Pregnancy tests detect the presence of the pregnancy hormone in your body. This hormone is called human chorionic gonadotrophin (HCG).
A pregnancy test is the only way to know for sure whether you're pregnant. But when should you take a pregnancy test? And what do the results mean?
When to take a pregnancy test
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 that you're pregnant because you have certain symptoms, such as enlarged or tingling breasts, nausea (feeling sick), dizziness, a metallic taste in your mouth, or a feeling that your period is about to start. However, not every woman has these symptoms.
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.
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 previously used.
Hormonal methods of contraception, such as the contraceptive pill, implants and injections, work by changing a woman's hormone balance. However, 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 it's positive, this means that you're pregnant.
What's a test like?
Most 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:
- GP surgeries,
- community contraceptive clinics (Find sexual health services),
- sexual health or genitourinary medicine (GUM) clinics,
- some young people's services (call 0800 567123),
- Brook Advisory Centres (for under-25s), and
- some pharmacies.
Or buy one from pharmacies or some supermarkets.
These places provide a confidential service, which means that unless they think you're at risk, they won't tell your parents or carers. This is true even if you're under 16.
Some anti- abortion organisations offer free pregnancy testing, but may push you to go through with a pregnancy even if you're not sure you want to. Try to get your test from an organisation that won't pressure you either way. To find out whether the organisation is anti-abortion when you first contact it, ask if it refers people for abortions.
Negative 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 that 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 contraception. See your GP, a community contraceptive clinic, a young person's clinic, or a sexual health or GUM clinic. Find a clinic.
Positive test results
If the test is positive, you're pregnant and you face a big decision. You can continue with the pregnancy or you can have an abortion, which is legal in Great Britain even if you're under 16. As soon as you find out that you're pregnant, talk to your GP, or a doctor or nurse at your community contraceptive clinic, young person's service or sexual health clinic.
If you decide to have an abortion, it's safer to do it as early as possible. Most abortions are carried out before 13 weeks of pregnancy. If you decide to continue the pregnancy, you need to start antenatal (pregnancy) care. See your GP.
You can also talk to someone you trust, such as your boyfriend, friends or parents. Or you can learn more about your options by calling the following organisations:
Marie Stopes has a useful pregnancy questionnaire to help you consider your feelings about being pregnant. You can also ask questions through the fpa's web enquiry service, Ask WES.
All these services, including community contraceptive clinics, are confidential, so they won't tell your parents. They'll encourage you to talk to your parents, but they won't force you.