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.


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


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


  • 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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