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What Causes a False Negative on a Pregnancy Test?

I enjoy sharing my expertise on pregnancy after having gone through four of them.

What might cause a pregnancy test to be negative, even if you are, in fact, pregnant?

What might cause a pregnancy test to be negative, even if you are, in fact, pregnant?

So you think you're pregnant, but the home pregnancy test came out with a big, fat negative? Every day I hear from women who believe that they are pregnant but took an at-home pregnancy test that showed up negative. For those hoping to be pregnant, this can be frustrating, and many women don't trust the results of these tests, particularly when they continue to have symptoms of early pregnancy.

Chances are very good that if you've gotten a negative pregnancy test, you are not pregnant. I cannot diagnose pregnancy over the internet, and I am not a medical doctor, but I'm here to help you as much as possible to determine the potential causes of a negative pregnancy test, which include:

  • testing too early
  • using an at-home test that isn't sensitive enough
  • not having enough hCG in your urine
  • incorrectly taking the pregnancy test

I've included some recommended brands of pregnancy tests on this page in order to help you choose a test with a higher sensitivity that is, therefore, more likely to help you to determine whether or not you are pregnant. I've researched the sensitivity of these pregnancy tests the long (and hard) way.

Causes of a False Negative on a Pregnancy Test

You Tested Too Early

Your body won't begin to produce hCG until the embryo has been implanted on the wall of your uterus. This implantation tells your body to begin producing the hormone that will help supply nutrients to the baby and nourish the embryo. If you're trying to conceive, I recommend learning to track your ovulation. Doing this will help determine the best time to test.

Implantation occurs between 8 to 10 days following your ovulation. If you are tracking your ovulation, implantation should be indicated by a dip in your temperature followed by a steady rise. The rise in temperature is a strong indication of pregnancy, particularly if it follows this dip. I recommend a basal body thermometer since it detects the smallest of changes in your body temperature.

Pregnancy tests can be purchased inexpensively from the dollar store. This New Choice pregnancy test detects pregnancy at 20 mIU. That's the strongest you can buy!

Pregnancy tests can be purchased inexpensively from the dollar store. This New Choice pregnancy test detects pregnancy at 20 mIU. That's the strongest you can buy!

Your Test Isn't Sensitive Enough

The key to getting accurate results early is to make sure that you are using the most sensitive pregnancy test available to you. I would like to point American women in the direction of the New Choice pregnancy test, which is available at the Dollar Tree. Yes, this $1 test is among the most accurate you can buy and proves that you don't have to spend a lot of money to get a sensitive test. I highly recommend purchasing one of the less expensive tests, as they are often more sensitive than their more expensive counterparts.

There Isn't Enough hCG in Your Urine

It's always best, particularly if testing early, that you use your first-morning urine when taking a pregnancy test. The amount of hCG in your first-morning urine is higher than it is when you've been using the restroom regularly.

Note that "first morning urine" (or FMU) refers to urine that is passed five hours after the last time you urinated. So if you wait five hours after using the restroom, this counts as first-morning urine. A three-hour nap won't do the trick. You will absolutely need to wait five hours or more before testing if you want the most accurate results from your home pregnancy test.

You Took the Test Wrong

Each test that you purchase will have specific instructions. In most cases, modern tests instruct you to urinate on a stick that will wick the urine up the stick and detect the hormone in your urine. In other cases, you are asked to dip a test strip into a cup of your urine in order to test for pregnancy. In either case, too much or too little urine will result in an inaccurate result—generally a false negative as opposed to a false positive.

It's recommended that you purchase more than one pregnancy test in case you make a mistake. I personally like the New Choice tests because they come with a pipette that allows you to drop the urine into the screen rather than dipping or urinating on the stick. This is a more foolproof method. And as I mentioned, they are one of the most sensitive tests on the market.

Tested Too EarlyInsensitive TestToo Little HormoneTested Incorrectly

Wait two days and test again.

Try a different brand.

Test with first-morning urine.

Test Again

Try a more sensitive test.

Test with first-morning urine.

Try a different brand.

Try a Different Brand

These tests indicate pregnancy, in spite of the very faint variable lines on these tests. You have to look closely to see that they are, indeed, positive. Congrats, you're going to be a Mama!

These tests indicate pregnancy, in spite of the very faint variable lines on these tests. You have to look closely to see that they are, indeed, positive. Congrats, you're going to be a Mama!

I Think I See a Line, but I'm Not Sure

Every woman who is trying to conceive has had at least one test that has stumped her. This is usually due to the habit of testing too early, but there is a solution to this problem. Follow these steps to check to make sure that you are seeing a line.

  1. Break open the plastic casing on your pregnancy test, and pull out the test strip. If you didn't have casing on your strip, then simply take the strip.
  2. Take a close-up photograph of your test strip. Make sure that your photograph is clear and illustrates the line you think you're seeing.
  3. Load the photograph into your computer and pull up an image editing program. If you don't have one, GIMP is free.
  4. Go to "colors" and then "invert" in order to invert the colors of your image.

If the test is actually positive, the line will be clear now! The above image is "no derivatives," which means that I can't edit this image, but if you want to use it as a tester to load into your graphics program and invert the image, you'll be able to see what I mean. I've already tested it and have personally used this method to confirm faint positives.

How Early Can You Take a Home Pregnancy Test for Accurate Results?

The earliest that you should take a home pregnancy test and expect accurate results is about fourteen days past ovulation (d.p.o.). This is why it's so important that you learn to track your ovulation if you're trying to conceive (or even if you're trying to avoid pregnancy). Again, I recommend a good basal body thermometer. Make sure not to purchase a scanning thermometer. You must purchase an oral one to get accurate results!

All pregnancy tests should be accurate, depending on the strength of the test and the amount of pregnancy hormone in your urine. These tests are 99 cents at the dollar store.

All pregnancy tests should be accurate, depending on the strength of the test and the amount of pregnancy hormone in your urine. These tests are 99 cents at the dollar store.

How Do Pregnancy Tests Work?

Pregnancy tests work by detecting the pregnancy hormone hCG in your urine. Any home pregnancy test should be accurate, depending on the amount hCG that is in your urine and the sensitivity of the test. A more sensitive test will detect hCG at lower levels than a less sensitive pregnancy test. Again, the price does not indicate the sensitivity of your pregnancy test.

For example, the Equate pregnancy tests, which are available at Walmart, are sensitive to 25 mIU, which is the same sensitivity as the EPT. Don't assume that your test has given you a negative result because you purchased a "cheap" test. This reference should help you to determine whether your brand of test is sensitive enough to detect early pregnancy.

How to Read a Pregnancy Test

Home pregnancy tests should be relatively simple to use. A standard test (non-digital) contains a test strip that a woman urinates on in order to saturate the stick. Different tests require different amounts of urine, so always read the instructions!

The strip wicks the urine up the strip. If you are pregnant, two lines will appear: the variable line (which indicates pregnancy) and the control line (which indicates that your test has worked correctly).

If two lines appear, you are pregnant. It doesn't matter how faint the variable line is, a line is a line, and you are pregnant.

Feel free to ask me questions relating to pregnancy tests and early pregnancy. I am not a doctor, but I will do my best to answer your questions. Please ensure that you have read this article.

Remember that I'm not a doctor, and therefore, if you continue to get negative pregnancy tests are convinced you are pregnant, you should see your doctor, as the video above suggests. This is important because in rare cases, a false negative could be an indication of a problem, such as ectopic pregnancy. If anything at all has you concerned about your health, contact your doctor immediately.

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.

Comments

lena on June 22, 2020:

Just wondering has anyone ever took a home preg and the test strip loosened but I think I say a very faint line but no line under ..hard to explain

chi on September 08, 2019:

i saw my menses on the 11/08/2019 but my next period is suppose to cone out on the 8/09/2019 cause my cycle is 28 day but am yet to see my period and i dont even knw my ovulating time it confusing. i need help

peace gaiya on February 04, 2019:

hi every one, I had an unprotected sex a week after my period and I took postinor 2 tablet 2 days after sex... after 5 days of taking porstinor I started bleeding and experiencing some sore and tender breast now is 3 weeks now. I did the pregnancy text but shows negative what could it be?? my nipples and breast is my worry now , please help me!!

Becki Rizzuti (author) from Central Indiana on December 21, 2018:

Is your period late? I'd wait a few more days and test again. If you're still negative and having these symptoms, consult your doctor.

Angel on December 19, 2018:

I’ve been having nausea dizziness and a few other things I think I’m pregnant but the test don’t show it

Becki Rizzuti (author) from Central Indiana on December 17, 2018:

Kayla, are you having a regular period?

Kayla on December 17, 2018:

I’ve had spotting for two months on the same day each month and have had pregnancy symptoms but negative at home pregnancy test. Could I be pregnant?

Becki Rizzuti (author) from Central Indiana on November 24, 2018:

Periods can be late when your follicular phase is longer than usual, making you ovulate later in your cycle than you ordinarily would. There are a number of explanations for this. If your period is late and a test is negative, you PROBABLY are not pregnant, but it won't hurt to check with your doctor to be sure the reasons for the delayed period!

Becki Rizzuti (author) from Central Indiana on June 30, 2018:

I'm sorry, I don't understand everything you've said here. I get that something is negative. Are you referring to pregnancy tests?

If you're not having a period and tests are negative, you should talk to your doctor. It could be a sign of a problem they can help with.

Becki Rizzuti (author) from Central Indiana on March 22, 2018:

Mary, you should see your doctor.

Mary Montero on March 22, 2018:

my last period was Jan. 23 2018.

but until now today is march 22 .. until now i dont have my period..

ive test but the result was negative ?

Katyland on August 21, 2017:

Hi everyone, I could use some help. We are actively trying to get pregnant. I have missed my periods for the last three months and have had nausea, belly twinges, moodiness, and I've been especially tired. I've taken multiple tests but all are negative. I spotted today very briefly and EXTREMELY light. Could I be pregnant or am I just losing it?? Lol

Dilshad on March 05, 2017:

I have not had a period since 24 January 2017, only have tender and sore breasts, but no other symptoms, had a negative result on the home test. Can I be pregnant?

Penny on January 16, 2017:

I miss my period on 10/1 and got the period on 15/1.. My boobs are sore since 12/1 till now... This morning I woke my mouth is bleeding 17/1 and I took two test they both negavit

Weird

Brea on January 14, 2016:

I am 14 days late, with symptoms (bloating, cramps, swollen breasts, fatigue, etc.) and have taken 3 tests, all negative. I've tried different brands and FMU, but I have no idea what's going on.

michelle on December 23, 2014:

say just wondering been on the implant since june 2013 and im having prego symptoms like stomach looks like im pregnant my boobs hurts off and on and moody sometimes and eating more i look like im gaining more weight and tired and head aches back and stomach pain especially by my vagina sharp pains shooting on the left side so not sure

Jwielech on November 29, 2014:

Question, the test says negative, but I feel terrible!!!! Is it possible to have symptoms and still show a negative test result? It's still early, and I shouldn't start my period for another week.

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