One of the best methods available to doctors when determining if a female patient is pregnant is the quantitative pregnancy test. This test provides accurate results and can also help a physician discover how far along a pregnancy is and whether or not any complications may exist. This test most often must be carried out in a doctor’s office or in a medical lab. It is quick and relatively pain-free, and it also gives the most reliable results when it comes to testing for early pregnancy.
In fact, many doctors urge their female patients to have a quantitative pregnancy test done as soon as possible if they suspect they are pregnant. For example, if a woman takes a home pregnancy test and it gives a positive result, she should see her doctor for a blood test to confirm this result immediately. Even if she believes that she is still relatively early in her pregnancy, this person can still undergo a blood test that can pick up on even the smallest traces of human chorionic gonadotropin, or hCG, which is the hormone that a woman’s body begins to make around the 10-day mark of her pregnancy.
The test itself takes only a few minutes and can give a clear result within a matter of hours. In fact, many women know before the end of the day if they are or are not pregnant. Because the test does involve drawing blood from a vein, a woman may be advised to eat before she goes in for the blood work. She may avoid feeling nauseated and weak both during and after the blood draw. Once her blood is drawn, it will be sent to the facility’s lab for further testing. Her doctor should call her within the day to confirm the test’s results.
While women may understand that this test will detect if any hCG can be found in their blood, they may not understand how the results are typically interpreted by their doctors. In fact, doctors use a medical standard for all of these tests to determine if a woman is pregnant and how far into her pregnancy she has progressed. For example, if a woman’s test results come back with an hCG level of less than 5mlU/ml, she is generally considered to be not pregnant. However, if it comes back with a level between 5 and 50 mlU/ml, she is estimated to be around three weeks pregnant.
The level of hCG in a pregnant woman’s body doubles every 72 hours on average. With that, higher hCG levels indicate that the woman being tested is further along in her pregnancy. In fact, hCG levels can reach as high as 117,000 mlU/ml as a pregnancy nears its end. Given that range, doctors can detect with relative ease how far along a woman is and what trimester she is in when she has her blood drawn for the test.
This kind of test also lets doctors know if anything might be going wrong in a pregnancy. In general, if the hCG levels start to fall, the woman may be experiencing a miscarriage or a molar or chemical pregnancy.
Likewise, if the numbers are higher than expected, she may be pregnant with twins. Doctors actually compare the test’s hCG levels to other factors, such as when the patient had her last period or how big her stomach is measuring at the time of the blood test. If the numbers do not correspond well with the other measurements or calendar dates, the physician may order an ultrasound to confirm a miscarriage or the presence of multiple pregnancies.
HCG levels in pregnant women can actually be detected through both qualitative and quantitative pregnancy tests. While quantitative tests are most often done in a medical laboratory, qualitative tests can be done at home. In fact, most home pregnancy tests are qualitative rather than quantitative.
Qualitative tests can detect hCG in a pregnant woman’s urine and give a relatively accurate result in just a few moments. These tests can also be used early in a pregnancy, as soon as two weeks after a woman has ovulated and conceived. Some tests can even be used several days before a woman misses her period.
However, in comparing qualitative and quantitative tests, many physicians agree that quantitative tests give the most accurate results and also indicate if anything might be going wrong with a pregnancy. Home pregnancy tests that are qualitative do not give the mlu/ml ranges that doctors need to make this determination. They often only know that a woman is miscarrying or carrying multiples after ordering a quantitative blood test.
For that reason, many physicians view qualitative tests as a gateway for determining if a quantitative pregnancy test is needed. If a woman takes a home pregnancy test and gets a positive result, her doctor may use that information to decide whether or not to order a blood pregnancy test that will quantify the amount of hCG in her blood. This quantity will then let the doctor know if the patient is for sure pregnant and if so, how far along she is in her pregnancy. Qualitative tests, in that regard, can be viewed as important for making sure that expectant women get the immediate testing and prenatal care they need for healthy and successful pregnancies.