Everything you need to know about taking a pregnancy test

A pregnancy test is a quick and easy test to help determine whether or not you're pregnant. The tests are widely available over the counter from pharmacies and supermarkets, as well as sexual health clinics and your GP.

What is a pregnancy test?

Traditional pregnancy tests check a woman's urine for a specific hormone called human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) produced during pregnancy. The hormone is detectable in urine a couple of weeks after conception.

Tests often come as sticks or cards with coloured bands to indicate the result. Others include a small pipette which you use to transfer a few drops of urine to a small window in the pregnancy kit. You can also test for pregnancy using a saliva pregnancy test.

Taking a urine pregnancy test

Read the instructions included with your test carefully, before doing a pregnancy test, as these can vary from one pregnancy testing kit to another. To use a urine pregnancy test, you usually either hold the stick in your stream of urine for a few seconds, or dip the stick in a sample of your urine collected in a small clean container. You should be able to read the results after a few minutes.  

If you get a positive test, it's likely to be correct. If you get a negative result and still think you’re pregnant, it's possible that you have taken the test too early for the hCG hormone to be detected. Wait a few days and repeat the test again. If the test is still negative and you’re worried about your period being late, speak to your GP. 

How to use a saliva pregnancy test

Saliva pregnancy tests use saliva, rather than urine, to test for pregnancy. These easy-to-use tests can be done from the day after your missed period. Simply pool saliva in your mouth then pop the foam applicator in for a few seconds, being careful not to bite or chew it. Your results should be ready in just in a few minutes. Like with other pregnancy tests, it’s important to read the instructions carefully before you use a saliva pregnancy test.

Not only are saliva pregnancy tests convenient and easy to use, there’s also no need to nip to the loo, so you could take the test in front of loved ones if you wanted to.

When should I take a pregnancy test?

Pregnancy tests are usually taken a day after missing your period. However, there are sensitive tests available that can detect pregnancy earlier than that, up to a week before your period is due. 

Where can I take a pregnancy test?

You can buy a pregnancy test from a supermarket or your pharmacist and take the test at home.

Otherwise you may be able get one for free from the following places:

• Your GP
• Community contraceptive clinics
• Sexual health clinics
• Brook centres which provide free tests to under 25s
• Some youth centres

Call the National Sexual Health helpline on 0300 123 7123 for further advice.

I don't think my results are accurate, what should I do?

• Do another test after a few days, especially if your first test was negative and you've taken it earlier than when your period was due
• Don't wait too long to interpret the test and follow the instructions carefully

• Speak to your pharmacist for advice
• Visit your GP if you think you're pregnant but you're getting negative results

What should I do if I'm pregnant?

Speak to your midwife or GP as soon as you find out you’re pregnant. They’ll be able to give you advice on how to take care of yourself in the coming months and to start your antenatal care. Look for support from friends and family.

Next steps

• Check directions on how to use the pregnancy test and interpret the results
• Ask for advice on what to do next from your midwife or GP if you get a positive result

*Subject to availability and clinician approval. Charges apply.