If you have missed a period and recently had unprotected sex, you may be pregnant. Pregnancy tests are most reliable from the first day of your missed period.
When you can do a pregnancy test
You can carry out most pregnancy tests from the first day of a missed period. 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 8 days after conception.
You can do a pregnancy test on a sample of urine collected at any time of the day. It doesn't have to be in the morning.
Where you can get a pregnancy test
You can also buy pregnancy testing kits from pharmacists and some supermarkets. They can give a quick result and you can do the test in private.
The following places provide free pregnancy tests:
- community contraceptive clinics – find sexual health services near you
- sexual health clinics
- some young people's services – call the national sexual health helpline on 0300 123 7123 for details
- Brook centres – for under-25s
You may also be able to get a pregnancy test free of charge from your GP.
How does a pregnancy test work?
All pregnancy tests detect the hormone human chorionic gonadotrophin (hCG), which starts to be produced around 6 days after fertilisation.
Most pregnancy tests come in a box that contains 1 or 2 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 check the instructions.
Pregnancy test results
Home pregnancy tests are accurate as long as you follow the instructions correctly.
A positive test result is almost certainly correct. However, a negative test result is less reliable.
The result may not be reliable if you:
- do not follow the instructions properly
- take the test too early
Some medicines can also affect the results.
If you get a negative result and still think you're pregnant, wait a few days and try again. Speak to your GP if you get a negative result after a second test but your period has not arrived.
Continuing with the pregnancy
If you're not sure you want to be pregnant
If you're not sure about continuing with the pregnancy, you can discuss this confidentially with a healthcare professional. Your options are:
- continuing with the pregnancy and keeping the baby
- having an abortion
- continuing with the pregnancy and having the baby adopted
As well as a GP or a nurse at your GP surgery, you can also get accurate, confidential information – from the age of 13 – from the following:
- a community sexual health clinic
- the Marie Stopes website
- the FPA: pregnant and don't know what to do leaflet
All these services – including community contraceptive clinics – are confidential. If you're 13 or older, the staff won't tell your parents. They'll encourage you to talk to your parents, but they won't force you.
If you're under 25 and would prefer advice specifically for young people, the sexual health charity Brook provides a range of services for young people. The Brook website contains information on pregnancy choices. You can also use the Ask Brook 24/7 service.
Video: is the pregnancy test accurate?
In this video, a midwife explains when you can take a pregnancy test and how to do it properly.
Media review due: 5 February 2023