How to know when you are pregnant

How do you know whether you’re pregnant or not? If you’ve been trying to get pregnant, there are a few ways to find out.

How do you know whether you’re pregnant or not? Learn how you can tell, as well as how long it takes to find out, and the best time to take a pregnancy test.

Early pregnancy symptoms

Early signs of pregnancy can include:

  • missing a period  
  • feeling or being sick 
  • feeling very tired 
  • sore or tender breasts 
  • needing to urinate (wee) more often, including during the night 
  • a metallic taste in your mouth 
  • being sensitive to certain smells, such as cooking 
  • losing interest in food you used to enjoy.

Every pregnancy is different and not everyone will have all these symptoms. Some people have no symptoms at all.

Think about doing a pregnancy test if you have any of these symptoms and have had unprotected sex in the last few months.

How do pregnancy tests work? 

Pregnancy tests work by finding a hormone called human chorionic gonadotrophin (hCG) in your urine (wee). Your body only makes this hormone when you are pregnant. 

You urinate (wee) on the stick, or dip it in a pot of your urine, depending on the instructions. The result appears on the stick after a few minutes.  

Traces of hCG can be found from around 6 days after fertilisation (when the sperm has penetrated the egg) and will rise over time. You can do most pregnancy tests from the first day of your missed period. 

When is the best time to take a pregnancy test?

It’s best to wait until at least the first day of your missed period before taking a pregnancy test. Even though some pregnancy tests can be used a few days before you’ve missed your period, you’ll get a result that’s more likely to be correct if you wait.

If you don't know when your period is due, try not to do the test until at least 21 days after you had unprotected sex, or when you think you might have conceived.  

Where can I get a pregnancy test?

You can buy pregnancy tests online, from pharmacies and from most supermarkets. The cheaper tests work just as well as the more expensive ones, so there’s no need to spend a lot of money.

You may be able to get a free pregnancy test at your GP surgery or from: 

  • sexual health services
  • some young people’s services – call the National Sexual Health helpline on 0300 123 7123 to find out where these are 
  • Brook centres for under 25s.

How accurate is the pregnancy test?

Home pregnancy tests are accurate if you follow the instructions. A positive test is almost always correct.

The result may not be right, especially if it's negative, if you:

  • didn’t follow the instructions
  • took the test too early
  • used an expired test
  • have been taking certain medicines.

How long does it take to find out if you are pregnant?

Even if you stick to the advice of waiting until the first day of your missed period before taking a test, it still might be too early to tell. This is called a false negative result. If you get a negative result but you still think you may be pregnant, take the test again in a few days.

It may help to break down the timings for getting pregnant and when you can find out if you are pregnant. This is how the pregnancy timeline works. Bear in mind this is based on a 28-day cycle. Yours could be shorter or longer.

  • day 1: the first day of your period
  • day 14 (or slightly before or after depending on how long your menstrual cycle is): you ovulate. Within 24 hours of ovulation, the egg is fertilised by sperm
  • days 19 to 20 (or about 5 to 6 days after you ovulate): the fertilised egg burrows into the lining of the womb. This is called implantation. It means you are pregnant
  • day 29: the first day of your missed period, which is when you can first take a pregnancy test.

What should I do if I find out I am pregnant?

If you want to continue with the pregnancy, try to arrange antenatal care as soon as possible. This is the care you have while you are pregnant.   It's free of charge through the NHS for everyone in the UK. 

There are a few ways to get your antenatal appointments set up. 

  • You may be able to refer yourself, if you know which hospital or trust you want to have your antenatal care and your baby in. The hospital website should have more details. Not all hospitals allow you to self-refer, but some do.
  • You can make an appointment with your GP. They can then refer you to a hospital or a midwife-led team.
  • You can also make an appointment with an NHS maternity service near you.  

Find out more about how to access antenatal care.

If you are not sure you want to be pregnant

If you're not sure about wanting to continue the pregnancy talk to your GP or nurse at your doctor's surgery. They are trained to help you if you have any concerns about being pregnant and you can talk to them confidentially. You can also get confidential advice from:

NHS (2022) Signs and symptoms of pregnancy. Available at: (Accessed 21 March 2024)  (Page last reviewed: 29/12/2022 Next review due: 29/12/2025)

NHS (2022). Doing a pregnancy test. Available at: (Accessed 21 March 2024) (Page last reviewed: 09/02/2022. Next review due: 09/02/2025)

NHS (2022). You and your pregnancy at 1 to 3 weeks. Available at: (Accessed 21 March 2024) (Page last reviewed: 12/10/2021. Next review due: 12/10/2024)

Review dates
Reviewed: 21 March 2024
Next review: 21 March 2027