Contributors: Michael Yu and Dr. Emran from Simple Health Radio
On today’s episode of Simple Health Radio, Dr. Emran provides an overview of what a pregnancy test is and how it can impact patients and doctors.
Every day, 5 to 6 million pregnancy tests are performed around the world. These tests often raise more questions than they answer and generate different emotions in potential parents.
Dr. Emran recalls his numerous encounters in the ER with women who are skeptical or confused about pregnancy test results. Since pregnancy signals a great lifestyle change, these women usually insist on repeating the test or doing more tests to confirm whether they are pregnant or not.
A pregnancy test is based on a unique chemical: human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG). hCG is produced in a pregnant woman’s body when the embryo and the uterus interact.
As a developing embryo matures, the amount of hCG produced increases. At a certain point, the concentration of hCG is high enough that the chemical becomes present in the blood and spills over into the urine.
When a woman does a home pregnancy test with a urine sample, the sample must have a certain amount of hCG in order for it to be detected. Most over-the-counter home pregnancy test is accurate past a “minimum duration”, which is usually a few days after a woman misses her period.
Different companies make different pregnancy tests that promise various levels of accuracy, but it’s impossible for any test to be 100% accurate. False positives and negatives can occur when a test shows a woman is pregnant when she, in fact, isn’t, or vice versa.
Home pregnancy tests are generally accurate if done at the right time. However, it could be tricky to calculate the right time in the earlier stages of a potential pregnancy, especially if a woman has irregular periods.
In the hospital, a blood serum test is ordered to measure the actual amount of hCG in a woman’s blood. With this value, doctors use scientific values to evaluate if a woman is pregnant and how far along she may be in the pregnancy.
Any discrepancy in the expected due date and the hCG concentration could signal a variety of complications ranging from poor development of the baby to a miscarriage or possible twins. Doctors closely monitor hCG levels to provide the best course of action for their patients.
hCG levels are used to determine a woman’s state of pregnancy and serve as an important indicator of many medical conditions. If you may be pregnant or have any questions about your hCG levels, reach out to your doctor to get the most accurate medical advice.
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