A new pregnancy test can tell a woman whether their pregnancy is continuing or ending.
The semi-quantitative pregnancy test (SQPT) developed by US scientists could help to reassure women in the early stages of pregnancy and improve how miscarriage and abortion are managed, a conference at London's Royal Society of Medicine will be told this week.
At present, standard pregnancy tests measure the level of the pregnancy hormone human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) - potentially telling a woman she is pregnant even before she has missed a period - but they do not indicate whether the hormone is rising or falling.
Women who have taken the abortion pill would be able to perform the new SQPT at home to identify whether their pregnancy is ending rather than having to attend a clinic or hospital for invasive trans-vaginal scanning or hCG blood tests.
For those who have experienced a miscarriage and chosen medical (tablets) or conservative (natural) management, falling hormone levels will indicate the pregnancy tissue has passed and no further procedures are necessary.
Joanne Fletcher, consultant gynaecology nurse at Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust, said early pregnancy can be a very anxious time and the new test may go some way to easing some of that worry.
"For women who have experienced miscarriage, knowledge that their hCG levels are falling as expected may provide the peace of mind that no further interventions will be needed," she continued.
"For women undergoing early abortion, the introduction of this test into routine practice can only offer women more choice and provide an experience that best suits their personal needs."
Copyright Press Association 2013