Pregnancy tests

If you think there is a chance you might be pregnant, you may be wondering when you can take a pregnancy test.

You are more likely to get an accurate result if you wait until the day of your missed period or after. Some very sensitive pregnancy tests can be carried out as early as 8 to 10 days after conception (the day the pregnancy occurred).

You can take a pregnancy test at home. Your GP or GP practice nurse will also be able to perform a pregnancy test for you.

Confirming your pregnancy with your GP - HSE

Home pregnancy tests

You can buy home pregnancy tests over the counter in your pharmacy. They are also sold in many shops and supermarkets. Read the instructions on the pregnancy testing kit before using it. The instructions that will tell you what the different colours or symbols mean.

How pregnancy tests work

Pregnancy tests detect the levels of a hormone called hCG in your urine (pee). This hormone is produced during pregnancy. It is present in your bloodstream and your urine.

In early pregnancy, the amount of the hormone in your system increases. The later you leave it to take a pregnancy test, the higher the hCG levels will be.

The earlier you take the test, the more likely you are to get a 'false negative' result. A 'negative' result is where the test shows up as negative even though you are actually pregnant.

Pregnancy tests that your doctor may do

Your GP will probably do a urine pregnancy test to detect whether you are pregnant.

It is always a good idea to bring a sample of urine to the GP surgery with you if you think you may be pregnant. This will mean your appointment is not delayed.

It will also avoid the 'stage fright' that can occur when you are trying to pee and you know someone is waiting on you.

The pregnancy testing kit that your GP will use is like the kits that you can buy over the counter.

Your doctor may perform a blood test to check the level of hCG in your blood. This test is done if you have had some bleeding from your vagina or if you have severe pains in your tummy. Your GP may also carry out a blood test if you have severe morning sickness.

Pregnancy tests and accuracy

A positive pregnancy test is almost always correct. Some negative tests may not be correct if you tested too early.

This is called a 'false negative' result. The result will present as negative, but you are actually pregnant.

This happens for a few of reasons, because:

  • you did the test too early
  • you didn't wait long enough before checking the result (always follow the instructions - it is normal for results to take 3 minutes to appear)
  • your urine is very diluted because you have been drinking a lot of water
  • there is a fault with the test

If the result of the test is negative, and you think you might still be pregnant, repeat the test a few days later. If symptoms persist after a few negative tests, make an appointment with your GP.

What if the result is positive?

A positive result generally means that you are pregnant. You should make an appointment to see your GP to confirm the pregnancy and to sign up for antenatal care.

If you are not sure you want to be pregnant it is good idea to make an appointment with your GP to discuss your options.

Your GP will listen and will not judge you.

Free advice may also be available from a family planning clinic.

Sometimes counselling can help you to work through your feelings about the pregnancy. It may help you make a decision on what is the right choice for you. has details of the support services available to you.

Page last reviewed: 15 March 2018
Next review due: 15 March 2021

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This project has received funding from the Government of Ireland’s Sláintecare Integration Fund 2019 under Grant Agreement Number 8.