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How to take a pregnancy test

Woman sat in bathroom holding a blue and white pregnancy test
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If there’s one pharmacy item that couples trying to conceive should stock up on, it’s a pregnancy test! Having a pregnancy test at home can also be a good idea if you’re sexually active and you want to check if you’re pregnant or not.

There are lots of different types of test available to buy in high street pharmacies and supermarkets, and most of them work in a really similar way.

Something that’s worth bearing in mind, though, is that while home pregnancy tests are typically really reliable when it comes to a positive result, negative results are less likely to be accurate. If you’ve had a negative result but your period is late, it can be a good idea to try another test in a few days’ time.

What types of pregnancy test are there?

Most pregnancy tests work in a similar way, however each one will be slightly different. When you get your test, make sure you read the instructions carefully so that you’re able to use it correctly.

Normal vs early detection

Most types of pregnancy test are designed to be used on the first day of your missed period. If you’ve had unprotected sex and you notice that your period is late, you can pick up any kind of pregnancy test to use at home.

Some types of test are designed to be more sensitive, so you can check if you’re pregnant even before you’ve missed your period. These types can detect a pregnancy as early as eight days after you’ve conceived.

Digital vs traditional

Some types of tests are digital, which means they have a small screen that displays the results in writing. Sometimes they can also display how far along your pregnancy is.

A traditional pregnancy test displays the results with coloured lines, which can be more confusing. Digital tests are usually more expensive, but you might prefer using this kind as the result will be easier to read.

How to choose a pregnancy test

There’s no right or wrong choice when it comes to choosing a pregnancy test. Any that you pick up from a pharmacy or supermarket should do the job just fine. The main thing to decide is whether you want an early detection test. An early detection test can normally be used up to six days before your period; normal tests can be used from the first day of your (missed) period.

Two popular brands of pregnancy test in the UK are Clearblue and First Response. You can also get own-brand tests from your local pharmacy, which are usually cheaper than the branded alternatives. At LloydsPharmacy we offer own-brand digital tests and early pregnancy tests.

How to use a pregnancy test

If you’ve bought a normal pregnancy test, you’ll have to wait until the first day of your next period to use it. If your period doesn’t come, you can use the test. If you don’t know when your next period is coming, wait at least 21 days from when you last had unprotected sex.

An early detection test can be used earlier than a normal test, but just make sure you read the instructions to find out how early.

  • Before you use your pregnancy test, take out the information leaflet and read it carefully, making sure you understand the instructions, and how your results will be displayed.
  • When you’re ready, take the test to the toilet, remove the cap, and immerse the stick in your urine, as instructed in the leaflet. You can do this at any time of day – it doesn’t have to be done first thing in the morning!
  • Depending on the type of test, you might be able to wee straight onto the stick or you might need to wee into a container then dip the stick into your urine.
  • When you’re done, replace the cap and wait for a few minutes for the results to display – the leaflet will tell you how long to wait.

If it’s a digital test, the screen should display the results in writing e.g. “Pregnant” or “Not Pregnant”. If it’s a traditional test, the results will show up as one or more coloured lines.

Sometimes the lines on a traditional test can appear quite faint, which might have you doubting the result. According to Clearblue, a faint line still means you’re pregnant. The line is just more likely to be faint if you’re very early on in your pregnancy.

What to do if you get a positive pregnancy test?

A positive result on a modern pregnancy test is likely to be accurate. If you get a positive result and you want to continue with the pregnancy, you should contact your GP or a midwife. You can also use this due date calculator from the NHS to work out when your baby should arrive.

If you don’t want to continue with the pregnancy, or you aren’t sure, you can speak to someone at your GP surgery or get advice from MSI Reproductive Choices or a community sexual health clinic.

Getting a negative pregnancy test

A negative result on a modern pregnancy test is slightly less likely to be accurate than a positive result. In other words, it’s possible to get a false negative. If your period is late, you can try taking another test in a couple of days. If this test is also negative, and you still haven’t got your period, you should speak to your GP.