All about pregnancy tests: different types of pregnancy tests and how they work

Different types of pregnancy tests

When it comes to confirming a pregnancy, knowledge is power. The various pregnancy tests available cater to different needs, timelines, and circumstances. Let’s dive deeper into these testing methods and what they reveal about your pregnancy.

Signs and symptoms of suspected pregnancy

Perhaps the most important aspect of all is to know when you should take a pregnancy test.

Pregnancy symptoms differ from person to person, but the common sign that all people have is a missed period. During early pregnancy, signs may also include:

  • implantation bleeding;
  • nausea (commonly called “morning sickness”) and fatigue due to hormonal changes;
  • breast tenderness, visible veins, and darkened nipples;
  • frequent urination, constipation, and increased vaginal discharge are also possible;
  • changes in your sense of taste and smell; and
  • cravings, which may lead to aversions and new preferences – some people experience a metallic taste or heightened sensitivity to smells.

These symptoms typically emerge around four to six weeks into a pregnancy.

Different types of pregnancy tests and how they work

There are actually a wide variety of pregnancy tests ranging from ones that detect hormones in your blood to urine and even saliva tests! These tests detect the same pregnancy hormone, which is beta-HCG. The other method of testing is to do an ultrasound. The most common tests are the following three types: blood, urine, and ultrasound.

Urine Test

How it works: This widely used test detects the presence of human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG) in the urine. HCG is a hormone produced by the developing placenta, signifying pregnancy. For accurate results, it’s best to take this test two weeks or more after unprotected sex; otherwise, the result can show a false negative.


  • inexpensive and readily available for at-home use;
  • provides a private and discreet testing option; and
  • you get results in a maximum of 10 minutes.


  • cannot determine the exact age of the pregnancy; and
  • although there are some tests that provide gestational age by calculating the weeks of the pregnancy, the number is only an estimation.

Blood Test

How it works: Blood tests come in two forms – qualitative and quantitative. The qualitative blood test detects HCG, offering a simple “yes/no” answer. The quantitative blood test not only confirms pregnancy but also measures the quantity of the hormone in the bloodstream.


  • detects pregnancy earlier than urine tests; and
  • can provide an estimate of the approximate age of the pregnancy when a quantitative test is done.


  • requires consent from a health-care provider;
  • typically, it is more expensive than a urine test; and
  • the results can take several hours.


How it works: An ultrasound, performed at least four weeks into a pregnancy, uses high-frequency sound waves to create an image of the fetus. It’s highly accurate in estimating gestational age and identifying potential issues, like an ectopic pregnancy.


  • offers precise gestational age;
  • detects nonviable pregnancies and ectopic pregnancies; and
  • is useful when you are uncertain of the date of your last menstrual period.


  • in some places, ultrasounds may be expensive;
  • must be performed by a health-care provider; and
  • the pregnancy can only be seen after four weeks.

Can pregnancy test results be wrong?

While pregnancy tests are valuable tools, their accuracy can be influenced by various factors, leading to both false positives and false negatives. A false-positive test means the results show you’re pregnant when you’re not, while a false-negative test means the test results show that you’re not pregnant when you are.

Some factors that may yield a false-positive test include:

  • a recent miscarriage or abortion. After a miscarriage or abortion, HCG levels in the body start to decline. If a pregnancy test is taken too soon after such an event, it may detect the decreasing HCG levels, resulting in a false positive.
  • medications. Certain medications, especially those containing HCG, can trigger false-positive results if taken shortly before a pregnancy test.
  • medical conditions. Certain medical conditions, such as ovarian cysts, kidney disease, and urinary tract infections, can lead to elevated HCG levels and false positives.
  • evaporation lines. If test instructions are not followed precisely, an evaporation line may be mistaken for a positive result, leading to confusion.
  • user error. Incorrect use of the test, using an expired test, or testing with diluted urine can all contribute to false-positive results.

A false-negative test may happen when you take a pregnancy test too early or you check the results too soon.

For the most accurate results, take the test the first day after your missed period, not before then. In order to receive maximum accuracy, it’s best to test right after you get up in the morning, when the beta-HCG is most concentrated in the urine.

What happens after finding out the results?

If your results are positive, you have three choices to consider. If you are keen on having a baby, you may continue to carry the pregnancy to term and become a parent. Alternatively, you can opt for giving up the baby for adoption. However, if you are not ready to have children, you can look for the type of abortion method that is most suited to your condition and preferences.


Understanding the different types of pregnancy tests is essential for making informed decisions regarding your reproductive health. Whether you’re confirming a pregnancy or considering contraception after an abortion, knowing your options empowers you to take charge of your reproductive journey. You can consult with safe2choose’s multilingual counselors for personalized guidance and support during these critical moments in your life.