What are the chances of a false-negative pregnancy test?


Weeing on a pregnancy test is one hell of a ride. Waiting those ten minutes for the results can feel like a lifetime — and whatever you’re hoping for when you look at that test, it can make your heart skip a beat. 

Depending on when you have taken the test, it’s common to return a false-negative pregnancy test. The main reason this happens is usually that you’ve taken the test too early in your pregnancy. Indeed you may have a late period, but a negative pregnancy test can have you left scratching your head about where this leaves you. Keep reading as we break down everything you need to know about false-negative pregnancy tests. 

Is it possible to be pregnant and have a negative pregnancy test?

Getting a negative result doesn’t necessarily mean you are not pregnant; it just means that there wasn’t enough HCG in your urine to detect it at the point of testing. It’s often a good idea to wait a couple of days and try again.

On average, it takes between 7–12 days after implantation for HCG to be detectable in your urine. Generally speaking, a positive pregnancy test will be fairly accurate, but it’s always a good idea to follow up with your GP to confirm the results. 

What can cause a false-negative pregnancy test? 

You can still be pregnant and return a false-negative pregnancy test. This can happen because: 

  • You’ve taken the pregnancy test too early. The earlier you take the test after a missed period, the harder it’s going to be to detect the pregnancy hormone HCG (Human chorionic gonadotropin, which is produced by the placenta). The most accurate time to take a pregnancy test is one week after your missed period. For the most accurate result, ask your GP for a blood test. 
  • You’ve checked the pregnancy test too soon. Follow the instructions for the exact amount of time you need to wait and then set a timer. 
  • Your urine is diluted. The best time of day to take a pregnancy test is first thing in the morning when your urine will be the most concentrated. 

Negative pregnancy test but no period?

If you continue to return a negative pregnancy test but your period still hasn’t arrived, it is best to see your doctor immediately for further investigation. 

It is common for some women to just “know” they are pregnant before they have taken a test. This is usually down to a few common symptoms that occur in the early days, such as:

  • You’ve missed your period
  • You have cramping
  • Your breasts are sore or tender
  • You’re tired
  • You’re nauseous and can’t keep food down

Or perhaps it’s just good old female intuition. But if you’re showing the signs of being pregnant, you had sex without contraception, or your period is late — and yet the tests are still telling you no, then it might be time to see a doctor.

Your doctor will assess your situation and may suggest you take a blood test to determine whether you are pregnant or not.

There could be several reasons your period is late, so your doctor will help determine the cause. 

Is there a best time of day to take a pregnancy test?

Home pregnancy tests have come a long way in recent years, but it is recommended for the most accurate result it is best to take the test in the morning — especially if you haven’t yet missed your period or are only a few days late.

You can take a test later in the day, but your chances of getting a false-negative are higher.

How accurate are pregnancy tests?

Pregnancy tests these days boast around 99% accuracy. However, it’s important to remember that this comes down to a number of the factors outlined above as well as how closely you follow the directions on the packet. 

If you’re certain you’re pregnant but still getting a negative pregnancy test, it’s best to put the pregnancy tests away and speak to your doctor as soon as possible. Save your money (and wee) and speak to a professional who’ll be able to help you.

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