OTC vs Doctor’s Office Pregnancy Test

OTC vs Doctor's Office Pregnancy Test

A pregnancy – whether wanted or unplanned – is a major event in any woman’s life. There are many decisions to make so knowing whether or not you are actually pregnant is quite important. Some women will visit their gynecologist or obstetrician for an answer while others will opt for an over-the-counter (OTC) home pregnancy test. Each type has its benefits and disadvantages. Here is a quick rundown on what you should know about each type of test before making the decision on which one to use:

  • Over-the-counter tests – OTC or “home” pregnancy tests rely on the fact that a woman’s body will only produce a particular hormone – human chorionic gonadotrophin or hCG – when they are pregnant. A small sample of urine – preferably, the first one of the day – is tested for this hormone. If it is present, then the woman is pregnant. One caveat, hCG is only present in minutes amounts for the first week of the pregnancy and then builds rather quickly afterward so false negative results are possible at the beginning of the pregnancy. If you have missed your period and the result is negative, retest after one week. If it is still negative, you should consult a physician for expert advice.
  • In-office procedures – Physicians use two types of tests to check for a pregnancy. The first is a urine test similar to the ones performed at home. If the test shows positive, the doctor can then perform subsequent tests to confirm the pregnancy. Again, this urine pregnancy test is not sensitive enough to detect hCG until 6 to 8 days after ovulation. If the urine test is positive, the doctor can then perform a blood test to confirm the results. The test also looks for hCG – but in the bloodstream. Unfortunately, blood tests take several days to be completed as the sample is usually sent to an outside testing lab. Alternatively, the doctor can use a sonogram to physically check for the presence of a fetus. Combined with a urine test, this is the fastest way to confirm an early stage pregnancy.
  • One other thing – In a normal pregnancy, the fertilized egg implants itself in the uterus, hCG is produced and the fetus can grow normally. In an ectopic pregnancy, the egg never reaches the uterus and instead implants itself someplace other than the uterus – usually one of the Fallopian tubes. This type of pregnancy is quite dangerous – it can involve internal hemorrhaging and even lead to the death of the woman. It is detectable by an hCG sensitive test but a sonogram will not show any fetus in the uterus. If you test positive for HCG but then experience any pain in the lower abdominal area, consult a physician immediately.

For more detailed information on the differences between an over-the-counter pregnancy test and the one performed in a doctor’s office, please contact us at Your First Look Women’s Center. We can be found online at YourFirstLook.org or reached directly at 419.720.3338.