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Checking for pregnancy before operations and investigations

Why am I being asked if I might be pregnant before I have my operation, X-ray, treatment or test?

We know that some tests and procedures put an unborn baby at risk of harm. These include certain X-rays, scans, operations and some medicines.

In order to prevent the possibility of harming an unborn baby and the distress that this would cause to the baby’s mother, we need to find out if girls of child-bearing age may be pregnant.

What does ‘child-bearing age’ mean?

This means girls aged 12 and over who have started their periods.

Why are you asking me if I might be pregnant, I am not having sex?

We understand that many teenage girls are not having sex, so it is not possible for them to be pregnant. We do not know who is and who isn’t sexually active, so to make sure we care for you safely, we ask everyone aged 12 and over if it is possible they might be pregnant.

What will you ask me?

First, we will usually ask you if you have started your periods, and if so, when your last period was. If your last period was over 1 month ago, we may ask you for a sample of your urine, so we can do a pregnancy test with your permission. In fact, we will ask all people having certain operations or treatments that carry a high risk of harm to an unborn baby if we can do a pregnancy test just to make absolutely sure that they are not pregnant.


We will usually try to talk to you about all of this on your own, but your parent or carer can be there if you want.

What happens after that?

If there is no chance of pregnancy, or if we do a pregnancy test and the result is negative, your test, treatment or operation will go ahead as planned.

If the pregnancy test is positive, we will tell you the result and any changes to your treatment that need to be made.

Will everything I say be kept confidential?

None of the hospital staff will share information about you without your permission unless they consider that your health, safety or welfare is at risk.

They will talk with you to encourage you to share that information with others if necessary. If you are pregnant and under 13 years old, it will be necessary for the hospital staff to share information with our Safeguarding Team and Children’s Social Care Services.

Can I refuse to have a pregnancy test?

Yes, you have the right to refuse the test.

In this case we will need to ask you some more detailed questions in private. However, it is possible that your surgery or test will be delayed or cancelled. You will be able to discuss this with your doctor or nurse, who will help you to find the best solution.

What should I do if I think it’s possible I might be pregnant when I come to the hospital?

It is important that you tell a nurse or doctor so that we can decide what to do next. Everything you tell us will be treated confidentially.

You may be offered a pregnancy test but, because a urine test may not be reliable very early in a pregnancy, you may still be pregnant even if the result is negative. In this case, a doctor will talk to you about whether you should go ahead with your operation, X-ray, treatment or test.

I’m not sure I really understand all of this. What should I do?

Ask a nurse or doctor to explain anything that you are not clear about. They will be happy to talk to you in private and to help with your questions.

Further resources

Please read our resource for more information about risks of anaesthetics.

Is something missing from this resource that you think should be included? Please let us know

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Please note: this is a generic information sheet relating to care at Sheffield Children’s NHS FT. These details may not reflect treatment at other hospitals. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professionals’ instructions. If this resource relates to medicines, please read it alongside the medicine manufacturer’s patient information leaflet. If this information has been translated into another language from English, efforts have been made to maintain accuracy, but there may still be some translation errors. If you are unsure about any of the guidance in this resource or have specific questions about how it relates to your child, always ask your healthcare professional for further advice.

Resource number: ANA16

Resource Type: Article

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