Sexual Supplement

When and how to do a pregnancy test

Whether you've been trying for a baby for a few months or if you've been on contraception and think something's gone wrong, many women will find that they have to take a pregnancy test at some point in their lives.

These tests work by detecting the presence of the pregnancy hormone in your body, called human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG), which is made by the placenta. Women should carry out a pregnancy test on a sample of urine from the first day of a missed period, but some very sensitive pregnancy tests can be used even before this point.

If you don't know when your next period is due, the NHS recommends that you do the test at least 21 days after you last had unprotected sex, and then possibly take another test should your period still not arrive a few days later.

Most pregnancy tests that you buy at the pharmacy or supermarket come in a small box that contains one or two long sticks, which you pee on and then show up the result after a few minutes.