Have you ever been certain you were pregnant only to be crushed by a negative test?
You’re not alone. We’ve been there too and understand the disappointment that follows. Somehow it’s a little easier to handle a negative test result when you were expecting it to be negative.
But is it still possible to be pregnant when your pregnancy test result is negative?
The pregnant body can be a mysterious thing, baffling even the most reliable tests. If you missed your period but still got a negative pregnancy test result, this is what you should know.
- A negative pregnancy test result after a missed period could be due to not enough HCG hormones, testing too soon, or using a faulty test.
- Diluted urine and certain medications may also cause a false negative result.
- To get accurate results, read the test instructions carefully, wait at least 24 hours after your period should have started, and don’t rush the testing process.
- Consult a doctor if you continue to see negative results after two weeks, suspect an ectopic pregnancy, or if you are experiencing strong early pregnancy symptoms.
Negative Pregnancy Tests While Pregnant
Home pregnancy tests detect HCG, a hormone your body produces during pregnancy. For a positive test, the amount of HCG needs to be high enough for the test to recognize it. So if you haven’t produced enough, you’ll see a negative result.
Negative Pregnancy Test After a Missed Period
Since most pregnancy tests claim to detect early signs of pregnancy with even the slightest HCG amounts, it may seem impossible to test negative after missing your period. However, while these early detection tests work for most people, every woman is different, and the quantity of HCG in her body doubles every 2 to 3 days.
So, the short answer is yes, it’s possible to record a negative pregnancy test result after missing your period — even if you are pregnant!
If your pregnancy test is negative but you’ve missed your period, you may be testing too early, or your pregnancy has a unique condition. There are various reasons for a false negative pregnancy test, even after missing your period.
Causes of a False Negative Pregnancy Test
A negative result on a test after missing the first few days of your period does not necessarily indicate pregnancy, especially if you have irregular cycles. So unless you’re experiencing other pregnancy symptoms or instinctively feel that you may be pregnant, the test might just be right.
However, here are five of the most common reasons you may test negative even after a missed period.
1. Not enough hormones to detect
Sometimes a negative pregnancy test happens when you test before you’ve produced enough HCG to register a positive result. Some women build these hormone levels slower, and in such cases, it takes longer to test positive for pregnancy. Try a more sensitive pregnancy test that will test positive at a lower threshold.
At implantation, your HCG level may start at 1 mIU/ml. Implantation occurs between days 6 and 12. A normal pregnancy increase can take two days to get to 2 mIU/ml, another three days to get to 5mIU/ml, and on day 8, it may only be 10 mIU/ml. A normal pregnancy that implants on day 12 may only be 10 mIU/ml 8 days later. Even the most sensitive pregnancy test may only start to show a positive result more than a week after your period is due. This is rare, but it happens.
Editor's Note:Caitlin Goodwin, MSN, RN, CNM
2. Testing too soon
For a home pregnancy test to detect the life growing inside you, several days must have passed since ovulation. Technically, your pregnancy starts at ovulation, not when you conceive. You may ovulate later than usual due to overtraining in your fitness program, increased stress, breastfeeding another child, or several other reasons (2). If your ovulation occurs later in your cycle, your period may not even be considered late when you take a pregnancy test.
3. Faulty test
Every home pregnancy test should have one line that always appears. This “control” line assures you that the test is in good condition and can be trusted. Read the instructions to learn what each test line means. If the control line is absent, the test is a dud, and you’ll need to test again.
4. You’re not pregnant
There are a few reasons why your period may be late. You’d be surprised how minor changes can affect your cycle (3). Also, many symptoms associated with the onset of your period can mimic early pregnancy symptoms, such as breast tenderness, fatigue, and cramping, so this could be why you have such a strong suspicion of pregnancy.
5. Diluted urine
If you’ve seen the movie “Juno,” you’ll remember the scene where she downs a gallon of Sunny D before taking her test. This worked out great for the fictional teen, but it probably will lead to an inaccurate result for you.
Overconsumption of fluids before testing will dilute the test. So unless you have an abundance of HCG in your urine, you won’t be getting the concentrated amounts of HCG needed for an accurate result (4).
When Should You Test Again?
Two weeks after your missed period, there should be enough HCG to cause a positive result.
I understand that it can be so hard to wait, and maybe you can’t go that long. If that’s the case, just test again after a couple more days, especially if you suspect you may have tested too soon.
Is This a Bad Sign?
In some rare cases, a pregnancy test result that does not increase as expected might be due to an ectopic pregnancy (5).
An ectopic pregnancy is when the egg attaches anywhere outside the womb. This can be dangerous for many reasons and could affect the rise in hormone levels needed to test positive for pregnancy. Ectopic pregnancies generally increase in HCG, but the numbers bounce around and do not increase in a typical fashion (doubling every two to three days).
Could My Medications Be the Culprit?
Painkillers, antibiotics, or other forms of medication unrelated to fertility won’t affect your hormone levels or delay ovulation. Although fertility medications can produce false positives, they rarely produce false negative results.
However, birth control, blood pressure medications, or allergy relief meds could interfere in other ways (6). Some may change when you ovulate or create irregularities with your period, leading you to suspect pregnancy.
What if I Can’t Retest?
See your health care provider if you don’t want to wait another week before testing again or you’re 100% convinced you’re pregnant. They can test your blood to confirm your pregnancy.
A lab test is quicker and more reliable than an at-home test. It is especially advised if you’re experiencing many early pregnancy symptoms or if you usually have regular periods.
Tips To Get an Accurate Result
It’s so easy to rush through a pregnancy test either because you’re excited, nervous, or both. Slowing down and taking time to ensure you do it correctly can save you unnecessary heartbreak.
1. Read the instructions completely
Sure, you’ve done this before, and you totally get the gist of it. Pee on the stick, wait a minute, and voila! Magical answers!
But hang on. Some pregnancy tests may have a variation or unique features to watch. For example, with most tests, you shouldn’t tilt the front upwards as you pee, or even after, because that could mess up the results.
Reading the instructions carefully will help you to do the test correctly. They also often tell you how early you can take the test, how long to wait before trusting your result, and other important factors.
2. Don’t rush the process
Wait until you have to pee naturally, and not right after consuming a lot of liquids. Just pee normally, following the instructions, and then set the test aside and wait the total amount of time suggested.
Anxiously staring at the test can cause you to react too soon or even throw it away before it’s done processing. It can also lead to dropping, bumping, or damaging the stick, making the whole ordeal a waste of time.
It’s always best to wait patiently, as hard as that may be.
3. Wait until at least 24 hours after your period should have started
While some tests claim to work days before your period is even due, a test can’t force your body into producing HCG, and it doesn’t know when you ovulated.
If you decide to try those early detection tests, be prepared for a potential false negative. If your result is negative, relax until at least a day after your period should’ve started, then test again. We know that waiting is the hardest part, but it will save you time, money, and your sanity.
When Should I See a Doctor?
If two weeks have passed since your estimated period date and you still haven’t gotten a positive pregnancy test, you should seek help. Minor issues like stress or diet changes that affect your cycle could be masking a more significant problem or lead to one later on.
You’ll also need to seek care from an OB provider as soon as possible if you’re expecting, so the sooner you find out if you’re having a baby, the better.