If you are trying to get pregnant or are late for a period, you can test for pregnancy at home, with your GP or a private midwife. Pregnancy tests work by detecting a specific hormone called human chorionic gonadotrophin (hCG) which is released by the placenta. The level of hCG in the mother’s blood and urine rises during the first trimester and can be measured to determine pregnancy.
Home pregnancy tests can be bought from supermarkets and chemists and are very accurate (up to 97%) when used correctly. These tests detect hCG in urine and will either display ‘pregnant’ or ‘not pregnant’. It is important to follow the manufacturers instruction carefully to get an accurate reading.
Sometimes the test can be ‘wrong’ if the test is not done at the right time. For example, if the test is done too early in pregnancy, the level of hCG in the urine may not yet be high enough to be detected by the test and so the result would show ‘not pregnant’, even if you are. This is called a false-negative.
A home pregnancy test can also be wrong by showing a false-positive. A test may show a wrong pregnant result if there is blood or protein in the urine, if the test is faulty or if there has been a recent miscarriage or birth. Some medications can also interfere with a correct reading, creating an inaccurate positive result.
Testing for pregnancy with your GP or private midwife may involve a similar process to the home test, or your GP/midwife may order a blood test. A blood test looks for the same hormone but measures the level as well. Measuring the level of hCG can give more information about your pregnancy, as hCG has a known pattern. If your hCG level is less than expected, it may be a sign of miscarriage and if the level if much higher than expected, it could be a sign of twins.
I’ve done a home test and I’m pregnant – what do I do next? This depends on where you live and who you would like to be your care provider or if you are unsure about continuing the pregnancy. Read on to see which situation fits you best.
In most cases your first step is to see your GP. The GP may wish confirm the pregnancy with a blood test. If positive, they will give you a referral to a local public hospital or private hospital of your choice. This is a good opportunity to discuss your pregnancy care and birth options.
If you want private midwifery care you can contact your local private midwife directly to make an appointment. The Homebirth Australia website has a comprehensive map with contact details for private midwives across Australia.
If you live in the Australian Capital Territory and plan to birth in a public hospital, you will first need to call Canberra Maternity Options on 5124 9977 to make an appointment with a midwife. At the meeting, care provider options and birth place choices will be discussed. The midwife will then make a referral to your chosen care provider for the remainder of your care.
If you are living in South Australia and plan to birth in a public hospital, you may call the Pregnancy SA Infoline directly on 1300 368 820 to make an appointment for your antenatal booking visit at your local public hospital. There is no need to see a GP.
If you are thinking about ending the pregnancy, please see our termination article.