Whether you're taking a pregnancy test hoping for a positive or negative result, it can be a stressful experience. The last thing you need to worry about is how reliable the result is.
The good news is at-home pregnancy tests are pretty accurate—99 percent to be exact, says Christine Greves, MD, an ob-gyn at the Winnie Palmer Hospital for Women and Babies. Every test is slightly different, but they all look for a certain level of human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG), a hormone secreted by the placenta after an embryo implants in your uterus, she explains.
The urine test that your ob-gyn does pretty much the same thing, says Jessica Shepherd, MD, an ob-gyn in Texas. The only difference is that the one provided by your ob-gyn’s office is probably subject to better quality control than what you can buy at your local drugstore, notes Dr. Greves. That means it's less likely that they've been in a hot environment or is expired (yep, they have an expiration date). But FYI: That doesn’t happen a whole lot.
The best time to take the test is the first day of your missed period. “That way, your pregnancy hormone level should be high enough that it can be detected by a test,” Dr. Greves explains. It's also a good idea to do it in the morning when your urine is more concentrated, according to Dr. Shepherd. But you can really take a pregnancy test at whatever time of the day, she adds.
If you have all the classic symptoms of pregnancy, but the test comes up negative, try waiting a week, then testing again. But know that even the best at-home pregnancy tests are not 100 percent accurate, and the timing of the pregnancy matters. “The earlier in the pregnancy, the harder it will be to interpret these tests. In addition, any medical test carries a risk of false-positive and false-negative results,” says Betsy A.B. Greenleaf, DO, an ob-gyn and the advisor of ph-D Feminine Health. If you are experiencing pain and suspect you're pregnant, call your doctor and they can perform a blood test.
Odds are fairly high that you will receive accurate results the first time with a blood test, but if you want to be certain, Dr. Shepherd recommends buying a test that displays the results in a way that you know you will be able to understand.
Not sure where to start with your at-home pregnancy test shopping? Try one of these 10 options recommended by ob-gyns.
Meet the experts: Christine Greves, MD, is a fellow of the American Academy of Obstetrics and Gynecology. She serves as an obstetrical and gynecological surgeon at Winnie Palmer Hospital for Women & Babies.
Jessica Shepherd, MD, is a gynecologist and the director of minimally invasive gynecology at the University of Illinois at Chicago. She is the founder of Her Viewpoint, an online women's health platform that addresses sensitive topics. She also serves as the chief medical officer for Verywell Health.
Betsy A.B. Greenleaf, DO, is the advisor of ph-D Feminine Health. She is a board examiner for the American Osteopathic Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology, and serves as a spokesperson for the American Osteopathic Association. She is also the host of the "Some Of Your Parts" podcast, which is dedicated to women’s wellness.