What’s Behind Our Obsession with Pregnancy Tests

Kelsey Escozaria’s story shines a light on what’s behind our obsession with Pregnancy Tests. Even six months after the birth of her son, she holds onto 30 positive pregnancy tests, which are carefully tucked away in her closet. These are just a fraction of the over 200 at-home urine tests and more than 500 ovulation tests she used before and during her pregnancy.

“It’s unusual,” the 27-year-old from Florida said of the situation. “Even now, five months after giving birth, I continue to check my ovulation levels every single day. It’s as though I need to take one; it feels strange not to stand up and urinate on a stick right now.”

She is one of the increasing numbers of women who are planning to become mothers who fork out money for dozens of pregnancy tests first to confirm their pregnancy and then monitor its progress. ChannelMum, a website based in the United Kingdom, conducted a poll earlier this year and found that the majority of pregnant mothers continue to take tests even after their pregnancy has been verified by a medical professional. In addition, the practice has taken on a life of its own on YouTube, where Escozaria shared her pregnancy with her 10,000 subscribers and evaluated a variety of pregnancy tests. Moms post status updates and compare tests, and commentators often follow suit at home, spending thousands of dollars and countless hours per day fussing over the plastic sticks. Escozaria is one of the moms who does this.

Causes of a Compulsive Need to Take Pregnancy Tests

The path to motherhood was a challenging one for Escozaria, as it is for many other obsessive testers: She tried for a total of four years, during which time she experienced two miscarriages and went through a number of reproductive procedures. Therefore, by the time she conceived her kid in 2017, she had already established a routine. She would check the status of her ovulation along with her basal temperature first thing in the morning. And daily, and often each time she went to the restroom, she would pee on a stick to check for early signs of pregnancy. “Every morning when I woke up, I had a test,” she explains. She claims that she found out she was pregnant within a week of the significant event, and once she did, she continued to test herself and pay attention to how dark the lines were on each test. “Knowing that [my baby] was developing gave me a surge of excitement.”

She continued to monitor her development through her 10-week scan, at which she was able to hear her baby’s heartbeat for the first time—a tangible confirmation that everything was going smoothly. However, this did not prevent her from testing despite my best efforts. “It had become routine,” she explains. “However, I gradually reduced the amount I took until I was only taking one every so often rather than daily.”

She claims that the stress brought on by her inability to conceive was the cause of her hyper-focus. “I think it wouldn’t have been such a big problem if I hadn’t lost those two babies,” she adds. “It would have been much simpler, in my opinion.” “After going through that painful experience twice in a row, I made it a point to get myself checked out, even if I didn’t have any symptoms.”

Following the loss of her pregnancy, she felt a greater feeling of control over her body as a result of the tests. She explains, “I knew my body at every minute of the day since I was performing ovulation testing twice a day, basal body temperature checks, and cervical mucus tests.” “I became so accustomed to it that I was able to determine whether or not I was ovulating based on small twinges.” She claims that she realized she was pregnant with her kid within four or five days after the first time it happened.

The Use of Obligatory Tests Is Cautioned Against by Experts

Even though Escozaria’s story had a happy ending, medical professionals warn people trying to conceive that doing excessive pregnancy tests can be emotionally exhausting.

“I think that becomes emotionally very hard to handle,” says Sheeva Talebian, M.D., a founding partner of New York City’s CCRM Fertility Clinic, along with partner Jaime Knopman, M.D. “Month after month of not seeing the double line, or seeing it say ‘not pregnant,'” she says. “I think that becomes emotionally very hard to handle.” According to her estimations, more than sixty percent of their patients take more than one pregnancy test, which might range from a handful to dozens.

“We have patients who have been trying to get pregnant for a year, so they ovulate, and then they’ll start doing tests a week later,” she says. “We have other patients who have been trying to get pregnant for less than a month.” However, she warns that early and continuous testing can be deceiving because, despite the fact that the tests are more accurate than ever before, they still have the potential to produce false positives immediately after ovulation, which is the time when an egg has been fertilized but has not yet implanted.

The HCG hormone, which can be present in urine during fertilization but disappears if the embryo does not stick, is what the tests look for to determine whether or not a pregnancy has occurred. “The problematic part is that women are testing early, and they’re getting these incredibly weak lines for a day or two, and then it goes away, and they get their periods,” says Dr. Talebian. “The problem with this is that it’s misleading to the women.” They suffer a significant loss as a result.

It’s also possible for the opposite to occur. “I had one [IVF] patient doing pregnancy tests every day after her embryo transfer, and it was negative, negative, and negative,” says Dr. Talebian. “I was extremely concerned about her because she was so eager to get pregnant.” “She was inconsolable, and she considered calling off her blood tests as a result. She was sobbing and asking, “why are you doing this to me?” when she entered the room. And a good result was found in her blood test!”

According to the physicians, they have hundreds of other patients who, like Escozaria, continue to test throughout their pregnancies for various reasons. Escozaria’s situation is just one example. After a protracted period of childlessness, there are moments when it’s appropriate to celebrate: Dr. Talebian explains, “They’ll email us images [after a blood test] and exclaim, ‘I cannot believe it finally says pregnant!'” Patients who try to assess their own development with at-home tests aren’t high on her list of preferred patients. “Patients will take pictures every single day and make collages, and send them to us and say, do you think it’s becoming darker?” says Knopman. “Patients will take pictures every single day and make collages.”

Tracking Of The Line On The Pregnancy Test

However, the experts claim that the black line only represents the amount of HCG present in the urine, which might vary in ways unrelated to the health of the pregnancy. The lines can be clear one day and difficult to see the next; their strength can even change depending on how much water a patient has consumed in a given period.

Paula C. Brady, M.D., a reproductive endocrinologist at the Columbia University Fertility Center, says that she explains to patients that the results of a pregnancy test are either yes or no. “You are unable to make any assumptions about how dark the line is or how rapidly it will develop. Pregnancy tests are beneficial in that they may tell you whether or not the level of HCG in your urine is above a certain threshold; however, this threshold must be fairly low in order to get a positive result from the test… A positive pregnancy test result is possible even in the event that the pregnancy is progressing less than optimally. It provides you with a yes or no answer in binary form.”

According to Brittany Schmidt, who started taking multiple tests during her third pregnancy after discovering the online forum BabyCenter, where members would post collages they’d made of their dozen or so pregnancy tests to show the progression of lines from dark to light, line tracking is common in online fertility communities. Schmidt began taking multiple tests during her third pregnancy after discovering the online forum BabyCenter.

She had two miscarriages and was diagnosed with anxiety; she said that monitoring her own developing sticks helped her feel less concerned after those events. “A lot of people find it very unusual,” she says, “but for individuals with anxiety disorders or fertility challenges, even though you know it’s not a guarantee, it helps you feel safer.” “A lot of people find it very strange,” she says. “but for people with anxiety disorders or fertility issues.” The mother of four, who is 30 years old and lives in Orlando, Florida (and is expecting another child), thinks that she has peed on more than 100 sticks, for a grand total of more than $500. “It helps me feel more at ease,” she adds about the situation.

If they feel that a patient is becoming overly test-obsessed, Dr. Talebian and Dr. Knopman may choose to step in and help. Dr. Knopman advises, “I’ll say you need to quit because you’ll drive yourself insane if you continue doing what you’re doing.”

Instead, medical professionals recommend discussing your concerns with a knowledgeable third party and scheduling an appointment to undergo tried-and-true diagnostic procedures. “It is quite normal to want confirmation that a pregnancy is advancing, and we can help,” says Dr. Brady. “We can provide that for you.” “It may be beneficial to have a reproductive expert check your HCG levels every few days. They can do this for you. When compared to a urine test, a series of blood tests can reveal significantly more information.”

Despite this, Escozaria claims that there is not a single aspect of her experience that she would alter. “Knowing what’s happening in your body can sometimes be the only thing you can do to feel better while you’re dealing with infertility,” she adds. “It’s important to understand why you’re unable to have children.” “I truly believe that if more people knew this, and if they know their bodies, they would feel more in control during this process.”

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