It turns out there is such a thing as being a little bit pregnant. Although women have been using home pregnancy tests for 30 years to determine whether they're expecting, new advancements may tell you just how far along you are.
Unlike other versions, the new Clearblue Advanced Pregnancy Test with Weeks Estimator contains two strips instead of one, both of which measure your levels of human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG). hCG appears in the body after fertilization and increases significantly during the early weeks of pregnancy before dropping off after about week 11. Like other tests, the first strip in the new Clearblue Advanced test measures the levels of hCG in the body, but the second detection strip uses the hCG to measure how many weeks you've been pregnant.
The test is already available in Europe and just received FDA approval for widespread sale in the U.S. Starting September 1, it should be available in most or all major retailers. Time magazine reports that Clearblue's trials included 2,000 women and 5,000 tested urine samples, and determined that the test is effective and accurate at estimating the time since a woman's last ovulation.
While the test is definitely not meant to be a substitute for an ultrasound, it could be a "wonderful way for women to empower themselves with knowledge and take charge of their pregnancy," says Aron Schuftan, M.D., an OBGYN in California and co-founder of EmbraceHer. "Finding out how far along you are in the process can be a huge step and will help women get timely care. However, I do not think this will replace ultrasounds from doctors, as the dating that we require needs to be more exact and accurate since much of our testing and planning or milestones relies on that first trimester ultrasound."
There is also some debate in the medical community about the effectiveness of hCG to date pregnancy, says Jan Rydfors, M.D., an OBGYN in California. "hCG levels can vary from person to person and also week to week. The test probably also doesn't take into account multiple gestations, which include higher hCG levels. I think this will be more of a novelty item."
All that said, the new home test could help women who have irregular periods, Rydfors says, because often those women aren't sure when to come in for their first pre-natal visit.
The bottom line? While this is an interesting advancement that will hopefully help doctors and patients pinpoint a more reliable assessment of the baby's development, it's not a replacement for seeing your doctor. "As soon as you want to confirm you're pregnant, see a licensed care provider, either a board-certified OBGYN or a midwife who can confirm a positive pregnancy test via urinalysis," Rydfors says.