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Home > Learn > Getting Pregnant > >Debunking The DIY Pregnancy Test

Debunking The DIY Pregnancy Test

Nov 30, 23 6 min

By OBGYN Dr. Kenosha Gleaton

Finding out whether or not you’re pregnant can be an exciting, stressful, and sometimes disappointing experience. It’s important to have a reliable, accurate, and easy-to-understand testing method. Most over-the-counter pregnancy tests will measure human Chorionic Gonadotropin (hCG) in your urine and indicate a positive or negative result with the presence of a pink or blue line. [1] There has also been some talk of DIY pregnancy tests circulating the internet in recent years. Let’s review some of these methods. 

What’s a DIY Pregnancy Test?

Some people claim that there are methods to test for pregnancy that don’t involve seeing the doctor or paying for home pregnancy tests. Some examples of these DIY pregnancy tests include using baking soda, wheat and barley, toothpaste, sugar, or salt. [2-3] The idea behind most of these tests is that the pregnancy hormone found in your urine, hCG, will interact with common household products and cause a color change or some other kind of Schemical reaction. [2-3] Let’s break down a few DIY tests we’ve heard about. 

Get Accurate, Early-Result Pregnancy Tests

Salt and Sugar Tests

Some examples of DIY pregnancy tests include the salt test and the sugar test. If someone were to attempt either of these, they would need a method for measuring out their urine as well as salt or sugar. For the salt test, it’s recommended to mix equal parts urine and salt. If the salt clumps together, that indicates a positive result; if the salt does not clump, the result is negative. [2] To try out the sugar test, it’s recommended that someone mix equal parts urine and sugar. If the sugar has dissolved after a few minutes, this indicates a negative result. If the sugar clumps, it is considered a positive result. [2] So far there is no scientific evidence to support either of these tests, meaning you should not rely on the results of this experiment to confirm or deny a pregnancy. [2] 

The Toothpaste Pregnancy Test

The toothpaste test is very similar to the salt and sugar tests. Supposedly, the ingredients in toothpaste will interact with pregnancy hormones, causing the toothpaste to change color or foam when mixed with a pregnant person’s urine. [3] If there is no reaction, such as no color change or no foaming, the result is negative. This test has also not been proven by any scientific research and can not give an accurate result. [3] 

Baking Soda Test

Another so-called DIY pregnancy test is the baking soda test. The idea behind the baking soda test is that mixing equal parts of urine and baking soda will fizz, bubble, or show other signs of a reaction if someone is pregnant. [2] If there is no change to the mixture, the person is not pregnant. Once again, there is no evidence to prove that baking soda will interact with hCG or cause any sort of reaction. The results of this experiment should not be relied on. [2] 

Wheat and Barley Test

Using wheat and barley to test for pregnancy is a method that actually originated in Egypt many centuries ago. [2,4] This method involves urinating on wheat or barley seeds and waiting to see if the seeds sprout. If they sprout, it is thought to indicate a positive result, and if they do not sprout, it is considered a negative result. [2,4] More specifically, the growth of the wheat was thought to point to a female child, while the growth of the barley was thought to point to a male child. [5] A more recent analysis of this method was conducted in the 1960’s and found that about 70% of cases did result in germination, however, this method was still deemed unreliable. [4,5] 

Do DIY Tests Work?

No, using salt, sugar, baking soda, or any other product is not a reliable method when testing for pregnancy. [1,2] While it may sound like a cheap and easy way to find out if you’ve conceived, the best way to confirm a pregnancy is to measure hCG levels in urine or blood. This can be done using an at-home urine pregnancy test or by visiting your healthcare provider for a blood test. [1] 

If you do decide to try a DIY pregnancy test, think of it more as a fun old wive’s tale, similar to gender prediction methods related to morning sickness symptoms, craving salt vs sugar, carrying low or high, changes in nipple color, etc. You should never rely on the results of a DIY experiment, always confirm with a real urine pregnancy test and a trip to see your healthcare provider. 

The Science Behind DIY Tests

Most of the reactions people may notice when attempting a DIY pregnancy test can be chalked up to their urine interacting with whatever product they’ve mixed it with. Urine tends to be slightly acidic, with a pH of 6.0 to 7.5. [6] It’s normal and expected to see some sort of reaction when mixing something that is more basic or neutral, like baking soda, toothpaste, or salt, with something acidic. [7-9] 

Natalist Pregnancy test call to action

How Do Real Pregnancy Tests Work?

Real urine pregnancy tests contain a piece of reactive paper that will detect and change color when it measures a certain amount of hCG in the urine. [1] An increase in hCG is the first detectable sign of pregnancy and is produced by the body after an embryo implants in the uterus. If the test detects hCG, it will show a positive result. [1] See real examples of positive pregnancy test results → 

Blood tests can also measure hCG. Your provider can take a sample of blood in order to test for the hormone. Blood tests can tell you exactly how much hCG is in the blood, but it can take a bit longer to get results compared to at-home urine tests. [1] 

Discrete, Accurate Pregnancy Tests

Looking for early-result pregnancy tests that are effective, accurate, easy to use, and ship in discreet packaging? Natalist has got you covered. Get pregnancy test strips that use 81% less plastic than midstream pregnancy tests, or stick with the basics and get plastic-neutral midstream pregnancy tests! 

 

References:

  1. Pregnancy Tests. Cleveland Clinic. November 2022. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diagnostics/9703-pregnancy-tests
  2. Wilson, Debra. Villines, Z. Homemade pregnancy tests: Do they work? Medical News Today. June 2020. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/homemade-pregnancy-test
  3. Sullivan, Debra. Caporuscio, Jessica. Does the toothpaste pregnancy test work? Medical News Today. February 2020. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/toothpaste-pregnancy-test
  4. GHALIOUNGUI P, KHALIL S, AMMAR AR. On an ancient Egyptian method of diagnosing pregnancy and determining foetal sex. Med Hist. 1963;7(3):241-246. doi:10.1017/s0025727300028386
  5. The Thin Blue Line: History of the Pregnancy Test Timeline. NIH. https://history.nih.gov/display/history/Pregnancy+Test+Timeline#
  6. Bono MJ, Leslie SW, Reygaert WC. Urinary Tract Infection. [Updated 2022 Nov 28]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2023 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK470195/
  7. Chi-Yuan Cheng, Zoljargal Balsandorj, Zhigang Hao, Long Pan, High-precision measurement of pH in the full toothpaste using NMR chemical shift. Journal of Magnetic Resonance, Volume 317, 2020, 106771.ISSN 1090-7807. 
  8. Sodium Bicarbonate. AGC Chemicals. Accessed November 2023. https://www.agc-chemicals.com/jp/en/products/detail/index.html?pCode=JP-EN-C010
  9. Wu, Christopher, Dowel, Christian, Hooper, Nicole. Aqueous Solutions of Salts. LibreTexts. https://chem.libretexts.org/Bookshelves/Physical_and_Theoretical_Chemistry_Textbook_Maps/Supplemental_Modules_(Physical_and_Theoretical_Chemistry)/Acids_and_Bases/Acids_and_Bases_in_Aqueous_Solutions/Aqueous_Solutions_Of_Salts

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