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Pregnancy testing

When should you take a pregnancy test? Where can you get a free test and what should you do next? Find the answers here.

When should I take a pregnancy test?

Testing for pregnancy works from the first day of a missed period. Some pregnancy tests can be taken up to 5 days before your period is due. Read the leaflet or talk to your pharmacist about when to take the test. 

How does pregnancy testing work?

A pregnancy test works by detecting hormones present in a woman's pee that are released into the body soon after a fertilised egg starts to grow in the womb. Clever eh?

You can collect the urine at any time of the day using a clean, soap-free container.

Where can I get a pregnancy test?

Free tests are available from your GP or sexual health service. Some pharmacies will do a test for you in-store, although you usually have to pay. You can also buy home testing kits from supermarkets, pharmacies or from online stores. 

What do the test results mean?

Home pregnancy testing is reliable as long as it is done correctly. A positive result almost certainly means you are pregnant. Negative results are not so reliable – you could still be pregnant. You may get a negative result if: 

  • You took the test too early
  • You didn’t follow the instructions properly
  • You are on some medications

If you think there is still a chance you could be pregnant wait a week and take another test yourself or go and see your GP.

What do I do next?

If you are pregnant, it’s time to consider your options. This may be an easy decision or a more difficult one, especially if the pregnancy wasn’t planned.

Read more about your options in our sections on becoming a parent, abortion and adoption

As soon as you find out that you are pregnant you should get in touch with your GP or midwife to get information on the services and support that are available and to organise antenatal care. 

The antenatal care will include:

  • Antenatal appointments – regular health appointments with your midwife or doctor to check your health and the development of your baby,
  • Antenatal screening – tests that assess whether your unborn baby is at risk of certain conditions or abnormalities, and
  • Antenatal classes – classes and workshops that prepare you and your partner for the birth of your baby. 

Being pregnant may affect the treatment of any current or future illness so it's important to discuss any treatment or medication you're getting or are about to start.

Having a sexually transmitted infection (STI) may cause complications during pregnancy. However, if you and your doctor and midwife know about it, steps can be taken to make sure you and baby stay healthy. So it's important you tell them if you think you might have one.

More information on what to do next can be found at Ready Steady Baby

What if the pregnancy test came back negative?

If the pregnancy test result is negative and it’s a relief it might be time to think about the contraception you are using. Do you need a longer-lasting type of contraception? Could you have an STI?

If you are disappointed not to be pregnant, remember not everyone gets pregnant as soon as they start trying. It can take a year or longer to get pregnant and it doesn’t necessarily mean that there is anything wrong. Read our section on improving your chances of conception to find out more.

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Do I need a test?

A simple test can put your mind at rest.

Do I need a test?


Guidance on accessing contraception during coronavirus pandemic.