Best Pregnancy Tests: 4 Things To Look For

Published May 16th, 2022 by Bridget Reed
Fact Checked by
Camille Freking
Medically Reviewed:
Dr. Angel Rivera

The results of a pregnancy test can be, to say the least, life-changing.

For this reason, you want to pick a pregnancy test that increases the chances of those results being accurate.

It also can’t hurt for the pregnancy test results to be easy to read.

In this guide from USA Rx, we’ll go over what you should look for when picking your next pregnancy test and why they’re so important. 

How Do Home Pregnancy Tests Work? 

Home pregnancy tests work by measuring how much human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) there is in your urine. HCG is a hormone that everyone has in small amounts.

However, shortly after conception, your body ramps up its production of hCG to prepare for pregnancy.

HCG is produced by the cells in your placenta; increased production begins when the fertilized egg (AKA the embryo) implants in the uterus.

This can happen anywhere from 6-12 days after conception. HCG levels peak between 8-11 weeks after conception. 

In the first few days of pregnancy, hCG levels remain quite low, which can make it hard for a pregnancy test to detect them.

However, after the embryo implants itself into the uterus, hCG levels double nearly every 48 hours. 

HCG is eliminated through urine, which is why home tests use urine to detect hCG in the body.

A test in a doctor’s office does the same thing, though healthcare professionals often use a blood test, too. 

best pregnancy test image

An over-the-counter pregnancy test works by applying a small drop of urine to a designated strip on the test. If hCG is present, it binds to proteins called antibodies.

These antibodies have enzymes, which can set off a reaction if they detect hCG in the urine. 

If appropriate levels of hCG are detected, then the enzymes will set off a color change in the pregnancy test strip. The way most pregnancy tests work, this should result in a second vertical line — although in a darker or brighter color — appearing alongside the initial vertical line.

This is an indication of a positive pregnancy test. 

However, if there is no hCG detected, then no reaction will be set off, and a second vertical line will not appear on the testing strip. This means you have a negative result.

Can a Pregnancy Test Be Wrong?

There are many reasons why a home test can be wrong (like using a test past its expiration date).

If hCG levels are too low (as they tend to be early in the pregnancy), then a pregnancy test may not register for newly pregnant women.

This is known as a “false negative.” A false negative is very common since many women choose to take a pregnancy test too soon after a missed period.

The pregnancy hormone needs time to rise, so it’s important to give it a little time, even though it’s tough not to test right after a missed expected period.

It can be trickier if you don’t know your last period and have to guess as to the day of a missed period.

You see, if you test days after ovulation, you could end up with a false negative and need to retest. Waiting until the first day of your missed period, unless the test you choose reads otherwise, can help you end up with a more accurate result. 

Another reason why you might get this result is if you drink too much water prior to taking a pregnancy test, which can dilute hCG levels in your urine. 

In very rare cases, a condition known as cryptic pregnancy can cause a pregnancy test to show up negative. 

A “false positive” — a test that says you’re pregnant when you’re not — is a lot less common. It may happen if you take a highly-sensitive pregnancy test, which can pick up on small amounts of hCG that everyone has, and register it as a pregnancy.

Another reason you might get a false positive reading is if you have a chemical pregnancy, which is a pregnancy in the early stages that fails to develop and often turns into a miscarriage. 

Some medical conditions, such as polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), or fertility medications that contain hCG can also raise levels of this hormone and produce a false positive result.

How To Choose the Best Pregnancy Test 

Studies show that the vast majority of home pregnancy tests are highly accurate and can be used interchangeably. However, some features make certain pregnancy tests easier to use.

Here are four factors to look out for when choosing your next pregnancy test: 

High Sensitivity 

Although most home pregnancy tests are highly accurate, not all of them offer early detection. However, more advanced pregnancy tests can pick up on a special kind of hCG sooner (called hCG-h), which is produced in the first several days of pregnancy.

The tests that pick up on this include the First Response Digital Pregnancy Test or the Clearblue Rapid Detection Pregnancy Test. The Clearblue test or the First Response Early Result Pregnancy Test can provide you with fast results days sooner than other tests. 

Ease of Use

All home pregnancy test kits use some way of getting your urine onto a testing strip. However, they accomplish this in different ways.

Whether you use a urine test that opts for a cup and dip method of testing, or an absorbent tip situated in your urine stream, you have options.

The type of test that you find easiest to use depends on your personal preference. That said, many women find it much more convenient not to have to fumble around with a cup of urine, and to instead pee directly onto the pregnancy test.

As a bonus, the latter type of test tends to have the clearest display.

The best home pregnancy tests fit your preferences — the easier you find it to use, the more likely you’ll do the test properly, meaning the more accurate your results are likely to be.

Digital Display

Many pregnancy tests use vertical lines to tell you if you’re pregnant. If the test line result is positive, a second vertical line will appear on the display.

While it sounds simple, this type of test can be hard to read. Sometimes, the second line may appear as a faint line, which can be the result of a cheap test display or an evaporation line — and not a pregnancy. 

The easiest pregnancy test to read is a digital one with a control line, so you have a better idea as to whether or not you took the test correctly. The Clearblue Digital Pregnancy Test Kit uses a smart countdown.

After the results are ready, they will be written out for you as either “pregnant” or “not pregnant.” 

A digital result is not only clearly displayed, but isn’t open to interpretation — getting rid of the potential stress of reading a pregnancy test. 

Low Cost

Some pregnancy tests have an elaborate design, which usually equates to a higher price tag (sometimes to the tune of $20 for a single test). However, a less expensive test can be just as accurate. 

Unless you’re drawn to a specific design, you can just as safely go for a pregnancy test that costs one or two dollars. 

In Summary 

When choosing a pregnancy test, it’s important to look at four factors: high sensitivity, ease of use, digital display, and low cost. Combined, this should provide you with the most accurate results — without making a dent in your wallet. 

References and Sources:

Human Chorionic Gonadotropin | NCBI Bookshelf 

False-Positive Urine Pregnancy Tests | PMC 

Strips of Hope: Accuracy of Home Pregnancy Tests and New Developments | PMC 

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