Taking a pregnancy test

Pregnancy tests work by looking for a hormone called human chorionic gonadotrophin (hCG). This hormone is only made in your body when you are pregnant.

Traces of human chorionic gonadotrophin (hCG) can be found in your urine from three to four days after the fertilised egg implants in your womb (uterus) and the amount builds up each day.

A pregnancy test can only detect hCG and give a positive result when there's enough of the hormone in your system. This means you can take most tests from the day you miss your period.

If your periods were irregular you might not be sure when this. You can take the test anyway but if it is negative, repeat it after a week to check again.

Are you ready to conceive? Use our tool to find out.

Home pregnancy tests

You can buy a home pregnancy test cheaply from a chemist or supermarket and find out if you are pregnant in minutes. You have to hold the end of the pregnancy test in a stream of urine, or dip it in urine you collect in a container.

They are very reliable, although it is important to follow the instructions on the packet carefully. The symbol showing that you are or are not pregnant can be different, so check before you start what mark or symbol will appear if the test is positive.

If the pregnancy test says you are pregnant it is almost certain that you are.

Pregnancy tests at your doctor or local chemist

These tests are either free or you may be charged a small fee.

You’ll need to take a sample of your urine in a clean, soap-free container. You can get pots to put your sample in from your GP’s surgery. The best time to collect a urine sample is first thing in the morning. This is because levels of hCG will have built up overnight.

You may have to wait up to a few days for the result, or if your urine sample is tested on the spot, you'll probably be given the result after just a few minutes.

Your pregnancy test results

A positive result is very likely to be accurate but a negative result might be misleading, it depends on your timing.

Some women have a negative result and test again a week later to find that it is positive. This is because the level of pregnancy hormones gradually builds up over time. If your levels are too low to detect the test might be negative even though you are actually pregnant.

If you do a home test very early on and have a negative result, do another test in two to three days' time if you still haven't had your period.

If you continue to get negative results and still don't have a period, talk to your doctor.

My pregnancy test was positive. What should I do next?

Whether you’ve been planning to get pregnant or not, seeing a positive pregnancy test can be really overwhelming. Find out what to do after a positive pregnancy test.

Pregnancy tests, hCG levels and miscarriage

hCG is the hormone that is produced by the embryo after implantation. A raised level of this hormone shows that there is or has been a pregnancy. 

The level of hCG in a pregnancy usually doubles every 2-3 days in early pregnancy, then doubles every 3-4 days later on until about week 14 -16 of pregnancy.

If a miscarriage has happened then you can still have positive pregnancy tests and raised hCG levels for up to 2 weeks afterwards as the levels take some time to come back down.

Sources

1. Macdonald S, Magill-Cuerden J, Mayes’ midwifery, fourteenth edition, London Balliere Tindall, 2011: 235

2. NHS choices, 'Signs and symptoms of pregnancy'http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/pages/signs-and-symptoms-pregnancy.aspx [accessed 29/03/2018]

3. NHS Choices, 'How soon can I do a pregnancy test'http://www.nhs.uk/chq/Pages/948.aspx?CategoryID=54&SubCategoryID=140 [accessed 29/03/2018]

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Last reviewed on April 10th, 2018. Next review date April 10th, 2021.

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Comments

Please note that these comments are monitored but not answered by Tommy’s. Please call your GP or maternity unit if you have concerns about your health or your baby’s health.
  • By pregnancy test (not verified) on 14 May 2019 - 07:04

    Now that you understand the conception process, the pregnancy test should not be taken before 7 days of ovulation. The ideal pregnancy test days after ovulation, around 7 to 10 days after ovulation. This lets you confirm your pregnancy.

  • By positive pregna... (not verified) on 10 May 2019 - 06:53

    In order to know how many days post your ovulation, you should be taking a pregnancy test.

  • By Alissa (not verified) on 26 Apr 2019 - 18:27

    I had my last period on March 31. My cycle is 26 days. My period tracker said i was Ovulating on April 11th. I had unprotected sex April 14th and he ejaculated. But I just started my period April 25th could i be pregnant??

  • By Belle (not verified) on 2 Apr 2019 - 23:12

    my last period is on march 19,2019 however we have unprotected sex last March 16 and 17, 2019 and then I got my period last March 19, 2019. I feel dizzy, food craving, pain in my stomach and pale feeling and sleepy at times. Will i be pregnant? Thank you.

  • By Sierra (not verified) on 18 Feb 2019 - 01:03

    My cycle started on the 19th of December and my boyfriend and I had unprotected sex on the 1st and the 3rd of February. 10 days later I had a really light period but a few days before that I took a pregnancy test and it was negative. But I haven’t gotten my period since the 11th of February and it’s now the 17th should I take another pregnancy test? And my periods are almost always on time.

  • By Midwife @Tommys on 20 Feb 2019 - 16:02

    Hi Sierra
    Take another pregnancy test when your period is 7 days late for the most accurate result - whether that is a positive or a negative. All the best, Tommy's Midwife

  • By Jane (not verified) on 29 Jan 2019 - 20:17

    Hi everyone, my last period was on 16th of December and I had sex on 19th of December. I did my pregnancy test on 27th of January and I was told I am 6 weeks pregnant. How possible is that? Plz help thanks

  • By Midwife @Tommys on 30 Jan 2019 - 12:05

    Hi Jane- 6 weeks is the most pregnant you could be. We use the first day of your last menstrual period day, to calculate roughly how pregnant you are, this might change slightly once you have your first ultrasound scan as you don't ever know exactly the date you conceived the pregnancy as sperm can survive in the body up to 4-6 days after unprotected intercourse. So there is roughly a weeks window in which you could have conceived.
    All the best. Tommy's Midwife

  • By Rhonda (not verified) on 18 Jan 2019 - 02:03

    My last cycle was 22 Dec 2018. My cycle is every 25/26 days, regular and lasts approximately 5 days. I have a paragard in place but I'm a couple of days late, I took a HPT this afternoon and it was negative. Should I wait a another 3 or 4 days before I take another HPT if I hadnt still had a menstrual cycle?

  • By Midwife @Tommys on 18 Jan 2019 - 15:02

    Hi Rhonda,
    That sounds like a good idea, I would suggest 3/4 days would be the minimum to wait before repeating a pregnancy test if your period does not come.
    Best wishes
    Tommy's midwife

  • By Emmy (not verified) on 10 Jan 2019 - 20:35

    Had unprotected sex on the 15th and 20 December my period is regular and should have been on the 4th of January had light spotting and little light bleeding on the 3rd and 4th of January nothing like my usual period some cramps on my left side any chance I could be pregnant

  • By Midwife @Tommys on 11 Jan 2019 - 12:22

    Dear Emmy,
    The only way of knowing if you are pregnant is to take a pregnancy test. If your next period does not come when due, then we would suggest taking a test. Taking a test earlier than this make result in a false negative result. If you think you may be pregnant or if you are trying for a baby, then we would advise you to be taking a daily folic acid supplement if you are not already.
    If your cramps are painful or worsening then to contact your GP for a review.
    Best wishes,
    Tommy's midwife

  • By Bettina (not verified) on 6 Sep 2018 - 19:39


    I got my period on 17 July and had sex on 24july and used post pill the same day can I get pregnant?

  • By Midwife @Tommys on 11 Sep 2018 - 16:07

    If you have not had another period by now, I would advise doing a pregnancy test. If it's negative and your periods are usually regular then you should discuss this with your GP

    Tommy's midwife

  • By T (not verified) on 14 Mar 2018 - 16:04

    Hi me and my bf been together for 6 months and we was using condoms but we both decided we are ready to have a baby. I did a test today but it was negative but I still feel like I am pregnant as I am having symptoms like feeling dizzy,stomach cramps and feeling knackered. It's just over a week since we last had unprotected sex, I did my period but it only lasted for three days and we had sex the day after so could I still be pregnant

  • By Midwife @Tommys on 15 Mar 2018 - 16:37

    Hi, there is a possibility that you could be pregnant but normally you need to wait at least 3-4 weeks following intercourse before pregnancy test would be able to detect a pregnancy. I would advise that if you are trying to conceive then take a folic acid supplement each day and take a pregnancy test if your next period does not come. Best wishes, Tommy's midwives.

  • By Midwife @Tommys on 12 Sep 2016 - 11:55

    I presume you mean that you did an ovulation test on 6th of September not August. It could be that you are pregnant given these symptoms , but the earliest you can test for pregnancy and get a fairly accurate result is about seven to twelve days after the date of conception so around now. However a more accurate result would be to take the test the day you miss your period. However if since coming off the pill, your periods are irregular you might not be sure when this is. It could be that the brownish bleed on 1st to 3rd September was your light first period since coming off the pill, so your next period would then be due on 1st October . Hope that helps but feel free to email one of the Midwives for more guidance at [email protected] or phone us on 0800 0147 800 (9am till 5pm)

  • By Midwife @Tommys on 1 Sep 2016 - 12:21

    If you want to have a chat about this , please give one of our Midwives a call on the Pregnancy Line on 0800 0147 800. There is a Midwife available to chat every week day from 9am to 5pm.

  • By Anonymous (not verified) on 9 Sep 2016 - 18:46

    Can someone please help me I came off my pill around the 28th of August mid packet. I had really sore breast for about 4-5 days from the 1st and then had some brown bleeding on the 1st-3rd of August. It was really light.
    I did an ovulation test on 6th of August it came back pretty much positive and then faded on the 7th so obviously must have been ovulating. I and sexual intersperse unprotected on the 3, 4, 5 of August so just before my ovulation time. And since the 7th I have had rely sharp cramps it feels like in my women going up some are pulling or pinching others are twinges. I feel tired and have back ache in the middle
    Can you please help

  • By Jacqueline (not verified) on 20 Jan 2019 - 07:00

    I am 33 years old i have 3 boys all ready but trying to have another one with my other half but my tubes are tied for about 8 years now and i had my period on dec 14 to dec 19 i did not get it took a pregnant test 2nd line was faded but i am have pains on my left side all day none stop and cramping lower bottom no blood or nothing what would u say about this. Any advice

  • By Midwife @Tommys on 25 Jan 2019 - 12:39

    Dear Jacqueline,
    If you have had your tubes tied but had a positive pregnancy test, with one sided pain then it is important to see a Dr straight away to see where the pregnancy is.
    Best wishes
    Tommy's midwife

  • By CLARE PILRGIM (not verified) on 31 Aug 2016 - 17:04

    IAM GOTO TRYING FOR BABY ON MY OWN IAM NOT HAD BABY
    ON MY OWN

  • By CLARE PILRGIM (not verified) on 31 Aug 2016 - 17:04

    IAM GOTO TRYING FOR BABY ON MY OWN IAM NOT HAD BABY
    ON MY OWN

  • By Anonymous (not verified) on 26 Jul 2017 - 18:24

    ask for help if you need help with the baby

  • By Midwife @Tommys on 27 Jul 2017 - 10:43

    Hi thank you for your comment, asking for help can be easy for some and more difficult for others, everyone is different and find they cope in different ways, whatever works for the individual. Best Wishes Tommy's Midwives x

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