What Are Qualitative and Quantitative Pregnancy Tests

What are Qualitative and Quantitative Pregnancy Tests? A Qualitative pregnancy test only tells you whether hCG is present or not. On the other hand, a Quantitative pregnancy test tells you exactly, quantify, how much hCG is present. Both confirm pregnancy but only a quantitative test tells you how far you’re in the process. Home kits are qualitative and a clinic blood test or beta hCG tests in blood are quantitative.

What is a qualitative pregnancy test?

  • A qualitative pregnancy test only detects hCG hormone and shows that you are pregnant based on its presence or absence.
  • A qualitative pregnancy test is popularly known as a home pregnancy test. The stick pregnancy test you take is a qualitative pregnancy test.

When to take a qualitative pregnancy test?

  • A qualitative pregnancy test is the first preliminary pregnancy test a doctor recommends. It is the step before doing a quantitative pregnancy test.
  • You have to take the qualitative pregnancy test after you experience early pregnancy symptoms.
  • The early pregnancy symptoms include tender breasts, missing your periods by more than a week, cramps, mood swings, etc.

How is a qualitative pregnancy test performed?

  • A woman takes a qualitative pregnancy test as instructed by the particular pregnancy test kit.
  • It is a basic procedure of exposing the pregnancy test to urine and then allowing the pregnancy test to develop results.

How to read a qualitative pregnancy test?

  • A qualitative pregnancy test displays the result in the form of lines or symbols.
  • If the test line appears, then the pregnancy test is positive, and otherwise, it is negative.
  • Some pregnancy test use symbols such as a plus sign for a positive pregnancy test and minus sign for a negative pregnancy test.
  • Digital pregnancy test shows the results as written phrases ‘pregnant’ or ‘not pregnant.’

What does a qualitative pregnancy test tell?

  • A qualitative pregnancy test simply tells you whether you are pregnant or not.
  • It doesn’t differentiate between a healthy pregnancy and an unsustainable pregnancy.
  • It might be that the qualitative pregnancy test detects hCG present due to other medical conditions such as ovarian cysts. In this case, it will give a false positive pregnancy test.
Qualitative and Quantitative Pregnancy Test
Qualitative and Quantitative Pregnancy Test

What is a quantitative pregnancy test?

  • A quantitative pregnancy test is a test which estimates and quantifies hCG present in your blood. A quantitative pregnancy test validates healthy progression of your pregnancy.
  • A doctor performs the quantitative pregnancy test using advanced medical assays.

When to take a quantitative pregnancy test?

A quantitative pregnancy test comes after taking a qualitative pregnancy test. You’ve to go to the doctor whether you get a negative pregnancy test in spite of pregnancy symptoms or a positive pregnancy test.

How is a quantitative pregnancy test performed?

  • A blood test is done for performing the quantitative pregnancy test.
  • Doctors withdraw a small volume of blood for performing the quantitative pregnancy test.
  • He will insert a needle into the superficial vein of your arm near the elbow and then cover the puncture.
  • You don’t have to follow any particular instructions like fasting.
  • Then your blood will go for testing, and you will get the reports after a day or two.

How to read a quantitative pregnancy test?

Usually, you don’t have to interpret a quantitative pregnancy test as the results are written in the report.

However, if you want to know what does a particular hCG level indicate you can refer to these ranges:

  • If hCG levels are below 5 mIU/ml then you are not pregnant.
  • If the hCG level is between 5 mIU/ml to 25 mIU/ml then repeat the test.
  • Levels of hCG above 25 mIU/ml show that you are pregnant.
 In early pregnancy hCG levels reach 1200 mIU/ml and double every 48 hours. 

A minimum 66% increase occurs within 48 hours. When hCG level is between 1200 – 6000 mIU/ml then it doubles in 72 hours. If the hCG level is higher than 6000 mIU/ml, it takes about four days to double. 

The hCG level goes on increasing with the progression of pregnancy.

What does a quantitative pregnancy test tell?

Depending on the hCG level obtained a quantitative pregnancy test estimates the stage of pregnancy.

Levels of hCG during pregnancy week wise:

From the 3rd week of pregnancy hCG levels are considerable

3rd week of pregnancy5 - 50 mIU/ml
4th week of pregnancy 5 - 426 mIU/ml
5th week of pregnancy18 - 7340 mIU/ml
6th week of pregnancy 1080 - 56,500 mIU/ml
7th - 8th week of pregnancy7650 - 2,29,000 mIU/ml
9th - 12th week of pregnancy25,700 - 2,88,000 mIU/ml
13th - 16th week of pregnancy13,300 - 2,54,000 mIU/ml
17th - 24th week of pregnancy4060 - 1,65,400 mIU/ml
25th - 40th week of pregnancy3640 - 1,17,000 mIU/ml

What do high hCG levels indicate?

A high level of hCG indicates

  • Molar pregnancy
  • Multiple pregnancies
  • Ovarian cysts or tumors

What do low hCG levels indicate?

  • Wrong prediction of pregnancy
  • Ectopic pregnancies

Difference between Qualitative and Quantitative Pregnancy Tests

Quantitative Pregnancy Test Vs Qualitative Pregnancy Test

Qualitative Pregnancy TestQuantitative Pregnancy Test
Elaborate Simple
Done in Medical labs/clinicsDone at home
Tests level of hCGOnly detects hCG
More accurateLess accurate

It is always recommended by medical professionals to verify the results of a qualitative pregnancy test.


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