“I look and feel pregnant, but tests are negative!”
So what do you do when you feel pregnant, take an at-home pregnancy test, yet the results are negative. And why would this happen?
One answer could be that you aren’t pregnant. But it’s natural to wonder if it is possible to have a negative pregnancy test and still be pregnant. The answer, quite simply, is “yes.”
If you’re concerned about the accuracy of your test result, that’s perfectly okay! In fact, at-home pregnancy tests aren’t conclusive, so taking further steps to confirm or rule out pregnancy is important.
Let’s explore how to read an at-home test result, how to determine the conclusiveness of your test result, and your best next steps.
HOW DO I READ MY TEST RESULT?
You have that feeling. Something is just a little “off.” Maybe your period is a day or two late. Perhaps you feel more fatigued lately or a little queazy. Or, maybe you’ve had to pee more often than usual, and your mood is a constant roller coaster.
You may have Googled common pregnancy symptoms, and one or two line up with your recent symptoms. So, you bought an at-home pregnancy test and took it. How do you read your test?
Classic at-home pregnancy tests have one or two result windows. To confirm that the test works, both provide a reference (or control) line.
- Single-window tests: In single-window tests, if another line appears beside the reference line, the result is positive. If the test line remains alone, the result is negative.
- Two-window tests: Two-window pregnancy tests show the reference line in an entirely separate window. In the adjacent window, a plus sign indicates a positive result, and a horizontal line indicates a negative result.
- Digital tests: Digital pregnancy tests simply read “Yes” or “No.”
Keep in mind that every pregnancy test is slightly different. So, read and follow the instructions to the best of your ability for maximum accuracy.
HOW CONCLUSIVE IS MY TEST RESULT?
To answer this question, we’ll ask two more! First, when did you take the test? Pregnancy tests are more accurate when administered a few days after a missed period. Second, how accurate are pregnancy tests in general? If you followed every instruction and waited for a few days after a missed period, most at-home tests are over 90% accurate. However, they aren’t conclusive.
I LOOK AND FEEL PREGNANT, BUT TESTS ARE NEGATIVE
Of course, your test result could be negative because you aren’t pregnant. But, you could also be pregnant, and tests are still negative. So, let’s examine how it’s possible to have a negative pregnancy test and still be pregnant.
1. Pregnancy hormone levels are too low or too high for the home pregnancy test to detect.
It’s possible that you are pregnant, but the pregnancy test cannot read your hormone levels because they are too high or too low for the test to read.
Situations that can cause your pregnancy hormone levels to be too low in your urine to identify may include:
- You took the test too early in your pregnancy.
If you test too early in your pregnancy, the pregnancy hCG hormone hasn’t risen to a detectable level, and you will get a negative test result even if you’re pregnant.
Pregnancy tests advertise that they can detect pregnancy six days before your missed period, but that can lead to much confusion for you when you get a negative test result.
- Your urine is too diluted.
It’s best to test first thing in the morning or after you haven’t had anything to drink for six hours. If you’re freshly hydrated, the fluid will dilute the pregnancy hormones if you are pregnant, and you can end up with a negative pregnancy test.
- You may have ovulated late in your menstrual cycle.
If you ovulated later in your cycle, for example, on day 18 instead of day 14, you would have conceived later in your cycle. Ovulating later means you wouldn’t be as far along in your pregnancy as you might expect, so your pregnancy hormones will be lower than what the pregnancy test can pick up.
Many people aren’t aware that pregnancy hormone levels can be so high that it overwhelms the test, creating a “hook effect” and a negative test result. It’s rare, but conditions that can cause your hormones levels to be too high for the test to report include:
- Pregnancy with multiples
If you’re pregnant with twins or triplets, you can have very high hCG levels resulting in a negative pregnancy test.
- Medical conditions related to pregnancy
Women can also have a negative pregnancy test if they have a pregnancy-related medical problem. Ectopic pregnancies (a medical emergency requiring immediate intervention) and molar pregnancies are examples of nonviable pregnancy conditions that sometimes cause negative pregnancy test results.
2. The pregnancy test is defective.
It’s also possible that you’re pregnant, but the test is negative because the pregnancy test is defective. If the control window doesn’t have a line, try taking a second test.
3. You made a mistake taking the test.
You may have taken a gazillion tests in the past, and it feels like second nature. But be sure to follow the test instructions precisely to get an accurate result.
WHAT ARE MY NEXT STEPS?
Because pregnancy tests aren’t conclusive, it’s possible to have a negative pregnancy test and still be pregnant. What’s next? How can you know for sure if you’re pregnant or not?
First, trust your gut. You know your body, and if you suspect you’re pregnant despite a negative pregnancy test, contact a trusted local pregnancy clinic for answers.
WILLOWBROOK WOMEN’S CENTER
Willowbrook Women’s Center is here to answer your questions. With a non-judgmental, welcoming atmosphere, we care about each and every woman who walks through our doors.
We are a limited pregnancy center with licensed healthcare professionals and offer no-cost services, including pre-abortion ultrasound screenings, so you can get the answers you need. Call us at 816-244-7824 or schedule an appointment today. We look forward to walking beside you with compassion.