Are dollar store pregnancy tests accurate?

When trying for a baby, you can go through more than a few pregnancy tests, so dollar store tests may seem like a frugal choice. But are they accurate?

Photo: Ezra Bailey/Getty Images

When Mary Raca was trying to get pregnant with her second child, she picked up 10 pregnancy tests from the dollar store and began testing every morning. Even though the packages said they’d be most accurate if used on or after the expected date of her next period, she started testing four days before her period was due. “I lost the ability to wait,” she confesses.

   A woman lying down, with her hand on her stomach.    
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But after several days of negative results despite a suspicion that she was pregnant, Raca grabbed a pricier name-brand digital test on her lunch break. Though that morning’s dollar store test had been negative, the digital test declared that she was pregnant.

This story doesn’t surprise Beth Taylor, an infertility specialist at Olive Fertility in Vancouver. “For the average woman, dollar store tests are fine and just as accurate as name-brand tests,” she says. But they do require patience, which she acknowledges can be in short supply when you’re trying to get pregnant. “You need to wait until the date of your expected period,” says Taylor. If your cycle is unpredictable, you’ll want to tack on a few extra days so that you don’t accidentally test too early.

Pregnancy tests work by detecting a hormone known as human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG), and cheaper tests generally require a higher threshold of hCG to trigger a positive result. Since hCG increases dramatically each day during the first few weeks of pregnancy, holding off on using a test until your expected period can be the difference between a false negative and a positive result—that is, unless you invest in a more sensitive early-detection test, which will likely cost you more.

But even doctors rely on the cheap ones sometimes. When Jen Hughey, a mom in Minden, Ontario, got free tests from her local clinic, Hughey asked where she bought them. “They admitted that they were just like the dollar store tests, only shipped to their medical office in bulk for patient use,” she says. From then on, Hughey bought most of her tests from the dollar store. She recommends them, noting that she learned about all three of her pregnancies using these cheap tests.

In Canada, all pregnancy tests are licensed by Health Canada, which requires manufacturers to provide documentation that products do what they claim to do. Because of this, even cheap tests are extremely accurate when used properly, and false positives are almost unheard of. “If your dollar store pregnancy test gives you a positive result, you’re pregnant,” says Taylor. “You don’t need to retest.” However, be sure to check the expiry date because Taylor notes that old tests might give false negatives.

Since a pair of name-brand pregnancy tests can easily cost over $20, dollar store tests can be a huge savings for couples who need multiple tests. “Knowing I wouldn’t go broke paying for pregnancy tests made me feel that much more relaxed,” says Hughey.

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