Pregnancy tests detect the presence of the pregnancy hormone in your body. This hormone is called human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG). Find out about when you can do a pregnancy test, and what to do if it's positive.
A pregnancy test is the only way to know for sure whether you're pregnant.
- When to do a pregnancy test
- Doing a pregnancy test if you're on the pill
- What's a test like?
- Negative test result
- Positive test result
When to do a pregnancy test
Most do-it-yourself pregnancy tests can be carried out on or after the day your next period is due. If you don't know when your next period is due, do the test at least 21 days after you last had unprotected sex.
Some very sensitive pregnancy tests can be used even before you miss a period, from as early as eight days after conception.
Find out more about periods and the menstrual cycle.
If you're pregnant, the amount of HCG in your body rises rapidly in the early days and weeks. A home pregnancy test can detect this in your urine.
You may suspect you're pregnant because you have certain symptoms, such as:
- enlarged or tingling breasts
- nausea (feeling sick)
- feeling faint
- a metallic taste in your mouth
- a feeling that your period is about to start
However, not every woman has these symptoms.
Doing a pregnancy test if you're on the Pill
Always take a pregnancy test if you think you might be pregnant, no matter what type of contraception you use or have previously used.
Hormonal methods of contraception, such as the combined pill, progestogen-only pill, implants and injections, work by changing a woman's hormone balance. Taking these hormones won't affect the result of a pregnancy test.
You can take a pregnancy test if you're using hormonal contraception. The result will still be reliable. If the test is positive, this means you're pregnant.
What's a pregnancy test like?
Most pregnancy tests come in a small box that contains one or two long sticks. You pee on the stick and the result appears on the stick after a few minutes. All tests are slightly different, so always read the instructions.
The following places provide free pregnancy tests:
- some community contraceptive clinics - find sexual health services near you
- some sexual health or genitourinary medicine (GUM) clinics
- some young people's services - call the national sexual health helpline on 0300 123 7123 for details
- Brook centres - for under-25s
- some GP surgeries
- some pharmacies
These places provide a confidential service, which means they won't tell your parents or carers unless they think you're at risk. This is true even if you're under 16.
Alternatively, you can buy a test from pharmacies or some supermarkets.
Negative pregnancy test results
If you get a negative (not pregnant) result from the pregnancy test but still think you could be pregnant, wait another three days then take another test. It could be you've taken the test too early. Speak to your GP if you get a negative result after a second test but your period hasn't arrived.
If you're not pregnant, now is a good time to get advice about the range of contraceptive choices and find a method that suits you. See your GP, a community contraceptive clinic, a young persons' clinic, or a sexual health or GUM clinic.
Positive pregnancy test results
If the test is positive, you're pregnant. You should discuss your options with your GP or a doctor or nurse at your community contraceptive clinic, young persons' service or sexual health clinic.
If you decide to continue the pregnancy, see your GP as you need to start antenatal care.
If you decide to seek an abortion, it's safest to do this as early as possible. Most abortions are carried out before 13 weeks of pregnancy. Find out about what to do in abortion: your options.
You can also talk to someone you trust, such as your boyfriend, friends or parents. Or you can learn more about your options through the following organisations:
All these services, including community contraceptive clinics, are confidential, so they won't tell your parents.
Article provided by NHS Choices