As reliable as over-the-counter pregnancy tests are, they still come with the smallest of risks of giving a false positive result. When women get a false positive outcome, they often experience a range of emotions from disappointment to outright anger. Rather than worry about getting such a result yourself, you can have the utmost faith in your results by understanding what can lead to a false positive. You can also minimize the risks of an unreliable test result by learning how to take your home pregnancy test correctly.
One of the most common reasons for getting a false positive pregnancy test result involves the use of medications that could interfere with the test strip’s ability to detect hCG. The hormone hCG can be detected about 11 days after conception has occurred. However, if you are not pregnant, but taking medications that contain hormones that are similar in composition to hCG, you may get a false positive result when in fact you are not really pregnant at all.
Some of the medications that are responsible for false positives include those taken by women who are going through early menopause or those who have thyroid disorders. If you get a positive result after taking a pregnancy test, you should see your doctor immediately for further testing, particularly if you are taking any medications for menopausal or thyroid conditions. Your doctor can order a more thorough blood test to determine if any hCG is in your bloodstream and if you are in fact pregnant.
Can You Get A False Positive Pregnancy Test?
Pregnancy tests that are sold over-the-counter are overwhelmingly reliable with their results. When you take a test and get a positive result, you have every reason to believe that you are in fact pregnant. However, circumstances can occur that lead you to believe that you got a false positive pregnancy test result after you start your period a number of days or even weeks later. In most cases when this happens, the woman who got the positive result was pregnant. However, her bleeding is actually a miscarriage rather than a regular period.
Unfortunately, a positive test result cannot indicate whether or not a pregnancy is viable. When you get a positive test result, you still could miscarry days or weeks later. It is when women test during the earliest stages of their pregnancies and then start bleeding soon after they they assume that the test was faulty and that they got a false positive result. In fact, the result was accurate, but their pregnancies were not viable enough for their bodies to sustain.
In fact, about 25 percent of all pregnancies result in miscarriages. With that, if you do get a positive result, whether you test before the scheduled start of your period or after, you should see your doctor for prenatal care. Your doctor can conduct a more thorough blood and urine test to determine how far along you are and if you are at risk of miscarrying. Your doctor may be able to determine as well if your early pregnancy is what is known as a chemical pregnancy, which results when no detectable heartbeat can be found in the womb. If you have a chemical pregnancy or are in the stages of an early pregnancy, your doctor can perform necessary medical procedures like a D&C to help reduce your chances of a uterine infection.
What Causes A False Positive Pregnancy Test?
Over-the-counter pregnancy tests are extremely sensitive to chemicals with which it comes into contact. It has the remarkable ability to sense hormones that are found in your urine. Even though it is designed to sense hCG, it can also detect other hormones that may be found in your medications that you take on a regular basis. If you are taking medicines for conditions like menopausal bleeding or hyperthyroidism, it is possible that you will get a false positive pregnancy test result when in fact you are not really pregnant at all.
You may also think that you have gotten a false positive if you have tested before you started your period, but then started bleeding a few days later. Without taking the test, you probably never would have known that you were pregnant at all. In fact, your early pregnancy resulted in a miscarriage once you started bleeding. What you mistook as a period was actually your pregnancy ending itself naturally. About a quarter of all early pregnancies end in this manner. Many women who do not test themselves early assume that they are having heavier than normal periods when in fact they are miscarrying.
If you are on medications for thyroid disease or menopause, or you have tested prior to missing your period, and you get a positive result, you can know for sure if you are pregnant by seeing your doctor. Your doctor can perform more thorough blood work to determine how far along you are and if in fact you are pregnant. A positive result in an over-the-counter pregnancy test should not take the place of you seeing your obstetrician or family practitioner.
How Common Is A False Positive Pregnancy Test?
Fewer than one percent of all over-the-counter pregnancy tests malfunction and give false positive pregnancy results. In fact, these tests are so reliable that many health clinics and doctors’ office take them at face value and assume that a patient is pregnant because she got a positive result. As noted, however, certain circumstances exist that compromise the validity of some test results. Even so, if you suspect you are pregnant, you may be well advised to take a home pregnancy test before making an appointment with your doctor for further testing.
Of course, you must ensure that other events in your life explain why your test result is positive. For example, if you are getting a positive result, but you have not had sex recently, you would have every reason to doubt the test’s validity. In fact, a positive result when you have not had intercourse in the last few months could indicate that the test is faulty or that you could be suffering from another health condition, like some forms of cancer.
Further, you must ensure that if you did have intercourse that you tested within the appropriate time frame. If you are getting a positive result within days of having sex, you may have reason to believe that you are getting a false positive reading. You typically must wait at least two, if not three weeks after having intercourse before getting an accurate pregnancy test result.