False Negative Pregnancy Test Results: Chances and Causes

false negative pregnancy test results

When you’re trying to get pregnant or think you may be even if you weren’t trying, the first place you likely head is to the store to buy a home pregnancy test. However, knowing if you are or are not pregnant is pretty important information, which leaves to question how common are false negative pregnancy test results? False positives? Can you really trust what that tiny result screen is telling you?

How do pregnancy tests work?

Understanding the accuracy and possibility of false positive pregnancy tests or false negative pregnancy test results  depends on understanding the way a pregnancy test works. Pregnancy tests detect a hormone called Human Chorionic Gonadotropin (hCG) also known as the pregnancy hormone. hCG facilitates the continuance of progesterone production which maintains the uterine lining during pregnancy. This hormone can usually be detected by your first missed period because the cells that will later form your placenta begin to release it immediately after the fertilized egg has implanted in your uterine lining. Generally, about 10-12 days after conception hCG levels have reach a detectable potency for home urine tests.

How common is a false negative pregnancy test result and why do they happen?

False negative pregnancy test results are actually rather common as they have numerous causes. A false negative pregnancy test by definition is a test that says not pregnant, but you actually are pregnant. While most tests are in the 97-99% accuracy range, this doesn’t account for misuse or malfunction of the test.

You may receive a false negative pregnancy test result if:

-You tested too early, and hCG levels were not yet sufficient.
-You didn’t test too early, but hCG levels were still insufficient.
-Your urine was too diluted.
-The test was done incorrectly, for example, perhaps the test was not saturated entirely in urine.
-The test was expired.
-The test results were read too long after testing.
-You misread the result (1 in 4 women are said to misread traditional pregnancy tests.)

If you think you may be pregnant or are experiencing any symptoms of pregnancy and acquire a negative pregnancy test result, it’s best to test again in around a week. If the second test is negative, but symptoms persist (including missed periods) a health care professional should be seen.

How common are false positive pregnancy test results, and why do they happen?

False positives on a pregnancy test are rather rare. A true false positive, excluding misreading of results, are harder to obtain, but they can happen.

You may receive a false positive pregnancy test result if:

-You misread the result. Some tests will leave a very faint line as the urine passes the test indicator window that can appear to make the test positive. Tests that come back with very faint results should be re-done in a few days to a week.

-You got an evaporation line. Some tests, usually the cheaper variety, will show a “ghost line” which is typically colorless or thin even if you are not pregnant. This is more common in blue-dye tests. If you have to squint to see the line, test again in 48 hours.

-You waited too long to read the results. In most cases, an aged result will appear negative, but there have been cases where they turned from negative to positive after the recommended read time.
-You were pregnant, but are not anymore. If a pregnancy naturally aborts early on, hCG is still produced. This is called Chemical Pregnancy.

-You are taking a drug that contains hCG. Some fertility drugs in particular contain hCG. Be sure that any and all medication you may be taking does not contain hCG if you attempt to use a home pregnancy test. Note that birth control can not cause a false positive.

-You have cancer or an ovarian cyst. Certain kinds of cancer and ovarian cysts release hCG as well which could result in a false positive.

-You are post-menopausal or just got a really sensitive test. The female body naturally contains low levels of hCG (which are higher in some post-menopausal women) and the accuracy of pregnancy tests varies, in very rare cases a test will read positive based solely on the normal levels of hCG in your body.

Can you trust home pregnancy tests?

A home pregnancy test is a good first step in determining if you are or are not pregnant if you have missed a period or are experiencing other pregnancy symptoms, however, they are not without fail making them a better first step than last. When in doubt, see a health care provider especially if what caused that doubt continues.

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