This harmless fruit is often blamed to cause an abortion. Although there are constituents in a papaya (especially unripe papaya) that can activate uterine contractions, you’ll have to eat a large quantity of papayas for it to actually have some effect.
- Sleeping on your back can hinder fetal circulation: It is thought that sleeping on your back can come in the way of the blood circulation of the fetus but this claim is not backed by any scientific evidence.
- No sex in pregnancy: Another popular myth is to refrain from sexual intercourse during the 9 months of gestation. Sex does not harm the baby and unless your doctor has specifically told you not to perform intercourse, it is perfectly safe to have sex during pregnancy.
- Seafood and sweets can harm the baby: Apart from shark and swordfish, seafood in pregnancy is perfectly healthy and should be included in the diet. Additionally, too much sugar is bad for everyone, but studies have revealed that chocolate can help the woman maintain her blood pressure (lowers the risk of preeclampsia) and have happier babies.
What Makes a Balanced Diet and Lifestyle in Pregnancy?
Your diet plays a major role in the health of your fetus. It is recommended to eat plenty of fruits and vegetables (around 5 portions every day), lean meat and proteins, fish and starchy carbohydrates. Pregnant women should also reduce consumption of dairy products, as well as all types of raw food, alcohol, and excess sugar can cause complications.
Dietary supplements are also a necessity to avoid untoward genetic defects in the baby. Folic acid in the first trimester (400 mcg/day) is important for the proper development of the brain and spinal cord. Vitamin D, calcium and iron supplements are also added later in pregnancy for the appropriate growth of the baby.
Exercising and active living is highly recommended during the pregnancy, but do avoid contact sport, high risk of falling, and strenuous activities where you find it difficult to hold conversations.
Stop smoking, stop drinking all alcoholic beverages, recreational drugs, see your doctor regarding certain medications you may be taking, minimize consumption of caffeine, avoid harmful chemicals, treat any infection early with your doctor, and above all stay healthy and positive.
Other Tests for Confirming Pregnancy
Apart from the urine pregnancy test, you can also get your blood hCG levels measured as early as 10-14 days after conception. These blood tests are often more accurate and precise but are more expensive to perform and do take longer to get results.
If you have just confirmed your pregnancy, it’s a good idea to check in with your obstetrician for a comprehensive nutrition plan and to monitor the status of your pregnancy. It is highly advisable to monitor your general health during pregnancy, including your blood pressure, sugar levels, general health status, and that of the baby (multiple tests will be offered to you including regular ultrasounds, first and second trimester testing to screen for Down’s and other genetical disorders).
Pregnancy – Complications
Every mother knows too well the pains and sufferings of pregnancy and labour. On top of this, many of them do go through complicated pregnancies. Here is a list of complications that can arise during pregnancy (though the list is not all inclusive) and who are most at risk:
- Threatened miscarriage. This presents in the form of sharp pains or cramps, and vaginal bleeding. It is the most common type of complication during the first 20 weeks of pregnancy. Anywhere up to 20% of confirmed pregnancies go through this phase. The exact cause for this is unknown, but it is more common in women who have previously had a miscarriage. Also at risk are those who undergo a viral or bacterial infection during pregnancy, trauma to the abdomen, over 35 years old, and exposure to certain medications and chemicals. Any bleeding during pregnancy requires medical attention. Your doctor will examine if the amniotic sac is ruptured and perform tests (CBC, progesterone, hCG, transvaginal ultrasound) to check on the status of the mother and the baby. According to examination and test findings, your doctor may suggest bed rest and abstaining from sex until symptoms go away. The doctor may also suggest a progesterone injection to increase the hormone level. Many women with threatened abortion go on to deliver healthy babies. The depression and anxiety that comes with having a threatened or real abortion can have prolonged and profound effects and may require medical treatment.
- Pregnant women with sexually transmitted diseases such as syphilis, chlamydia, herpes, HIV, gonorrhoea, and zika should present as soon as tested positive for pregnancy to their obstetrician and STD specialist. Even if not pregnant, these diseases should be treated and prevented. These people are at risk of complications to themselves and the baby and need to eradicate the bacteria and virus with the aid of an experienced clinician.
- Preeclampsia affects up to 8% of all pregnancies. It may potentially lead to life-threatening eclampsia, and all pregnant women should have their blood pressure monitored and urine checked for protein during their pregnancy. Symptoms and signs to watch for are high blood pressure and protein in the urine after 20 weeks of gestation. Headaches, blurred vision, phobia to bright light, fatigue, vomiting, pain in the upper right abdomen, shortness of breath, and reduced urination. You should contact your doctor immediately if you experience abdominal pains, poor urination, severe headaches, or blurred vision. Preeclampsia must be treated by your doctor and monitored closely throughout your pregnancy.
During pregnancy, there are much to watch for and dietary/supplementary/exercise regime to follow. Nevertheless, it is a time to enjoy the magical moments of being connected to your baby and knowing that his/her well-being is in your hands. Stay healthy, stay happy, seek early medical help for any concerns for early treatment or reassurance. Make sure your environment and those around you are supportive and positive as well.
Golden rules are to stop smoking, stop drinking alcohol, see your obstetrician regularly, and follow all medical advice given. If any hint of a high-risk pregnancy presents, then follow strict medical advice and close monitoring of your condition and that of the baby. Stay well hydrated, seek advice before travelling during later stages of pregnancy, stay positive.
If you’re interested in learning more about urine pregnancy tests and false results, read on more about it in our biomarker post here!
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