Were you sure you were pregnant – even positive – but got crushed by a negative test?
The pregnant body can be a mysterious thing, baffling even the most reliable of tests.
If you missed your period, but still got a negative pregnancy test result, this is what you should know.
Negative Pregnancy Tests While Pregnant?
Many women can be misled by a negative pregnancy test when they are, in fact, pregnant. These tests, in general, aren’t as accurate as we’d like to believe (1).
When you use a home pregnancy test, what it’s searching for is hCG, a hormone your body produces during pregnancy. For a positive test, the amount of hCG needs to be detectable, so if you haven’t produced enough, you’ll see a negative result.
Negative Pregnancy Test Even 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 the pregnancy hormone hCG doubles every 2 to 3 days.
So, the short answer is yes, it’s absolutely possible to record a negative result after missing your period, even if you are pregnant!
It is possible you are testing too early still, 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 why you may test negative even after a missed period.
1. Not enough hormones to detect
Like we discussed earlier, you might not yet have produced enough hCG to register a positive result. Some women build these hormone levels slower, and in such cases, it would take 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 day 6 to 12. A normal pregnancy increase can take 2 days to get to 2 mIU/ml, another 3 days to get to 5mIU/ml, and on day 8, it may only be 10 mIU/ml. This means that a normal pregnancy that implants on day 12 may only be 10 mIU/ml 8 days later. In other words, the most sensitive pregnancy test may only start to show a positive more than a week after your period is due! This is rare, but it happens.
Editor's Note:Caitlin Goodwin, MSN, RN, CNM
2. You are still testing too soon
In order for a home pregnancy test to detect the life growing inside you, a number of days must have passed since ovulation. Technically, your pregnancy starts at that point, not when you conceive. Sometimes, we ovulate later than usual, due to overtraining in your fitness program or increased stress. So if this is the case, your period isn’t even “late” yet (2).
3. Your test was faulty
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 find which line means what, and if the control line is absent, you have no reason to panic.
4. You’re not pregnant
There are a few reasons why your period may be late. You’d be surprised what little 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 for you, it probably will lead to an inaccurate result.
Overconsumption of fluids before testing dilutes it, so unless you have an abundance of hCG in your urine, you won’t be getting the concentrated amounts of hCG needed (4).
When Should You Test Again?
Considering the way pregnancy works, at seven 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 2-3 days).
Could My Medications Be The Culprit?
In general, 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, if you use birth control, blood pressure medications, or allergy relief meds, (6) they could interfere in other ways. Some may change when you ovulate or create irregularities with your period, which can lead you to suspect pregnancy.
What If I Can’t Retest?
If you don’t want to wait another week before testing again or you’re 100 percent convinced you’re pregnant, see your healthcare provider. They can test your blood to either confirm or deny your pregnancy.
This is a quicker, more reliable method than an at-home test and is especially advised if you’re experiencing many early pregnancy symptoms, or 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 it’s done properly 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!
Hold your horses there. 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 They also often tell you how early the test can be taken, 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 full amount of time suggested.
Staring at the test anxiously 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 just 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 that claim to work days before your period is even due, a test can’t force your body into making 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 you get one, relax until at least a day after your period should’ve started. I know 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 which affect your cycle could be masking a bigger problem, or lead to one later on and honestly, it just sucks not knowing for sure.
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 yes, you’re having a baby, the better.