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Since their arrival on the market in 1979, over-the-counter pregnancy kits have continued to provide countless women with accurate and reliable test results. While most tests available now reported to be between 97 to 99 percent accurate, they are not entirely fail-proof and can in fact give negative results when women expect to see positive results. In these situations, women may wonder what went wrong or what happened to cause the negative results. These top 10 reasons for a negative pregnancy test stand out for why women may need to rethink if or how often they test themselves for early pregnancy.
1. Not Pregnant
One of the primary reasons a pregnancy test would produce a negative result is that the woman taking the test is not pregnant at all. When a woman is not pregnant, her urine will not contain human chorionic gonadotropin, or hCG, the hormone produced by pregnancy. Because the test strip cannot detect the hormone, it will show a negative sign to indicate that she is not pregnant.
For some women, this negative sign can be disappointing if they want to be pregnant or were sure that they were in fact expecting. Other women welcome this negative result with relief and happiness. Because most tests on the market are more than 97 percent accurate, it is possible for a woman to regard this negative result as factual and continue on with her life as normal. Of course, women who have never before taken an over-the-counter pregnancy test may not know at first how to use it properly. It is important that she avoid contaminating the test strip, for example, by laying it on an unclean counter in her bathroom or allowing the sensitive test strip to come into contact with the germs and oils on her hand. Barring any user error, the test she takes should be exceedingly accurate.
However, despite being overwhelmingly accurate, other circumstances other than user error can cause a test to fail. If a woman is sure she is pregnant, yet gets a negative result each time she takes an over-the-counter pregnancy test, she may consider the other reasons for why the test may be failing to provide the results she wants or expects. If she has any doubt or suspects that she might have another health condition that is compromising her ability to test at home, she should make an appointment with her primary care doctor for a more thorough examination.
2. Testing Too Early
Another reason that women get negative pregnancy test readings involves the fact that they are testing too early. Some women are so eager to test for early pregnancy that they take the test days, or even weeks, before the hCG level in their urine can be detected. When it comes to testing for early pregnancy, timing is everything. Women may find that they cannot rush taking the test too early, particularly if they want to know for sure if they are pregnant before they reach the sixth or seventh week mark. If they time their test taking accordingly, some women may even be able to find out before they miss the first day of their periods.
In most cases, hCG usually starts to appear in a woman’s urine about 11 days after she has conceived. This 11 day mark is the earliest that pregnancy tests can detect this hormone. In fact, many standard over-the-counter tests are designed to be used after a woman misses her period. If she uses a standard test too early, she can expect to get a negative result, even if she is very early in her pregnancy. Only the early detection pregnancy testing kits are designed to pick up trace amounts of hCG in a woman’s urine around the 11th day after conception. These tests are pricier; however, they typically perform the best when a woman wants to test as soon as possible.
Women who prefer to use standard over-the-counter tests should wait until they miss the first day of their scheduled period. After they miss that first day, they can usually take a test and get a fairly accurate result. Some women wait until they are several days or even a week late before testing. After a week has gone by with no period, women usually have high enough amounts of the pregnancy hormone in their bodies that a test will be able to detect it easily in their urine.
With that, if a woman is sure she is pregnant yet gets a negative result each time she takes a test, she should ask herself if she is testing too soon. If it has only been less than two weeks after she had intercourse and ovulated, she may be testing way too early for the test’s design. She ideally should wait until she has reached 11 days after the day she thinks she may have conceived to test. By this date, a specially designed early detection pregnancy test may be able to pick up on faint amounts of hCG. If she still gets a negative result, even with a standard test after missing her period, she should know about other common reasons that negative test results occur.
3. Miscalculation or Irregular Periods
Women who have regular periods often enjoy the fortuity to know just when they ovulate and conceive. They know with almost 100 percent certainty each month whether or not they are pregnant even without using a home pregnancy test. However, women who are not well versed in the rhythm of their cycles or those who have irregular periods do not enjoy such luck. They often must spend days wondering if they could be pregnant after they have unprotected sex, something that can be particularly gut wrenching for women who have strong emotions toward either test outcome.
When a woman with an irregular period takes a test and gets a negative result, she often has to regard the test result with a bit of speculation until she starts her period or until her body otherwise demonstrates that she is or is not pregnant. For example, if she is pregnant, yet got a negative result, she may eventually start to develop nausea about six weeks into her pregnancy. Alternatively, if she got a negative result, she also could start her period several weeks after testing. She can never know with certainty if she is or is not pregnant because her period is not regular, leaving her no way to gauge when conception may have taken place.
On the other hand, a woman who never paid attention to her cycle, but rather took it for granted that she would start each month may not know for sure when to take a pregnancy test. She may not remember when the first day of her last period was, leaving her with doubt about if she is testing too early or if she is genuinely is not pregnant. In both of these instances, women with irregular periods and women who miscalculate their cycles may fare better to ask their doctor for a blood test to determine if they are or are not pregnant. A blood test may especially be in order if they keep getting negative results, yet do not start their periods before the end of the next month.
4. Defective Test
The companies that make over-the-counter pregnancy tests are held to rigid governmental standards to ensure the products’ safety and effectiveness. Even so, a defective test on a rare occasion may find its way to the market. A woman who gets a negative test result when every other sign in her body indicates that she is pregnant may be the victim of a defective pregnancy test.
It can be difficult to know if a test is defective, however, especially if the person who got the negative result has no reason to doubt the test’s effectiveness. Some consumer experts suggest that women take more than one test to ensure that they are getting an accurate result. If a woman takes one test and gets a negative result, but takes another and receives a positive sign she may have reason to suspect that the first test was defective. If the test is defective, she can then take the necessary actions to have the store or the manufacturer refund the money she spent on it.
Of course, some tests show outward signs of being defective before a person even purchases them. Tests that have strips that look discolored, for example, should be returned to the store for a refund or thrown away without being used. Women also should not purchase test kits that look like they have been tampered with or appear to be damaged. Even if the test strips are wrapped in cellophane, they could be compromised if the rest of the packaging has damage like dents or tearing. Compromised test strips will most likely be unable to give accurate results when a woman wants to test for early pregnancy. To ensure that the test is in good condition and likely to give accurate results, a woman should check the test’s expiration date and thoroughly inspect the packaging to ensure that the test is intact and ready to use.
Most over-the-counter pregnancy tests on the market today are designed to accommodate a wide range of medications that people use regularly. A woman can be taking over-the-counter pain relievers, cold suppressants, cough syrups, and herbal remedies, as well as a host of prescription medications, and still get an accurate test result with her pregnancy test. However, some medications are known to alter the expected outcome of a pregnancy test and produce a negative result. Before she tests, a woman should know what medications could hinder the accuracy of her pregnancy test results. By knowing what medications could compromise the test, a woman can determine if it is safe for her to use an over-the-counter test or if she must use another testing method for early pregnancy.
In particular, medications that contain hormones are known to compromise the accuracy of pregnancy tests. If a woman is taking a hormone-based medicine for an underlying health condition, her chances of getting a skewed test result increases. Hormone-based therapies are prescribed for a number of illnesses, especially those that affect the thyroid. Before a woman tests for pregnancy, she may ask her doctor if her medication that contains hormones in it could alter the accuracy of her test results. If her doctor agrees that the medication could compromise the test, she may consider other pregnancy testing options, such as having a blood test done at her doctor’s office.
Some medications prescribed for neurological conditions, such as seizures, could undermine the effectiveness of a pregnancy test. Like those given for thyroid illnesses, these medicines could contain chemicals that hinder the test’s ability to detect hCG in a woman’s urine. She may get a false negative result when in fact she is really pregnant. However, because it can be unsafe for the test user to go off her medications, especially for neurological illnesses, she should have a backup plan in case her over-the-counter kit gives her a negative result. If she genuinely believes she is pregnant, a woman on one of these medications would do well to see her doctor immediately and ask for a blood test. A blood test can give a far more accurate reading and pinpoint how far along a woman is in her pregnancy.
6. Hormonal Imbalances
Like medications, hormonal imbalances could affect the outcome of a pregnancy test. In fact, a woman may not even be aware that she has a hormonal imbalance until she takes a pregnancy test and gets a negative result. As women get older, the hormone levels in their bodies fluctuate. Women over the age of 30, for example, may notice that their eyebrows grow thinner and that their skin becomes drier and less supple as when they were younger. These changes are caused by the decreasing estrogen in their bodies.
At the same time, this fluctuation of hormones could throw off how accurate of a result a pregnancy test gives. A woman who has undiagnosed thyroid disease, for example, may believe that she is pregnant, yet in fact has severe thyroid imbalances occurring in her body. She may even skip a period, become bloated, gain weight, experience fatigue and heartburn, and develop other symptoms of early pregnancy. When she takes a test, however, and the result is negative, she may be perplexed about why the test failed to produce a positive sign. In fact, she may even take several tests because she is so sure the first one was defective or inaccurate.
After several negative results, the test user may finally come to the realization that something else is going on inside her body. The repeated negative results could be her first warning that she needs to seek medical help and get a proper diagnosis for her hormonal imbalance. She may be nearing menopause or suffer from thyroid disease for which medical attention may be required. Nonetheless, hormonal imbalances are often behind the reason for why women get negative results with pregnancy tests. If they believe they are pregnant and even have symptoms of early pregnancy, only to get negative results, they very well could have hormonal imbalances that require prompt attention from their doctors.
Negative pregnancy test results also can be women’s earliest indications that they may suffer from infertility. Women who have never before tried to become pregnant may take for granted their bodies’ ability to conceive. The first few failed attempts to get pregnant may be dismissed easily; however, as the months pass and conception does not occur, women may then begin to wonder if something else may be amiss with their reproductive systems. After they take test after test, only to get a negative result each time, women may consider the fact that they might suffer from varying degrees of infertility.
Modern medicine is well equipped to tackle infertility issues for many patients. They can see their doctor, undergo testing, and begin taking medications or undergoing therapies that will help their bodies ovulate regularly. After a few months of undergoing treatment, these women may find that they are able to get pregnant and get a positive result the next time they test. However, some women have more severe issues that make positive pregnancy test results a much-desired, but unrealized goal. They may never be able to conceive on their own, in fact. When they take a pregnancy test and get a negative result, these women may soon discover that no amount of trying to conceive on their own will ever allow them to achieve a pregnancy.
As sad as it may be, however, these tests may be viewed by the patients and their doctors both as valuable resources that uncovered the truth for why some women cannot get a positive result. Had these women never taken a pregnancy test, they might never have discovered that they had fertility issues that needed to be addressed by a medical professional. As such, when women test and receive negative results, they should keep in mind the remote possibility that their fertility could be compromised. If they continue to get negative results consistently, they should see their doctors immediately.
8. Diluted Urine
Over-the-counter pregnancy kits are designed to be as sensitive as possible to the presence of hCG. Even so, women can better their chances of getting an accurate test result by using their first of the morning urine to take the test. When a woman wakes up, her urine is often more concentrated and purer than any other time of the day. Her body worked overnight to produce urine that contains all of the hormones in her body, including hCG if she is pregnant. Further, because she was asleep for hours at a time, she did not drink any water that could have diluted the presence of this pregnancy hormone in her first of the morning urine. It is this sample that works best when women want to take a pregnancy test and get the most accurate result possible, barring other circumstances that could compromise the outcome.
Another reason that the first of the morning urine is purer than other times of the day involves the fact that her kidneys have more than likely filtered out anything that could undermine the urine’s quality. If she took medicine the morning prior, for example, her kidneys would have filtered out the medications already during that day. By the time she wakes up the following morning, her urine should not contain any harmful traces of the medicine she took the day before, minimizing the risk that her urine sample could be compromised for the test’s purpose.
If she tests any other time of the day, she may have diluted her urine to the point that the test cannot pick up any hCG in her sample. Women who drink several glasses of water each day may think that they are bettering their health. While that may be true, they are also making it less likely that a pregnancy test will be able to give an accurate result because of how diluted their urine has become from the water. Rather than jeopardize the test’s outcome, women are encouraged to wait until first thing in the morning to test. They should take the test before they get ready for work or school or otherwise relieve themselves as normal in the morning.
9. Low hCG Levels or Impending Miscarriage
During the earliest weeks of pregnancy, many women are not aware that they are actually pregnant. They may assume that they are merely a few days late getting their periods. When they begin bleeding a few days later, they may dismiss the bleeding as a late, albeit heavier than normal period. However, in reality they may not be having a heavy period, but rather be suffering a miscarriage. A miscarriage happens in almost 25 percent of all early pregnancies, many without the mother even being aware that she had conceived. Those who are aware that they have conceived may take a pregnancy test and get a positive result at first. When they test a few days later, however, they might start getting negative results. These negative results do not mean that they are not pregnant, but rather could indicate that they are about to suffer a miscarriage.
As perplexing as it may seem, some women keep taking tests over the course of the first few weeks of their pregnancies just to make sure they are actually pregnant. Each test is a confirmation that the pregnancy is progressing and that her hCG levels are building as they should. When a woman who received an earlier positive result begins to receive negative results, she may wonder if the first test was defective. In fact, the test was probably accurate. The tests she is taking now could be giving her negative results because her hCG levels are dropping. A drop in hCG levels indicates that a miscarriage more than likely will occur soon.
Most women who miscarry often do so in the first few weeks of early pregnancy. They often are no more than eight to 10 weeks pregnant when they miscarry, allowing many to confuse the miscarriage with a late period. The women who are aware that they are very early in their pregnancies should regard negative results, especially those that come after earlier positive results, as a warning sign that they may be on the verge of miscarrying. Unfortunately, doctors are often unable to intervene and prevent such early miscarriages. Even so, it is important that women see their doctors to ensure that no complications arise from their pregnancies’ early demise.
10. Ectopic Pregnancy
Ectopic pregnancies finish the list of top 10 reasons for a negative pregnancy test result. An ectopic pregnancy occurs when the fertilized egg attaches itself and begins developing in the fallopian tube rather than the uterus. These pregnancies account for one to two percent of all pregnancies and occur most often in women over the age of 40 or those women who have undergone tubal ligations. These pregnancies are life-threatening and must be remedied through prompt medical attention and surgery.
Ectopic pregnancies are very difficult to detect. Some women may skip their periods or show other signs of early pregnancy, such as fatigue and nausea. However, these pregnancies exhibit more serious signs that should alert a woman that she needs immediate medical help. Along with getting a negative pregnancy test result, a woman who has an ectopic pregnancy may feel lightheaded and weak, as well as have severe pains in one side of her lower abdomen. She also may have spotting or light bleeding that is not anything like that of a normal period. An ectopic pregnancy will not resolve itself through a miscarriage or the fertilized egg lowering itself into the uterus. The only remedy for this deadly condition involves the woman undergoing emergency surgery to remove the pregnancy from the fallopian tube. If she fails to act quickly, she could die. In fact, ectopic pregnancies result in 40 maternal deaths each year, about 10 percent of all pregnancy-related deaths on an annual basis.
If a woman suspects she is pregnant, but receives a negative test result, she should consider whether or not she may have an ectopic pregnancy. This consideration especially should be given proper action if she has any other signs of an ectopic pregnancy, including severe abdomen pain, faintness, fatigue, nausea, or spotting. Even if the test results say she is not pregnant, a woman should see her doctor for an ultrasound and a blood test. She should then expect to go through surgery immediately so that she does not die or suffer other reproductive complications.
Before the advent of over-the-counter pregnancy tests, women often had to use archaic testing methods at home or spend the money to see a doctor and get a blood pregnancy test. Once pregnancy tests became available on the market in 1979, countless women have enjoyed the luxury of taking a test at home and finding out sooner if they are for sure pregnant.
However, even with 97 to 99 percent accuracy found with most brands, some tests may still give negative results when women suspect that they could be pregnant. Rather than spend a lot of money on unnecessary medical tests or simply wait for their bodies to tell them for sure if they are expecting, women can benefit by knowing some of the common reasons why tests sometimes give negative results. These top 10 reasons can range from simple mistakes like user error to more serious reasons like underlying health conditions, including hormonal imbalances and miscarriages. By having this information on hand, women can adjust the frequency with which they test for early pregnancy or seek medical help from their primary care doctors if necessary.