Positive pregnancy test: when do I need to see a doctor?
You've just found out you're pregnant! Now what? Should you see your GP? Here, with expert advice from NHS GP Dr Philippa Kaye, is everything you need to know
Last reviewed: January 2024 by Dr Philippa Kaye
You've taken a pregnancy test and it's come up positive. Wow, congratulations! So, the obvious next step is to make an appointment to see your GP, isn't it?
When should I tell my GP I'm pregnant?
"Your antenatal care should start as soon as possible after you find out you're pregnant," says our expert family GP Dr Philippa Kaye. "That's because some pregnancy screening tests, such as those for sickle cell and thalassaemia, should ideally be done at or before the 10th week of pregnancy."
So, once you have a positive pregnancy test, you should make an appointment with your GP, so that they can book you in with your local maternity services.
Do I have to tell my GP I'm pregnant?
No, you can kickstart your antenatal care in another way, if you prefer.
More like this
You could 'self-refer' by contacting your local maternity services directly – your GP's receptionist should have the details. If you don't have a GP, you can ask for these details at your nearest children's centre (your local council's website should have a list of the children's centres in your area).
Many hospitals now have an online self-referral form for maternity care on their website, so you may find, if you contact your local maternity service by phone, that's what you'll be asked to find and fill in. If you find the self-referral form under your own steam, do check first that your postal address falls within the hospital's catchment area.
Self-referral forms will ask for some personal and health details, and also for your GP's details, so that the antenatal team can share information about your antenatal care with them. You will also be asked for the date of the first day of your last menstrual period.
I can't get a doctor's appointment right away? What should I do while I wait?
Carry on as normal! But if you're not taking folic-acid supplements, now's the time to start.
"You should also start making some changes to your diet," says Dr Philippa, "checking out the NHS guide to which foods you should avoid in pregnancy, as well as steering clear of alcohol and not smoking.
"And if you develop pain or bleeding, then please seek medical advice."
What can I expect at my doctor appointment?
Probably not as much as you thought! For most of us, the first GP visit feels like an important milestone in our pregnancy journey: an 'official' confirmation of sorts.
But, brace yourself: even though you're probably brimming with the excitement of it all, for your GP, this is just a routine appointment where not an awful lot happens. Your first 'proper' pregnancy appointment (your 'booking-in appointment') will come when you're about 10 weeks pregnant and will be with someone on your midwife team.
To be fair to them, GPs do need to be pretty blank-faced when you first tell them about your positive test because, as happy as you are to be pregnant, they do also see other women in the early stages of pregnancy who definitely aren't happy about it.
"What your GP will do is ask you for the date of the first day of your last menstrual period," says Dr Philippa, "so that they can work out – roughly – how many weeks' pregnant you are and when your baby will be due." Don't worry if you don't know or can only guesstimate: your due date will be confirmed later and more accurately when you have your 12-week dating scan.
"Your GP may also ask questions about any previous pregnancies," says Dr Philippa, "and about any health issues and current medications, as well as discussing your smoking status and whether you have started folic-acid supplementation.
"They will then discuss the local options for your antenatal care and make the referral to your chosen venue."
I had my doctor's appointment today at 5 weeks and was really excited. I got in and told him I was pregnant, and he asked when my last period was. Then he went on to tell me what not to eat. And he'd be sending a letter that would generate me an appointment with the midwife. And that was it!
Will my doctor do another pregnancy test?
No. And your GP won't need to see your home test, either. Keep that stick at home; he or she will take you at your word!
"We wouldn't do another urine pregnancy test," says Dr Philippa. "And we wouldn't do a blood pregnancy test, either. That's because home pregnancy tests are now so extremely accurate, no other confirmatory tests are required."
What if I have questions?
Ask away! "You should always be offered the opportunity to ask questions," says Dr Philippa. "If you have some already, it may be helpful to write them down and bring them with you."
If you forget to ask your questions at your appointment or think of others later, don't worry: that, you will have the opportunity to discuss them – and anything else that crops us – with your midwife at your much longer booking-in appointment.
Will I hear my baby's heartbeat?
No, it's really best not to expect this. "It is very unlikely to happen at your first GP appointment," says Dr Philippa, "because it's generally too early in your pregnancy to hear your baby's heartbeat via a hand-held Sonicaid device."
What happens next?
"Once your appointment is over, your GP will complete a referral to your local midwifery team for your antenatal care," says Dr Philippa. "The antenatal clinic will then contact you about your booking-in appointment and first pregnancy ultrasound scan. If you haven't heard from them by the time you are 10 weeks' pregnant, do contact the antenatal team directly."
About our expert Dr Philippa KayeDr Philippa Kaye works as a GP in both NHS and private practice. She attended Downing College, Cambridge, then took medical studies at Guy’s, King’s and St Thomas’s medical schools in London, training in paediatrics, gynaecology, care of the elderly, acute medicine, psychiatry and general practice. Dr Philippa has also written a number of books, including ones on child health, diabetes in childhood and adolescence. She is a mum of 3.
Pic: Getty Images
Helen is author of the classic advice book Parenting for Dummies and a mum of 3. Before joining MadeForMums, she was Head of Community at Mumsnet and also the Consumer Editor of Mother & Baby.
5 ways to play with the Surge Blaster by Gelblaster
Advertisement feature with Currys