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Pregnancy tests

If you think there is a chance you are pregnant, you may wonder 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 any time after that.

There are some very sensitive pregnancy tests that you can do as early as 8 to 10 days after conception (the day you got pregnant).

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

Visit your GP

If you think you might be pregnant, it is a good idea to visit your GP as soon as possible. They can confirm your pregnancy and talk to you about your feelings.

Confirming your pregnancy with your GP

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 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. This is where the test shows up as negative even though you are pregnant.

Sometimes you can get a 'false positive' from your test. This is when you leave it too long and an 'evaporation' line appears. Sometimes this is mistakenly read as being pregnant.

Pregnancy tests your GP may do

Your GP will probably do a urine pregnancy test to check if you are pregnant.

It may help to bring a sample of urine with you if you think you may be pregnant. This means you will not have to pee under pressure there.

The pregnancy testing kit your doctor uses will look like the kit you buy over the counter.

Your GP may do a blood test to check the level of hCG in your blood.

They may do this if you:

Accuracy of pregnancy tests

A positive pregnancy test is almost always correct. Some negative tests may not be correct. A 'false negative' means your test is showing negative, but you are pregnant.

This may happen because:

  • you did the test too early
  • you did not wait long enough before checking the result (always follow the instructions - results often take 3 minutes to appear)
  • your urine is very diluted because you drank a lot of water
  • there is a fault with the test

If the result of the test is negative, and you still think you might be pregnant, repeat the test a few days later. If you are still unsure after a few negative tests, contact your GP.

If the result is positive

If your test is positive, you should visit your GP to confirm the pregnancy and sign up for antenatal care.

If you are not sure you want to be pregnant, it may help to discuss your options with your GP.

Sometimes counselling can help you work through your feelings about being pregnant. It may help you decide what's right for you.


My Options provides judgement-free counselling and support services for unplanned pregnancy.

Contact My Options

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

Find a family planning clinic

Page last reviewed: 20 July 2023
Next review due: 20 July 2026

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