Can You Be "Addicted" To Pregnancy Tests?

Photographed by Ashley Armitage.
It's not uncommon to take more than one pregnancy test to make sure that you didn't receive a false positive (or false negative), but one buzzy survey claims that if you're taking multiple tests, you might be "addicted" to them.
According to a survey conducted by British parenting site ChannelMum, 62% of moms continue taking pregnancy tests even after a positive test result, something the site labelled as "pregnancy test addiction."
"Our new research shows many mums-to-be are getting hooked on taking tests, with women taking an average of SIX different ones to ensure they really are expecting," ChannelMum says.
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Soon enough, multiple outlets began reporting on the phenomenon. But before we take a trendy term and run with it — can you really be "addicted" to taking pregnancy tests?
First of all, for something to qualify as an addiction, the substance or activity in question would have to be compulsive enough to interfere with a person's life, work, relationships, or health, according to Psychology Today. The American Psychological Association says that addiction is "a brain disease that is manifested by compulsive substance use despite harmful consequence."
"I would not call this [pregnancy test behaviour] an addiction, I don't think that's sensible or accurate," says Marra Ackerman, MD, clinical assistant professor of Psychiatry at NYU Langone Health. "Addiction has a clear definition. It's someone thinking about a behaviour or substance compulsively, where it becomes the most important thing or one of the most important things in their lives. But this sort of behaviour, where women maybe don't believe the test is real has more to do with anxiety than it does with addictive behaviour."

This sort of behavior has more to do with anxiety than it does with addictive behavior.

Marra Ackerman, MD
It's easy to write off that women are taking multiple pregnancy tests simply because they're hysterical and experiencing "baby fever," but it's important to think about why they might be taking multiple tests in the first place. For starters, taking more than one home pregnancy test is cheaper and more convenient than scheduling and paying for an OB/GYN appointment right off the bat.
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As for the women who, as the ChannelMum survey claims, carry on taking tests even up to their 12-week scan, they might be experiencing the anxiety that Dr. Ackerman describes.
A Broadly report in 2016 pointed out that women who've struggled with fertility were likely to build communities around the so-called "addiction." Ashley Morrison, who started the website Pee On A Stick Freak, told Broadly that she began dispensing her knowledge on home pregnancy tests after 15 years of infertility and suffering from a miscarriage. Morrison said that she has "a passion to help women who may be going through infertility... I try and help women get pregnant. It's my job, to research, and test out various [HPT] brands and ultimately give my review."
Dr. Ackerman says that it's not entirely impossible that a person could be addicted to taking pregnancy tests to the point that the behaviour interferes with them moving on with their lives. But it's highly unlikely that it's an addiction, and it's far more important to examine what the results of these tests mean to the people who are supposedly taking them so compulsively.
"For women who are trying to conceive — unsuccessfully — I could see there being a pattern of constantly checking in a compulsive way if they're pregnant or not," Dr. Ackerman says. "The reason is two-fold: one, if someone receives a negative test and hopes it could be different, and two, even with a positive test, if they have a history of miscarriages or not being able to get pregnant, there's a sense that maybe this [result] isn't real. It's wanting to make sure it stays positive."
So in that sense, it's probably not the best idea to frame this pregnancy test behaviour as an "addiction." After all, pregnancy loss is a real occurrence and a real fear, and it makes perfect sense why it would cause people to be anxious enough to do what they can to make sure that they're getting the most accurate test results.
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