What image pops into your mind when you think of a pregnancy test? Peeing on a stick, of course! But did you know that there’s another way to confirm your pregnancy? The blood pregnancy test.
In this article, we bring you all the key facts about the blood test for pregnancy: how it works, how accurate it is, and why you might need one.
How does a blood pregnancy test work?
A blood pregnancy test works by checking for a hormone called human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) in your blood. HCG is released by the placenta – the organ that nourishes your baby while in your uterus – as it starts to grow.
Is there more than one type of blood test to confirm pregnancy?
Yep, there are actually two different blood tests that doctors can use to confirm your pregnancy:
- The qualitative blood test
- The quantitative blood test
Qualitative blood test
This is a very basic test that works in an almost identical way to a urine pregnancy test. It checks your blood for the presence of hCG and nothing else. So it can tell you “yes” you’re pregnant or “no” you’re not pregnant. That’s it.
Quantitative blood test
Also called the “beta hCG” test, this pregnancy blood test measures the exact amount of hCG in your blood. So it doesn’t just confirm your pregnancy; it also helps your doctor understand your pregnancy better. For example, based on your hCG levels, they may be able to estimate your due date or pick up on potential complications with your pregnancy.
How soon can a blood test detect pregnancy?
Blood pregnancy tests are a bit more sensitive to hCG than urine pregnancy tests, so they can be carried out earlier (when your hCG levels are still very low). While a urine pregnancy test doesn’t normally detect hCG earlier than 10 days after conception, a blood test can detect it within around six to eight days.
How accurate is a blood pregnancy test?
Both qualitative and quantitative blood tests are over 99% accurate, but no test is correct all the time.
If you take a blood pregnancy test too early, you might get a negative result even if you are pregnant. That’s probably because your hCG levels were still too low to detect (this can happen with a urine pregnancy test as well). Another test in a few days, when your hCG levels have increased, is likely to give an accurate result.
In rare cases, it’s also possible to get a false-positive result. This is usually caused by taking medication containing hCG or certain illnesses that can raise your hCG levels.
Why get a pregnancy blood test?
If you already have a positive urine pregnancy test result, you may not need a blood test to confirm your pregnancy. Your doctor might just get you started with your prenatal care schedule, and off you go.
But sometimes, your doctor might send you for a quantitative (beta hCG) blood test because they want more information about your hCG levels. This helps them check for any potential complications with your pregnancy. For example, higher than average levels of hCG might suggest you’re expecting multiples, while lower levels could indicate a possible miscarriage.
It’s important to bear in mind, though, that your hCG levels can be lower or higher than average, and you can still have a healthy pregnancy. It’s what’s normal for you that matters.
Can you take a blood pregnancy test at home?
Nope, sadly not! That’s one of the downsides of a blood pregnancy test vs. a urine pregnancy test. You’ll need to go to a medical setting, such as your doctor’s office or the hospital.
A healthcare technician will insert a needle into one of your veins (often in your arm) and take a small blood sample. This will then be sent for testing in a lab.
How long does a blood pregnancy test take?
Having blood drawn only takes a few minutes. It may sting a little when the needle goes in, but you should only feel mild discomfort. Tell the technician if you have any anxiety about needles, so they can reassure you.
The actual test results might take a few days to arrive. Once they do, your doctor may call you in to discuss them in more detail. But if you have a simple “positive” result, or your hCG levels are in the “normal” range, you might not need to do anything else.
Other than getting ready to have a baby, of course. You know, nothing major.
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