A person looking at their negative pregnancy test that is potentially a false negative.

When all signs lead to pregnant but the home pregnancy test disagrees: Could you have gotten a false negative?

Home pregnancy tests have helped millions of women, so it’s hard for us to knock them. But when your period is late and the test in your hand is negative, you may be left more confused than before. Taking a pregnancy test shouldn’t be as mystifying as shaking a magic eight ball, and the results definitely shouldn’t be open to interpretation. And yet, sometimes you’re left with more questions than answers.

When to consider a false negative in a pregnancy test

The rollercoaster of emotions that come with taking a pregnancy test is often stressful. And if you’re actively TTC, we understand that a negative test result can be plenty disappointing. But don’t give up hope just yet. A false negative – when a pregnancy test says “not pregnant” but the test user is actually pregnant – do happen, and here are a couple of reasons why you may have received one.

Why a test could be wrong

There are several reasons the pregnancy test could be showing a false negative.

1. Test was taken too early

Pregnancy tests work by detecting levels of human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) a hormone that the body starts to make when an egg has been fertilized. Because the tests look for the presence of this hormone, it is possible that they miss the hormone in the very early stages of pregnancy, mainly in the days leading up to the first missed period. For the most accurate readings, it’s best to wait until at least the missed period, if not a few days after.

2. Fluids are diluting urine

Yes, you should still be drinking lots of water! But taking a pregnancy test later in the day can sometimes mean that urine is diluted and hCG is more difficult for the test to detect. The hormone levels are highest in the morning, so for the most accurate results try to take the test as early in the day as possible, preferably right after you wake up.

3. Test directions weren’t followed correctly

We don’t mean to suggest that you would miss a step . . . but could you have missed a step? Some tests require waiting a specific amount of time before reading the results. Pregnancy tests also have an expiration date, so we recommend buying new ones as opposed to using old ones that you might have had on hand for a while.

Other things to consider

Ultimately, it’s always a good idea to read and closely follow the directions on home pregnancy tests, even if you consider yourself a pro by now. There’s also always the possibility that the negative test is accurate, and your period is simply a few days late. Home pregnancy tests are great, but after a positive result, it’s still important to visit your healthcare provider for a blood test to confirm.

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