My complicated relationship with pregnancy tests

"For the sake of our budget, I need to stay away from the pharmacy" ... Melody McCabe
"For the sake of our budget, I need to stay away from the pharmacy" ... Melody McCabe 

Anyone who is trying to conceive (TTC) will tell you that the companies that make pregnancy tests must make a fortune.

I know that I have spent a fair amount on tests so far, but this past week ... well, let's just say I probably spent more than all of the previous times together.

Firstly, let me say that I have gotten into a better headspace with TTC. That's not to say it’s easy, but I’ve tried to be a bit easier on myself. I didn't even think about it during the two-week wait for testing (TTW) – I was quite proud of myself.

This month was a peculiar one. I wasn't sure when I ovulated, it didn't look like I would, then I did, and the timing looked right. As I waited for the end of the TWW, I was rather surprised when I skipped day one.

So I bought a test (about $20) and it was negative. "Not to worry," I told myself. "Maybe it is just too early to test".

The next day I had a cracker of a headache. I had a stern internal monologue with myself: "Don't get over excited, yes, headaches could be an early sign of pregnancy, but the test was negative".

Despite this flawless rational thinking, it did occur to me that maybe the test had been wrong (what if I bought a faulty one? It could happen, right?).

So back to the pharmacy I went. I must have taken a considerable amount of time weighing up my options of brands, because someone who worked there eventually asked me if I was all right.

I could feel myself turning red – and I know it’s a pretty stupid thing to be embarrassed about – but I grabbed a three-pack of some wonder-wands that claim to be able to accurately predict if you are pregnant up to six days before your period is due, then hurried out.

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I was pretty excited when I read how the test could give an answer so early – and I was already late. So, despite myself, my heart beat faster and faster as I watched the white paper turn darker.

Was that a line? My heart rate increased and I got ahead of myself again. "How lovely if our baby was conceived during our anniversary month," I thought.

My heart sank a little as the control line showed up brightly. I willed there to be two lines. But eventually my heart rate slowed and I came down from the adrenalin rush.

I resented that stupid, expensive test and got angry at myself for being so foolish to think this could be the month.

But when someone later mentioned that urine tests don’t always pick up pregnancies, and that in some cases only a blood test can tell, my hopes rose again. Maybe I was one of those people? Maybe it wasn't the test that was letting me down; maybe it was my wee that was at fault.

I went through the same thing on day three and day four until I finally got the undisputable answer. I didn't cry as I told my husband the news.

"Don't worry, we’ll try again, its okay," I said with a manic grin plastered on my face.

"Maybe these just weren't the best sperms and we are just waiting for the perfect sperm and perfect egg to meet," he said, adding that there are lots of hugs available if I needed them.

And in spite of my “keep positive, you’ll get there, you just need to have faith” self talk, my heart ached and I did need a really big hug (and a slice of rocky road for lunch, but don't tell anyone).

How pregnancy tests work

If you think you might be pregnant, definitely go see your doctor – but if you’re curious about how pregnancy tests work, you might find the following interesting.

Both urine tests and blood tests check for the pregnancy hormone human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG).

hCG is produced by cells that form the placenta, which nourishes the egg after it has been fertilised, and becomes attached to the uterine wall.

hCG levels can first be detected by a blood test about 11 days after conception, and about 12-14 days after conception by a urine test.

In general, hCG levels will double every 72 hours. The level will reach its peak in the first 8-11 weeks of pregnancy, and then will decline and level off for the remainder of the pregnancy.

There are two types of blood tests, too: a quantitative blood test, also known as a beta hCG test, which measures the exact amount of hCG in your blood, and a qualitative hCG test, which checks to see if the pregnancy hormone is present or not.  

It's a simple test if you think about it, but it's the hopes and dreams its answer holds that gives the pregnancy test its real magic. It’s funny how two little lines herald such a hugely life-changing event.

Although, next month, maybe I’ll wait a week before rushing out to buy a test … yeah right!

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