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The days (or weeks or months) of wondering if you are pregnant can feel like some of the longest of your life. There are a lot of emotions that come with anticipating pregnancy, and with good reason — your life may never be the same.

Using a reliable at-home pregnancy test can give you a fast answer to the big question you’re asking. It can also let you know if you need to schedule an appointment with a doctor or midwife (and put the cocktails on pause).

Home pregnancy tests detect a hormone in your urine called hCG (short for human chorionic gonadotropin). When a sperm and an egg join and start growing, some of the cells (that will soon become the placenta) start producing hCG.

Levels of hCG rise rapidly in early pregnancy, and this is what home pregnancy tests are checking for.

At-home pregnancy tests usually work one of two ways: You either hold the stick in your stream of urine (preferably first thing in the morning, when your urine hCG levels will be more concentrated), or you pee in a cup and dip the stick in.

You then lay the stick or strip flat and wait the amount of time given on the box (typically 1 to 5 minutes, depending on the test).

For the most accurate results, it’s best to wait at least until after (a day, ideally the week after) your period was due to start. Before this, there just might not be enough hCG in your urine to be detected on a pregnancy test.

If you get a negative result on your pregnancy test, it might just be too early to tell. Try waiting a few days, then check again. It’s more common to get a false negative on a pregnancy test (due to testing too early, using an expired test, or not following the instructions), but false positives do occasionally happen.

If you have been sexually active (even using contraception) and your period is late, it’s probably a good idea to take a pregnancy test. While there are other reasons your period could be late, an at-home pregnancy test is a good place to start.

You may also want to take a pregnancy test if you’ve been experiencing any early pregnancy symptoms, such as:

  • breast tenderness
  • nausea
  • heightened sense of smell
  • fatigue
  • food aversions

For this list we polled several physicians and midwives to get their expert opinions, read research studies, asked some parents, and in fact peed on a few sticks ourselves.

What the pros said

The consensus from healthcare professionals across the board was that it doesn’t really matter what home pregnancy test you use — they all work more or less the same way, it just depends on your preferences.

If that’s the case, what does matter when taking a home pregnancy test? They had a few key suggestions:

  • Make sure the test isn’t expired.
  • Wait until after you’ve missed your period to test (don’t test too early).
  • Follow the instructions on the box exactly.
  • Call your doctor or midwife if you get a positive test result, or if you get a negative result but your period still doesn’t start, or you have other symptoms that concern you (severe abdominal pain, nausea, etc.)

Additionally, there are some key differences that can make one test a better choice for you than another. We’ve selected our top home pregnancy test options based on sensitivity, convenience, speed, and cost to help you pick the best pregnancy test for you.

Price guide

  • $ = under $5 per test
  • $$ = $5–$10 per test

Best overall pregnancy test

First Response Early Result Pregnancy Test

Price: $

In the largest study of over-the-counter pregnancy tests to date, First Response proved to be 97 percent accurate from the day of your missed period. Easy to find online and in stores, this simple, accurate, and affordable test is by far a user favorite (and can be a great choice if you just want to know — NOW!).

In addition to being the most sensitive at-home test, First Response Early Result has an ergonomically designed handle that’s easy to hold (you’d be amazed how many sticks we almost dropped in the toilet). It’s also available in a digital format if you’re concerned about reading the results correctly.

Best pregnancy test for fast results

Clearblue Rapid Detection Pregnancy Test

Price: $

If 3 whole minutes feels like a lifetime to wait for a result, the Clearblue Rapid Detection Pregnancy Test might be for you — the test delivers results in just 1 minute. However, while the results are speedy, you should still wait to test a week after your missed period (the 2011 study mentioned above showed only 64 percent accuracy on the day of the missed period!).

And while this test is widely available and easy to use, we found more reports of false positives with this test than any of our other choices (based on online reviews). A false positive on a test can be an emotional roller coaster, so it may be worth waiting a few extra minutes with one of the tests better known for reliability.

Best digital pregnancy test

Clearblue Digital Pregnancy Test

Price: $

One common complaint with pregnancy tests is that they can be confusing to read — how many lines mean positive again? Is that a second line or just a reflection?

It’s not fun to play the guessing game at what is likely already an emotional time. That’s why the Clearblue Digital pregnancy test can be super helpful.
It has a flashing countdown timer so that you know exactly when it’s ready to read, and it spells your results out in words, rather than lines.

This test also claims to be sensitive enough to test 5 days before your missed period (and certainly may be in many cases), but will be most accurate if you wait until after your period should have started — in fact, in the 2011 study we referenced earlier this test detected only 54 percent of pregnancies on the day of missed period!

Best pregnancy test strips

ClinicalGuard Pregnancy Urine Test Strips

Price: $

While not quite as user-friendly, test strips tend to be much less expensive and just as accurate when used correctly.

Pregnancy test strips are smaller and flimsier than test sticks, and typically designed to be dipped into a cup of urine. You can also hold them under the stream, but they’re a little more difficult to handle (i.e., not drop in the toilet) and may not absorb the urine properly, which in turn may not give an accurate result.

If you’re fixated ::raises hand:: on finding out if you’re pregnant and want to test every single day after you ovulate (or test 10 times even after you get a positive just to be sure) these strips are a great way to go! Inexpensive, accurate, and fairly easy to use are the big pros for the ClinicalGuard test strips.

Best budget-friendly pregnancy test

Pregmate Pregnancy Test Strips

Price: $

Another solid test strip option, the Pregmate pregnancy test strips are a bargain at about $.30 per test. If you are trying to conceive and will be taking a lot of tests, this can be a good way to go (some of the tests with more bells and whistles can add up fast!). These simple strips are fairly easy to use, easy to read, and accurate if taken near your missed period.

Best pregnancy test kit

Easy@Home Ovulation & Pregnancy Test Kit

Price: $

If you’re TTC and want a little more info at your disposal, you can actually purchase a pregnancy test kit. This one, from Easy@Home, includes 10 pregnancy test strips and 40 ovulation test strips.

Ovulation test strips work just like pregnancy tests, but they check for a rise in luteinizing hormone (LH). This tells you if you’re likely to ovulate in the next 24 to 48 hours so you know when to get the baby-making on. Then, two weeks after doing the deed, you can use one (or a few) of the pregnancy test strips to see what happened.

This is a budget-friendly option if you are going to be doing a lot of testing for ovulation and pregnancy, without having to buy a bunch of separate (and more expensive) tests. You can also download the company’s free app, which helps simplify tracking your cycle.

Best pregnancy test for assurance

First Response Triple Check Pregnancy Test Kit

Price: $$

It can be a little hard to believe your results (positive or negative) the first time, so if you want to be really sure, this variety pack from First Response may be a winner. With three separate sticks, you can test early, at your missed period, and after your missed period.

It includes our all-around favorite, the First Response Early Detection test, as well as their digital test and their rapid (1-minute result) test. If you like more information, this could be a great kit choice for you.

Whether in strip or stick form, at home or at the doctors’ office, urine pregnancy tests all test for the presence of the pregnancy hormone hCG.

If you go to your midwife or doctor’s office, they may also choose to do a blood pregnancy test, which looks for the presence of the same hormone, hCG, in your blood.

Urine pregnancy tests alone are typically very accurate, so blood pregnancy tests are mostly used only if there is a need to know the exact level of hCG in your system (for example, if there is concern for a miscarriage or other pregnancy complication).

Whether you’re excited to be pregnant or hoping you aren’t, the waiting period can be agonizing. There are several great at-home tests you can choose from to get the big answer you’re waiting for.

The good news is that these tests have a high rate of accuracy if you use them properly, so you won’t have to wonder long!