Pregnancy Testing

Confidential pregnancy testing is offered at Western Michigan University's Sindecuse Health Center by appointment. An appointment is made with a nurse who is experienced in helping students who are dealing with a planned or unplanned pregnancy. Counseling occurs in a non-judgmental and caring way and is designed to help a student explore personal values, beliefs and options. All options available are discussed and appropriate referrals are made.

Pregnancy can occur when a man and woman choose sexual intercourse without effective contraceptive protection. Because the time of ovulation or production of an egg in the woman usually varies from month to month and because a man’s sperm can live for several days inside a woman’s body, pregnancy can occur more easily than is often thought. Without effective contraceptive protection, 60 percent of sexually active women will become pregnant within six months and 90 percent will become pregnant within a year. It is not unusual for pregnancy to occur even if the man and woman have experienced sexual intercourse only once. Contrary to popular belief, pregnancy may also result if intercourse occurs during the woman’s menstrual period.

Facts about urine pregnancy testing

The hormone pregnancy test involves a simple laboratory procedure to detect the presence of a hormone called Human Chronic Gonadotropin. HCG is produced by the developing placenta in a pregnant woman. HCG production begins within the first week following implantation of a fertilized egg and gradually reaches its highest concentration during the third month of pregnancy. As HCG production increases, this hormone enters the blood stream and filters through the kidneys into the urine. The most common test used for confirming pregnancy is one developed to detect HCG levels in the urine.

Timing of the test

In the first several weeks of pregnancy the level of hormone production is too small to result in a positive pregnancy test. To be accurate, a pregnancy test should not be performed until HCG levels have risen to at least 50 mlU/ml. This level is generally achieved about the time a pregnant woman misses her first menstrual period. Accuracy of the test increases with each passing week.

If the first pregnancy test performed after a missed menstrual period is negative, a second test is recommended one to two weeks later. Any urine specimen is appropriate for HCG testing, but the first morning urine is optimal because HCG is more concentrated and measurable. A diluted urine specimen obtained during the day may not contain sufficient HCG to be detected by this test.

Pregnancy tests can give false negative results when:

  1. The test has been performed before HCG levels are high enough to be detected.
  2. The urine is too diluted to contain sufficient HCG.

Signs of pregnancy

The most commonly noticed symptom of pregnancy is missing a menstrual period. Missing a period, however, can also occur for other reasons, such as feeling increased stress or tension, or from trying to diet severely to lose weight. A period may also be delayed or missed if a woman fears becoming pregnant, if she wants to become pregnant, or if she becomes physically ill. Another early symptom of pregnancy is morning sickness, nausea and vomiting. Morning sickness usually appears a week or two after a menstrual period is missed and continues until about the 10th or the 12th week of pregnancy. Morning sickness occurs in about half the women who are pregnant, but may also occur in a woman who is not pregnant.

To confuse things more, it is also possible for a woman to have a fairly normal appearing menstrual period when in the early stages of pregnancy. Enlargement and tenderness of the breasts can be another early sign of pregnancy. This is similar to the monthly breast tenderness many women experience just before their menstrual period, but this tenderness may be more intense than usual. In addition, there may be a more frequent urge to urinate.

There may be changes in appetite or in the kinds of foods that seem appealing. There may also be a change in mood, a feeling of fatigue, or simply somehow feeling different. A woman may, however, experience none of these physical symptoms and still be pregnant. Remember, too, that these changes can also occur as a result of other physical or emotional problems. A woman should not rely solely on physical signs to determine whether or not she is pregnant. A pregnancy test is a more reliable method of determining pregnancy in its early stages so that medical attention may be sought as soon as possible.