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A woman might try a homemade pregnancy test if she cannot afford a test, does not want others to know about the testing, or is unable to wait to purchase a test.
The home pregnancy test first appeared in the 1970s and was widely available by the 1980s. The test measures human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG), a hormone that the body releases in early pregnancy.
Proponents of homemade pregnancy tests believe that they also test for hCG. However, few homemade tests are supported by scientific evidence.
The most reliable way to confirm pregnancy is to purchase a test or visit a doctor.
The homemade testing methods below have been mentioned in various online forums and are often based on folk remedies.
Wheat and barley test
The wheat and barley test, developed in ancient Egypt, involves urinating on wheat or barley seeds, then leaving them for 2 days. If the seeds sprout, the test is positive. If they do not, the test is negative.
A 1963 analysis found that in about 70% of cases when a woman was pregnant, the seeds did germinate. Some seeds germinated when a woman was not pregnant, however, making the results unreliable.
Many natural living and alternative health blogs, but no medical authorities or research, recommend the sugar test.
It involves mixing equal parts of sugar and urine, such as 1 tablespoon of sugar and 1 tablespoon of urine. After letting the mixture sit for a few minutes, if the sugar dissolves, the woman is supposedly not pregnant. If it forms clumps, the woman is pregnant.
No scientific evidence supports this method of testing.
This test is an alternative to the sugar test, and the steps are the same: A person mixes equal parts of urine and salt. If the salt clumps, the result is positive. If it does not, the result is negative.
No research supports the use of this test, either.
The idea here is that hCG in urine reacts with baking soda, causing fizzing or crackling.
To try this, add urine to a roughly equal amount of baking soda. Wait a few minutes. If the baking soda does nothing, the woman is not pregnant. If it fizzes, crackles, or bubbles, the woman is pregnant.
As with most other homemade pregnancy tests, there is no scientific evidence of this test’s effectiveness.
Advocates of the shampoo test believe that hCG causes shampoo to foam or bubble. To try it, mix 2 drops of urine and 2 drops of shampoo in a clean bowl. Do not shake the mixture, as this can cause frothing.
If the shampoo does not react, the woman is supposedly not pregnant. If it bubbles or froths, the woman is pregnant.
There is also no evidence to support the use of this test.
Healthcare professionals and researchers have not explored the effectiveness of most homemade pregnancy tests.
While some people on message boards and blogs say that these tests work, there is no scientific support for their claims.
A homemade pregnancy test may give the same result as a reliable test by coincidence. Getting the same result from both methods does not show that the DIY test was accurate.
The only reliable home pregnancy test is a commercial test that detects hCG.
However, fertility monitoring and awareness methods may help a woman identify pregnancy early on.
These methods are more reliable than most homemade pregnancy tests but cannot conclusively confirm pregnancy. They also usually require several weeks or even months of monitoring.
Basal body temperature
A person’s basal body temperature is their temperature when they wake up, before moving or doing anything else.
Immediately after ovulation, progesterone levels slightly heat the body, causing the basal body temperature to rise.
Before or right after a period starts, progesterone levels drop, which causes the temperature to fall. But if a woman is pregnant, her temperature may remain high.
Consistently high basal body temperature readings in a woman who has missed a period may indicate pregnancy.
A missed period can indicate pregnancy, but only if a woman can confirm that she has ovulated.
The menstrual cycle naturally varies in length from month to month, so a period thought to be missing may just be late.
If a woman knows that she has ovulated, her period should arrive about 2 weeks later. Ovulation predictor kits can often detect ovulation, but they can give false-positive readings.
Confirming ovulation reliably often involves a combination of factors: elevated basal body temperature, fertile cervical fluid, and a positive ovulation test result.
Pregnancy is not a medical emergency unless there is intense pain, bleeding, or a medical condition that makes pregnancy dangerous.
Women who may be pregnant can safely wait a few days — or even a few weeks — to see a doctor. If a period still does not arrive, schedule an appointment with a doctor or midwife.
However, a woman who cannot access a home pregnancy test should consider seeking medical care sooner. If doing so is impossible, it may be a good idea to act as if the pregnancy is confirmed, by avoiding smoking and alcohol and taking prenatal vitamins.
If privacy is a concern, for people in the United States, it is worth noting that providers of medical care, not just pregnancy testing, must honor privacy laws in most cases. This means that healthcare providers cannot share health information with, for example, a person’s parents or spouse without their consent.
If the cost of prenatal care or pregnancy testing is a concern, free or less inexpensive testing is often available. In the U.S., anyone who needs a pregnancy test could:
- Visit a local chapter of Planned Parenthood, which offers a range of free or low-cost services.
- Contact the county board of health about testing.
- Purchase pregnancy testing strips online. These usually cost only a few cents per test.
- Schedule a well-woman exam, if a woman has insurance. In most cases, insurance companies must cover the full cost, including that of a pregnancy test.
- During a regular checkup, ask to speak with the doctor alone.
Homemade pregnancy tests are not reliable, even if they provide the same results as commercial tests.
Though waiting can be frustrating, making an appointment with a healthcare provider is the best option for anyone who cannot access a commercial home pregnancy test.
Doctors and midwives must respect patient privacy, in most cases, and can offer a wide range of resources.