What Is an hCG Urine Test?
A human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) urine test is a pregnancy
test. A pregnant woman’s placenta produces hCG, also called the pregnancy hormone.
If you’re pregnant, the test can usually detect this hormone in your urine
about 10 days after your first missed period. This is when the fertilized egg
attaches to the uterine wall.
During the first eight to 10 weeks of pregnancy, hCG levels normally
increase very rapidly. These levels reach their peak at about the tenth week of
pregnancy, and then they gradually decline until delivery.
HCG urine tests are commonly sold in kits that you can use at
home. The hCG urine test often is referred to as a home pregnancy test.
What Are the Uses of the hCG Urine Test?
The hCG urine test confirms pregnancy about one to two weeks
after your missed period. This is a qualitative test, which means that it will
tell you whether or not it detects the hCG hormone in your urine. It’s not
intended to reveal specific levels of the hormone. The presence of hCG in your
urine is considered a positive sign of pregnancy.
Risks of the hCG Urine Test
The only risks associated with an hCG urine test involve getting
a false-positive or false-negative result. A false-positive
result indicates a pregnancy, even though there isn’t one. Rarely, the test may
detect abnormal, non-pregnancy tissue, which requires follow-up by a doctor.
These results are rare because usually only pregnant women produce the hCG
There’s a higher risk of getting a false-negative result. If you get
a false-negative result, in which case the test says you aren’t pregnant but
you really are, you might not take the precautions necessary to give your
unborn baby the best possible start. Such results may occur more commonly in
early pregnancy or if the urine is too diluted to detect hCG.
How Do I Prepare for the hCG Urine Test?
There are no special preparations necessary to take an hCG urine
test. You can ensure the most accurate results with simple planning.
If you’re taking a home pregnancy test, you should do the
- Carefully read the instructions included in your
test kit before collecting your urine sample.
- Make sure the test’s expiration date hasn’t
- Look for the manufacturer’s toll-free number on
the package, and call it if you have any questions about using the test.
- Use your first morning urine one to two weeks
after your first missed period.
- Don’t drink large amounts of fluid before
collecting your urine sample because this may dilute hCG levels and make them
difficult to recognize.
Discuss any medications you’re taking with your pharmacist or doctor
to see if they could affect the results of an hCG urine test.
Diuretics and an antihistamine called promethazine can cause
Anticonvulsants, drugs for Parkinson’s disease, hypnotics, and
tranquilizers can cause false-positive results, which means they can indicate
you’re pregnant when you’re not.
How Is the hCG Urine Test Performed?
You can take an hCG urine test at your doctor’s office or at home
with a home pregnancy test. Both will require the collection of a urine sample.
An hCG urine test conducted at home is similar to the test that your doctor conducts.
Both have the same ability to detect hCG in your urine.
Most hCG urine tests sold for home testing follow a similar
procedure for accurate testing. While you should carefully follow the
instructions included with your kit, the process typically follows these steps:
- Wait one to two weeks after your first missed
period to get the most accurate results. Irregular periods or miscalculations
of when a period is due can affect your test. In fact, 10 to 20 percent of
pregnant women may not detect their pregnancy by testing on what they believe
to be the first day of their first missed period, according to the U.S.
Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
- Plan to use the test the first time you urinate
after waking up. This urine is the most concentrated and will contain the
highest hCG levels of the day. Your urine dilutes as you drink liquids, so hCG
levels may be harder to measure later in the day.
- For some home pregnancy tests, you will hold an
indicator stick directly in the urine stream until it’s soaked, which should
take about five seconds. Other kits require that you collect urine in a cup and
then dip the indicator stick into the cup to measure the hCG hormone level.
- Home pregnancy tests usually include an
indicator that shows whether the test is being properly performed. For example,
it will show if there’s enough urine on the stick to get an accurate result. If
the control indicator doesn’t activate during your test, the results may be
- For most tests, it only takes about 5 to 10
minutes for a result to appear. Typically, a colored line or plus symbol will
appear on the test stick to indicate a positive result. The absence of a
colored line or a negative sign usually indicates a negative result.
What Do the Results of the hCG Urine Test Mean?
The accuracy of your hCG urine test results will depend on your
ability to closely follow the test kit’s instructions. If you have a
negative result, you should consider these results to be uncertain, as they may
indicate a false negative. Until you can be sure that you’re not pregnant, you
should be cautious and avoid doing anything that could hurt a developing fetus.
Smoking, using alcohol, and certain medications can harm your baby in early
A false-negative result can happen after any of the
- using a urine sample collected after your first
- taking the test before there’s enough hCG to
produce a positive result
- miscalculating the timing of your missed period
If you have a negative result, you should repeat the test in
about a week to confirm the absence of pregnancy. If you believe the tests
are indicating a false negative and that you’re pregnant, you should consult
your doctor. They can conduct an hCG blood test, which is more sensitive
to lower levels of the hCG hormone than the hCG urine test.
If you have a positive result, it means that the test
detected hCG in your urine. Your next step should be to consult your doctor. They
can confirm pregnancy with an exam and additional testing, if necessary. Getting
prenatal care early in your pregnancy gives your baby the best chance for
healthy growth and development before and after birth.