Home Pregnancy Tests: Do They Work?

Muhammad Usman Babar
5 min readJan 6, 2021
Photo by Bee Naturally on Unsplash

A pregnancy test works by identifying the hormone Human Chorionic Gonadotropin (HCG) that the body produces when a fertilized egg attaches to the wall of the uterus early in pregnancy. Home pregnancy tests are ideally done with the first urine of the day. However, a blood test is often recommended to confirm the presence of pregnancy.

Blood tests are done in a doctor’s office and detect small amounts of the hormone, so they can quickly tell if you are pregnant or not. In general, women come to consultation after having done a test at home.

These home tests are the most popular and easiest to do. They are usually cheap, can be found at any pharmacy, and are self-administered. But how accurate are home pregnancy tests DIY?

First symptoms of pregnancy

A woman takes a pregnancy test when she suspects its existence. To do this, you must feel some of the first symptoms that go beyond the classic delay of menstruation, either for a few days or one or more consecutive months.

The reality is that, according to the National Institute of Health, missed periods can be caused by other variables such as diabetes, polycystic ovary syndrome, eating disorders, and even taking birth control pills. Now, what are the first symptoms of pregnancy?

Nausea and/or vomiting

These traditional symptoms can start anytime between 2 and 8 weeks’ gestation. This happens due to the effects of human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG), although it does not always happen and some women tend to have vomiting-free pregnancies.

In fact, according to a survey of pregnancy symptoms by the American Pregnancy Association, 25% indicated that nausea was the first sign of pregnancy.

Mild spotting or bleeding

The light spots are known as implantation bleeding. They occur when the embryo implants in the uterus between 6 and 12 days after conception. Some women experience spotting and cramps, although only 3% of surveyed women identified implantation bleeding as their first symptom.

Home pregnancy tests: get one if you have breast changes

The increase in hormones and the change in the structure of the breasts cause tenderness in the nipples and the breasts in general from three to four weeks after conception. About 17% of those surveyed say this was their first symptom.

Frequent urination

The urge to urinate is common during pregnancy. HCG increases blood flow to the pelvic region and also the urge to urinate. It usually occurs between 6 and 8 weeks.

Fatigue or tiredness

Due to increased progesterone levels and the body’s effort to support the pregnancy, women report feeling tired in early pregnancy. It is something that disappears in the second trimester and can return around delivery.


Headaches are common during the first trimester of pregnancy. Its main causes are hormones, stress, and the tension of the body from carrying extra weight.

Home pregnancy tests

You can get a home pregnancy test at any pharmacy. These urine tests include a test strip or a collection container, it all depends on the brand. Generally, some steps should be followed such as:

Put the strip under the urine stream for 5–10 seconds. If you have a collection container, urinate there and insert the test strip into the container for 5 to 10 seconds. After this time, the result of the reaction between the reagent on the strip and the HCG will be displayed, it all depends on each kit.

The test strip may have a window with a plus or minus sign, a single or double line, or other signs that will show whether or not you are pregnant. It will have instructions on how to read it.

There are cases of false positives; that is to say that the test says that you are pregnant when it is not true. This can happen if you lost a pregnancy shortly after the fertilized egg attaches to the lining of the uterus or if you take a pregnancy test shortly after taking fertility treatment. Results can be wrong for ectopic pregnancy, menopause, or ovarian problems.

Despite the above, if the results indicate that you are pregnant, make an appointment with your doctor to confirm the results with a blood test or, failing that, to find out what is happening to your body.

If you do not have access to any of these tests whose veracity is scientifically proven, there are several tests that according to anecdotes from popular culture would work when Human Chorionic Gonadotropin (HCG) reacts with the compounds. Of course, there is no scientific evidence in this regard.

Shampoo, another popular home pregnancy test

Collect the urine in a plastic container and another container mix with shampoo and water. A soapy mixture will be created that you should mix with the urine and monitor it.

If it foams, it is supposed to be positive. People claim that it works because HCG would react with the shampoo and make it bubble, but science has yet to prove anything.

Home pregnancy test with sugar

To use it, place a tablespoon of sugar in a plastic container and add a tablespoon of urine as well. If the sugar clumps, that would be a good thing; on the other hand, if it dissolves quickly, it would be negative. They say it works because the pregnancy hormone does not allow sugar to dissolve, but there is no evidence to support it.


To use the toothpaste technique, add cream to a container and then urinate. It should be white because the idea is to check if it turns blue. If it does, the result would be positive. Popular culture says it works because toothpaste changes color when it comes in contact with HCG.

Can the result of home pregnancy tests be trusted?

Sure you do. In general, the results of home pregnancy tests are reliable. Only in certain situations, such as those mentioned above, do false positives appear.

Rather, the latest tests explained are assumptions. Science only supports the effectiveness of home pregnancy tests and blood tests. If you have any of the first symptoms of pregnancy, it is best to take a test to find out. And, of course, go to your trusted doctor.