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How Common Is A False Negative Pregnancy Test And What Causes It?

Sullen woman holding negative result pregnancy test

Home Pregnancy Tests

Home pregnancy tests are one of the most common methods used to determine pregnancy. They work by measuring the amount of Human Chorionic Gonadotrophin (hCG) present in the woman’s urine. When detected, hCG is a reliable indicator indicating that you are pregnant. With most standard home pregnancy tests, it is recommended that you wait until you have missed a period so that your results will be more accurate. If you are unable to wait for that to happen or need to know sooner, you may perform the test at around 12 days after the time you believe you may have conceived. Most commercially available tests have around a 97% accuracy, provided the instructions are followed correctly and the results are read in a timely manner. Many pregnancy test kits contain at least two pregnancy tests so can test again if you are unsure of the result or just want to see the positive result again.

False Negative Pregnancy Tests and the Most Common Causes

A false negative test indicates that you are NOT pregnant when, in fact, you are. This can lead to quite a bit of confusion and anxiety. To avoid this error, you must be aware of the possible causes for this result.

1. Early Detection Attempt

Perhaps the most common reason for a false negative reading is taking the test too early. Because many pregnancy tests have varying levels of sensitivity for hCG, there has to be a certain level of the hormone present in the urine before it can be detected. In other words, fertilization may have occurred with a resulting pregnancy, but there is not yet enough hCG hormone present in the body for the test to measure it correctly. The hormone levels start to rise more dramatically near the time of what might have been the start of your period, which is why this is the recommended time frame for performing these tests.

2. Faulty Technique

It is possible that there was a technical reason for a false negative. Many tests have specific instructions on how to use the indicator. The tests also require a certain amount of urine to provide the most accurate result. If there was not enough urine present to properly conduct the test or if you did not hold the test strip long enough in the stream, you may receive a false negative. It is very important to follow the method outlined in the instructions, since the test was designed to be most reliable when used as directed.

3. Missed Reaction Time

Home pregnancy tests give an interval of time in which to read the test results once the sample has been given. Results read too early or too long after the recommended time may be invalid and lead to a false negative. There is often a certain amount of anxiety and/or anticipation present when performing this test. It may help to have a timer available to avoid “jumping the gun” or waiting too long to read the results.

A negative result on a home pregnancy test COULD mean that you are not pregnant, that the test was performed too early, or that there was a problem with the technique or timing. If you suspect that you are pregnant and that you received a false negative, wait for a few days and re-attempt the test. If you obtain different results with other home pregnancy tests, it is highly recommended that you contact a health care professional and have more specific tests done to get a definite answer.

  • morgansays

    Hi, Vickie, I just tested this morning, the test came back negative, and today is supposed to be my projected period. So, I honestly hope I don’t get it, and the tests were wrong. It does happen, I just hope that’s what happened to me. Keep me in your thoughts, as I will with you. I will keep updating.

  • Jill G.

    I have never been diagnosed with PCOS. But it if means anything, I was recently hospitalized in September with extreme pain in my uterus area, and come to find out I had two cysts on my ovary, one that burst and one that was about to burst…

  • confused

    So I was over two weeks late for my period. I took two home tests, two days ago, now I have started bleeding. I am so confused.lol.

  • http://www.babyhopes.com/ Vickie B.

    Were the tests positive? Unfortunately, it sounds like you could be having an early miscarriage if they were positive. If they were negative, it could just be a case of your period being off due to something that is going on in your life (stress, weight loss/gain, change in work schedule etc).

  • astand2013

    Hi I have missd my period I was due to come on a week ago and still nothin I have just taken a pregnancy test and it has come back negative but when I conceived with my son I tiok a test when I was about 6 weeks pregnant and the positive line was very faint could my test be negative because of the hormone levels not being strong enough plese help.

  • Sandra

    I’ve had 2 pregnacy test done at hospital both came back positive, but had bloods taken too and said I was not pregnant, how dose this work?

  • erin

    hi I had contraception on the 18th but later found out that my ovulation day was the 17th but I was still fertile that whole week. Only a day or two later I started noticing an increase in appetite ,discoloration on my nipples, abdominal pain ,mood swings, nausea, an fatigue. I thought it was way to early to have these symptoms but they continued up until now 12 days after contraception . I woke up this morning and noticed bleeding so I went to the hospital and they gave me a pee pregnancy test. The results came back negative and they told me it was just my period. My period wasn’t due until the 10th it was the 30th they said it was early and sent me home. Could I still be pregnant?

  • Laura

    Hi guys I need some advice I’m so confused right now! I had a d&c because of a miscarriage on oct 14. I still have t had a period :-/ obviously we have had sex since I’ve taken tests one last week was a very faint positive but I did one today and it was negative.before the positive I had like 4 negs so I’m confused

  • dmarie19780

    i was supposed to start my period 7 days ago , I took a test this morning and it is negative . my husband and I have been trying for a baby for a year with no luck , I don’t want to get discouraged but do you think I might be pregnant? how long should I wait to take another test ?

  • http://www.babyhopes.com/ Vickie B.

    Did you try another test yet? Are your cycles typically normal or do they vary month to month?

  • Marie

    I started feeling “strange” a couple of weeks ago. My stomach didn’t really hurt, it just felt really sour, and I felt weak Strong smells made me a a little sick, and I got heartburn and my stomach burned almost every time I ate. For a couple I days I felt very weak and a little dizzy. I just thought I had a virus an hoping it wasn’t the flu. I never got fully sick, but stil continue to be fatigued and have a weak stomache. I didn’t even think about maybe being pregnant until 5 days ago because I kept gagging when I brushed my teeth, and I remembered my friend said she did that when she was pregnant. I told her what was going on, and she said she had almost all the symptoms I was going through. But I have been on birth control for years, but I didn’t take it at the same time every day. I also had completely forgotten I was on antibiotics from November 14-24. Today is December 14th. I did have a period, but it was lighter than normal and lasted longer than normal. Also, I only had to wear a tampon once and wore only a panty liner the rest of the days. This is definitely not normal for me. I took a test on Tuesday night and it was neg. I took another Wednesday morning bc I heard it is more accurate in the morning, and it was neg too. I still feel weird about it all though. Excuse me for being gross, the past three days I have had a lot of discharge and it is a whitish color. But not like a yeast infection. I read that this is a possible sign of pregnancy too. Could the two tests I took be wrong, even though I kind of still had a period too??

  • laura

    IM so confused i am 2 months late and i have had mixed results with different brands of pregnancy tests i have a scan on Xmas eve so will know for sure but I am scared i have all the symptoms of pregnancy what’s wrong with me

  • Brenda

    Hi, I had unprotected sex on December 13th and 14th. Today is the 30th. I have had so many symptoms but still when I went for a urine test at a walk in clinic today it said negative.
    I started with the spotting (light pink), within a week and a bit, then my cramps started about a week ago. Had a couple of days where I got so tired all of a sudden it was crazy. Saturday was cleaning house and had to stop and run to sink and throw up! I can’t have a sip of water without running pee and today at work I was sitting at my desk and thought I was going to faint! That was weird. My breasts are sore and the cramping is really bad. I can barely eat, feel nausea all the time and when I do eat only little bits at a time. A friend who has had children before told me I better get checked out.
    Can a urine test at a walk in clinic as apposed to a home test still come back negative? Even the doctor said it would seem I was pregnant with everything that has been happening with me. Everyone says it sounds like I am pregnant. When should I wait to get another test and what kind should I ask my doctor for? Blood or urine? I am so sad I got a negative today.

  • mjmblh

    I am usually regular like clockwork. I have NEVER been more than a 29 day cycle. Today is day 31. I got a negative test last night. It was a Dollar Tree test. Are those typically accurate?

  • slinay

    Today I am 9 days late for my period. I usually run on a perfect 28 day cycle and I’ve never been late before. I have unprotected sex all the time, but he always pulls out; except we are not 100% sure he pulled out all the way a month a ago. I took 1 pregnancy test last night that gave me an immediate negative, but the one I took this morning had 1 hard thick line for negative but there was a faint second line beside it. Im uncontrollably irritated all the time, I want to eat everything and I have started crying at the drop of a hat. Am I pregnant?

  • http://www.babyhopes.com/ Vickie B.

    You can’t take the test you took at definitely yes because you read it long after you should have. I’d suggest you get another test and take it again. You might want to try a different brand this time so see if you get a clearer result.

  • Dmrivers

    Okay so me and my girlfriend of 5 years engaged in intercourse, and she feels she may be pregnant. We had sex on the 12th, and her cycle was due later that day or the day after. Shes experiencing quite a few of the early symptoms. Could her cycle just be pushed back? Im 19, and shes 17 and comes from a not so supportive household, for lack of better terms. My parents arent so supportive either, and having bills i dont know if i can afford to pay for an abortion. Neither of us can afford a child right now. Im really freaking out. Any information or advice would be golden.
    I’ve been praying and hoping that she isn’t. :/

  • molly

    Did you ever find out if you were pregnant or not?

  • indy

    We have been trying to get pregnant for approx 2 1/2 to 3 yrs now and I started feeling nauseous throughout the day for the past 8 to 10 days. We took two tests both negative and I went thru my period cycle and just finished today. I haven’t felt well and today I became lightheaded and dizzy…nearly felt as though I was passing out at one point. What r the odds of it being pregnancy vs. a bug or something? I appreciate all feedback, thanks.


Last modified: March 7, 2014


The information provided here should not be considered medical advice. It is based on the average experience of women trying to conceive and may not be what you may be experiencing. It's not meant to be a replacement for any advice you may receive from your doctor. If you have any concerns about your cycle or our ability to get pregnant, we advise you to contact your doctor.