Why Am I Having Pregnancy Symptoms but a Negative Test?
You're gagging at the smell of your coworker's lunch and skipping yoga because you're just too tired to do anything in leggings that doesn't involve Netflix, so you take a pregnancy test because you're obviously pregnant except...you're not? The test is negative. WHAT IN THE ACTUAL?!
Here are some reasons you might be feeling pregnant with a negative test:
- You're not pregnant, your symptoms are from something else entirely (like maybe not wanting to chat with Orchid about her enlightening trip to three wineries over the weekend).
- You're pregnant, but it's too early to test so you got a negative result.
- Your urine is diluted from drinking too much water in preparation to take the test.
- You're ovulating, so those surging hormones are making you feel rough.
- You really want to be pregnant and your body is playing tricks on you.
- You're taking the wrong test and you need to use one that'll be accurate at this stage in your cycle.
Why Your Test is Negative But You Still Feel Super Pregnant
You’re Not Pregnant
This is the most likely scenario, since oftentimes, once you’re experiencing noticeable pregnancy symptoms, the hormones are built up enough in your body to produce an accurate positive result.
So, if the test is negative and you’re feeling sick, it could be that you’re dealing with PMS symptoms. Remember, PMS symptoms and early pregnancy symptoms often overlap. It's strange because before I became pregnant for the first time, I didn't notice much besides some extra bloating and hunger before my period was supposed to start. I wasn't thinking about getting or being pregnant so any unpleasant stuff like random nausea, dizzy spells or using the bathroom more frequently just got written off.
But after my first pregnancy, I noticed allllllllll of the symptoms - the sore throat, the runny nose, the achy legs - everything became a possible pregnancy symptom.
Symptoms Shared Between PMS and Early Pregnancy
So what symptoms commonly happen during both early pregnancy and PMS? According to Count Down to Pregnancy's surveys of pregnant and non-pregnant women, at 12 DPO (days past ovulation), which is usually two days before your period is supposed to start, it's common for both pregnant and non-pregnant women to experience:
- Tiredness. I'm always so, so tired in the day or two leading up to my period. Likewise, I found myself worn out just from doing my hair in the morning during the early days of both of my pregnancies.
- Slight cramps. With my first daughter, I had so many signs that I was about to start my period that, including cramps that felt just like the start of my menstrual cycle, that it didn't occur to me to take a pregnancy test until I was already late.
- Gas and bloating. If you're suddenly bloated and gassy it can be easy to suspect pregnancy, but these symptoms are also super common right before your period starts.
If you're wondering why so many PMS symptoms are similar to early pregnancy symptoms, it's because progesterone (which is responsible for the fatigue, cramps, bloating and gas) increases before your period starts and it increases in early pregnancy. So whether you're pregnant or not, there's certain symptoms you're almost certain to experience right around the time your period is due each month and oftentimes the only way to tell if they're due to pregnancy or PMS is if you miss your period.
You’re Pregnant, But It's Too Early to Test
Some women are really good at noticing the subtle differences in their body and hormones when they’re newly pregnant - even before a pregnancy test can. Some of the more nuanced symptoms that I experienced in early pregnancy which tipped me off to taking a test was that everything suddenly tasted so salty it made my tongue burn and I felt rather giddy and positive during times of the month when my hormones often made me feel more somber and anxious. Still, just because you are pregnant doesn't mean you have enough hormone in your body to take a pregnancy test.
When to Test
No earlier than 4 days before your expected period. If you’re more than four days from the day of your expected period, then there’s a solid chance you could be pregnant but you’re not far enough along for the test to turn positive.
In my own experience, I once tested around five days before my period was due to start because I just felt very pregnant. I used an early response test that said it could be used like six days before my missed period. Yet, the test came out negative. Undeterred, two days later, I tested again only to find that the test was obviously positive and I was indeed pregnant. So learn from me to hold off and try again in two days, since the pregnancy hormone HCG, which is what your pregnancy test depends on to turn positive, doubles every 48 hours.
You're Too Hydrated
Another reason you might be feeling pregnant yet getting a negative pregnancy test is that your urine is too diluted when you test it.
The more water, juice, etc. that you consume, the more hydrated you become. The more hydrated you are, the less concentrated your pee will be. And, when your pee isn't concentrated, there's less pregnancy hormone (HCG) in it. Especially in early pregnancy, when HCG is often scarce, it's important to take your test at a time when there's enough hormone for the test to read.
So, though it's tempting to take a test in the middle of the day after running out to the drug store, if you're testing before your period is even supposed to start, or just a day or so after you've missed it, you really should try to hold off and test straight away in the morning before you've had anything to eat or drink, ensuring that your urine is concentrated.
Symptoms During Your Cycle
How close to starting your period are you?
Surprise! Ovulation can actually make you feel really awful. For many of us, Mittelschmerz and ovulation sickness are a very real thing that happens midway through our cycle (about two weeks after our last period started and two weeks before the next one is supposed to start).
As your body readies itself to be fertile you might experience pain on either side of your abdomen, lower back pain, nausea, hunger, bloating and fatigue. It doesn't mean you're pregnant, it just means you're at the right time to become pregnant and your hormones are doing their lovely (awful) thing!
How to Know That You're Ovulating
- Period Trackers You can use a period tracker (I have one on my Fitbit app) to track when you're supposed to ovulate. Supposed to ovulate, because these trackers just take a guess based on your last period. If you want to know for sure the day that you ovulate, this isn't the most trustworthy route.
- Basal Body Temperature You can also track and chart your ovulation based on basal body temperature. Here's how to do it. If you're actively trying to conceive this can be an effective way to track your ovulation. But if you don't do it precisely you might not track accurately at all.
- Ovulation Tests These work a lot like a pregnancy test, except for ovulation. Dip the test strip in urine and wait for the two lines to appear. Just because there's two doesn't mean you're ovulating. You'll know you're ovulating when the second line turns as dark as the control line. come in a pack of 40 (plus 10 pregnancy test strips which I've used in past cycles). These ones
You Really Want to Be Pregnant
Your coffee tastes bad, you woke up with a headache, your stomach made a weird noise, you farted, you cried during a Tampax ad - these must be early pregnancy symptoms, right? Eh, maybe.
It's called symptom-spotting and anyone whose ever Googled "Am I pregnant?" has done it and according to my analytics that's a lot of people, me included.
Unfortunately, there's nothing more convincing that you're pregnant than really, really wanting to be pregnant. Since we're human, and no matter how many of the right foods we eat, exercises we try out or brisk walks we take, there will always be aches, pains, hiccups and waves of nausea and dizziness. This means that if you're looking for pregnancy symptoms, you can almost always find them - even when you're not pregnant.
You're Taking the Wrong Test
OMG there's so many pregnancy tests it can be dizzying if you're not already dizzy, and I've learned the hard way that not all tests are created equal!
The first thing you need to consider before you even buy a pregnancy test is "Where am I at in my cycle?" Are you already late for your period? Is it more than a week away? Do you have irregular periods and you're not sure when you're even supposed to start?
For instance, if you're not supposed to start your period for another four days, you don't want to buy a rapid response test because it's meant to read your urine quickly and will need a really high amount of HCG, normally found after your missed period, to even read it. Likewise, if you're still a few days out from starting your period, you don't want to mess with a digital test because those also take higher levels of HCG to produce a positive result. Taking one of these tests early on and getting a negative result doesn't actually mean you're not pregnant, it means the test isn't right for you at this stage of your pregnancy. Instead, you need an early result test - one that tests for low levels of HCG.
What Kind of Pregnancy Test Should I Take and When?
If your period is still over a week away...
If your period is less than a week away...
If your period is due in the next 4 days...
If your period is late...
If you don't know when your period is due because you have irregular cycles...
You probablly should NOT take a pregnancy test yet. If you really, really need to pee on something, grab some internet cheapies off Amazon, a dollar store test, or one of those cheap WalMart pink dye tests. The result will most likely not be accurate, but you won't feel bad for spending too much money to pee on something.
Try an early response test. I never reccommend blue dye tests unless you're late for your period. They're notorious for false positives. Instead, I go by the gold standard - a First Response Early Result pregnancy test, otherwise known as FRER. These are pretty dang accurate, and get more accurate as you get closer to your period. With my second daughter I took one when I was still 3 or 4 days away from my period and it gave me a positive result. Keep in mind that only "early result" tests will work at this stage, not digitals and not rapid response.
You can start with a FRER and if it's positive and you want to confirm, you can give a digital test a chance. Don't freak out though if you get a positive FRER and a negative digital test - digital tests require more HCG to say "pregnant"
Now's the time to rip open a Rapid Response test. First Response has a good one and it read a higher level of HCG but it also gives you a result pretty instantly, like, while you're still peeing on it. You can also accurately use a digital at this point (usually).
If you're not sure when your period is actually supposed to start, or where you're at in your cycle, but you suspect you might be pregnant, invest in a box or two of internet cheapies. These are brands like ClinicalGuard and WondFo which can be found on Amazon. I like these for testing regularly because you get a bunch for really cheap (usually around 20-25 for $8) and you can take one every other morning just to keep track of things if you have an irregular cycle. A word of warning though - don't let these develop for too long. If you don't have a second line after ten minutes, throw the test away and don't look at it again. These often develop a second "line" after sitting for a few hours, even when you're not pregnant.
Could I Still Be Pregnant With a Negative Test?
What's the best pregnancy test for early detection?
That table above will give you an idea of the different types of tests you can take at each stage of the waiting game. However, over every other type/brand simply because they're easy to interpret (two pink lines means you're pregnant, one pink line means you're not) and in my experience, have given me the earliest results. I feel comfortable testing with these four days before my period is supposed to start and if I get a negative I trust it's probably going to stay negative. With blue dye tests I've had false positives (ugh) and with some of the cheaper ones it feels like a gamble on reliability. I've always preferred First Response Early Result tests
Why do I always feel pregnant right before my period starts?
Ever taken a pregnancy test because you felt so sick and then wiped only to realize that you just started your period? Nope, those weren't pregnancy symptoms at all, they were premenstrual symptoms which, thanks to a rise in progesterone can make you feel, among other things, nauseous and tired.
Why do I have a negative pregnancy test but no period?
There's a lot of reasons your period could be late besides pregnancy including stress, getting over a bug, or a treatable condition that's made you ovulate late or not at all.
What if the pregnancy test just has a really, really faint second line?
Annoyingly, the internet will tell you that any faint second line means your test is positive, but that's just not true. Here's some ways you can tell if that faint second line is actually an early positive:
- You're using a pink dye test. The dye on these tests is much more reliable than blue dye tests, which often leave a vague second line even when they're negative.
- You don't have to hold the test up to the light to see the second line. If you're doing that, then you're just backlighting the indent that already exists for the dye of a true positive to pool into. If the only way you can see your second line is by holding it up to the light, consider it negative and try again in a few days.
- The second line appeared within a few minutes of taking the test. Some tests take longer to develop than others (up to ten minutes) but if you're pulling a test you took yesterday out of the trash and just now noticing a second line then it's probably an evaporation line and the test isn't a true positive.
I'm having lower back pain, missed my period, yet have a negative pregnancy test. What's going on?
A few different things could be going on. Here are the most common culprits of a missed period with pain when you're not pregnant:
- You have a urinary tract infection. Do you have a fever or pain when you're urinating? Keep an eye on your symptoms and if they continue or worsen call your doctor. Urinary tract infections are easy to treat but will make you feel awful the further they're allowed to progress without an antibiotic.
- You ovulated late and your period is gearing up to start. If you don't have any other symptoms of a UTI, chances are that you just ovulated late and your period is about to come on. Lower back pain is sometimes a pregnancy symptom but it's also a common PMS symptom.
- You're pregnant but it's too early to test. For some of us, we'll feel a plethora of symptoms and even miss our period before a test shows up positive. It comes down to how quickly the pregnancy hormone builds in your system and it's possible there's just not enough of it built up yet to give you your BFP.
I had sex during my fertile days and I'm still not pregnant. Why?
There are so many answers to this question that it would be impossible for me to say for sure. Keep in mind though that it takes healthy couples an average of six months to conceive when they're trying. That's six fertile cycles before they successfully conceive! In fact, it's rare to make that baby on the first cycle, with less than 40% of couples finding out they're pregnant within the first month of trying.
Before you check in with a doctor, make sure that you're properly charting your cycle so that you know when your fertile days really are. An app isn't a great way to check your fertility since it bases your fertile days on a woman's average cycle - not when you've actually physically ovulated. To know when you've actually ovulated, you'll need to either chart using a Basal Body Temperature thermometer or ovulation tests (which you can find at just about any drug store).
If, after a year of trying you're still coming up with negative tests it's a good idea to let your doctor know so you can get down to the bottom of things.
I experienced a late period with light bleeding and a negative pregnancy test. Could I really be pregnant and testing too early or was that just a weird period?
That depends on when you took the test. If you took the test while you were still bleeding or just shortly after, then it's possible that you tested too early and that what you experienced was actually implantation bleeding. A good way to tell the difference between implantation bleeding and a light or wonky period is A) How heavy the bleeding is (heavy bleeding with clots is not implantation bleeding) and B) How long the bleeding lasts. Typically, implantation bleeding is only going to last a day or two. Anything more is likely a period.
If you tested at least four days after the bleeding ended and your test was still negative then you're probably not pregnant.
How many negative pregnancy tests have you taken so far?
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.
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© 2019 Kierstin Gunsberg