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Pregnancy Tests

When and How to Use a Pregnancy Test - - and Where to Get One

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If you're a sexually active teen, chances are that you've worried about getting pregnant. While it's important to choose a reliable method of birth control, it's also important to know how to use a pregnancy test if you're concerned that you might be pregnant. Here's a crash course in how pregnancy tests work, where to get them and when you should use them.

What Is a Pregnancy Test?

Most pregnancy tests look for a substance called human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG). When a woman is pregnant -- that is, when a fertilized egg implants itself in her uterus -- her body starts making HCG, which the test will find in her urine. HCG will not be present in a woman's urine if she is not pregnant.

When used correctly, these tests are a very accurate way to find out if you're pregnant. However, they don't work so well if you use them too early -- in most cases, before you miss your period.

What Types of Pregnancy Tests Are There?

There are pregnancy tests you can buy at the drugstore and take at home (home pregnancy tests), as well as pregnancy tests you can have done at a health clinic or doctor's office. Most pregnancy tests -- including the ones at the drugstore -- involve urinating onto a stick that looks for HCG. If you visit a doctor, he or she might also test for pregnancy using a blood test.

How Soon Can I Take a Pregnancy Test?

Missing your menstrual period is the biggest clue that you should take a pregnancy test. Home pregnancy tests are most accurate if you've already missed your period, so you can take most of these tests if your period is late. A few tests claim to work a few days before you miss your period. Read the box of the test you want to take to find out how soon you can use it.

Where Can I Get a Pregnancy Test?

You can buy a home pregnancy test at most drugstores and pharmacies. They typically cost between $10 and $20. You can also ask a doctor or nurse to do a pregnancy test for you.

How Does the Home Pregnancy Test Work?

If you choose to use a home pregnancy test, follow the directions found inside the box. For most of these tests, after urinating on a stick that measures HCG levels, you will need to wait a few minutes for results. For most tests, a line or plus symbol will appear if you're pregnant -- that is, if the test detects HCG in your urine.

What If the Test is Negative?

If your pregnancy test is negative, you are probably not pregnant. However, if you want to be sure, take another test a few more days after your missed period.

What If the Test Is Positive?

If your pregnancy test is positive, you should visit a doctor, nurse or health clinic for another test and to discuss your options for continuing or terminating the pregnancy.

What If I Can't Tell the Results of My Pregnancy Test?

Sometimes pregnancy tests are hard to read. If this happens to you, go to a doctor, nurse or health clinic for another test.

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