Can a Pregnancy Test Be Wrong?

As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

When a woman takes a pregnancy test, they do so in hopes of getting a definitive answer to one of life’s burning questions.  Am I pregnant?  Many times even after the stick turns pink, there is still that tiny bit of doubt that may lurk deep inside your mind. So, can a pregnancy test be wrong?  It is a frustrating thing to know that, yes, pregnancy tests can be wrong, but not always for the reason you think.  This is because most at home pregnancy tests on average are only 98% accurate and while this is a large percentage, there is always that 2%.  That little window of inaccuracy leaves many women with more questions than answers.  So before you take the word of your pregnancy test result, consider these factors that can lead to an incorrect pregnancy test reading.

How can a pregnancy test be wrong?

When it comes to the accuracy of an at home pregnancy test, there is something to consider.  This is the false negative test result.  A false negative is something that is rarely talked about when it comes to taking a pregnancy test, but it happens much more than you think.  A false negative result means that your pregnancy test has told you that you are not pregnant when in fact you are actually pregnant.  There are many reasons why you may have found yourself getting a false negative but the most common of them all is that you are simply taking the pregnancy test too early. 

To avoid a false negative due to taking the test too early, pay attention to the type of pregnancy test you are using.  If you have not missed your period yet but still suspect you may be pregnant, try using an early detection pregnancy test first.  Just beware!  Even early detection pregnancy tests can be wrong too.  This is because all pregnancy tests work by calculating the amount of extra pregnancy hormone in your system.  A raised amount of this hormone means that an egg has been fertilized and is being implanted in your uterine wall.  Sometimes even the most sensitive of pregnancy tests cannot give you a positive reading if there isn’t enough of this hormone in your system.  It is also good to know that while early detection pregnancy tests will allow you to test positive up to five days before your missed period, the accuracy level goes way down. Most of these tests have a 98% accuracy rate after your missed period and if you take the test five days before, the accuracy rating can be as low as 60%.  That leaves a lot of room for doubt.

Are you taking the test correctly?

When asking yourself, “Can a pregnancy test be wrong?” you should also consider the time of day you are taking the test.  One thing that many women don’t realize is that there is a wrong time of day to take a pregnancy test, and by avoiding this you are greatly increasing your chances of getting an accurate test reading.  It is suggested that you take a pregnancy test with your first urine in the morning.  This is when the most amount of the pregnancy hormone hCG will be present.  If you wait until the end of the day to take a pregnancy test, there may not be enough of this hormone in your sample which can lead to a false negative. 

It is also important to remember that you should never overly hydrate yourself before taking a pregnancy test.  Just like anything, if you add too much water or liquids to your urine sample, the test will be diluted.  By doing this, you are literally watering down your urine sample which means that your pregnancy test, even the most sensitive of tests, will not be able to draw enough hormones for a definitive answer.  The best way to correctly take a pregnancy test in order to avoid a false negative is test right after you wake up and before you have had anything to drink or eat.  This is especially true if you are planning on testing before your missed period.  Because the accuracy is so low with early detection, you want to give the test the best possible shot of working.

When it comes to actually taking the test, you always want to make sure you are always following the directions perfectly.  Each pregnancy test is different in the way they require you to test.  Some are simple sticks that are meant to be used directly in your urine stream, while others come with collection cups and tiny droppers to collect a sample.  No matter which test you are using, one thing is clear, read the instructions!  This is especially true when it comes to the amount of urine each test needs.  While some tests require you to hold the absorbent stick in your urine for five seconds, other may suggest holding it for 10 seconds.  While this may not seem like that big of a deal, it can make all the difference in the world.  Each test is different in the amount of a urine sample they need, so by paying special attention to the amount of time you expose the test to your urine will help to prevent you from getting a false negative.

Can a pregnancy test be wrong due to human error?  Yes.  Most of time when a woman gets an error in their pregnancy test reading it is because they disturbed the test before it is done devolving.  Think of your pregnancy test like a roll of film.  If you touch the film or move it before it has had enough time to process, the pictures will be distorted.  Once you are done taking your pregnancy test, make sure to lay it flat on a clean surface and allow it to develop before picking it up.  The processing time will depend on the type of pregnancy test you are using.  Some tests need only a minute while others require that you leave the test undisturbed for up to five minutes.  Again, check the instructions so you can know how long yours will take.  Lastly, do not rinse or wash of the test after taking it.  Even if the test got a little messy, washing the testing stick will dilute your sample and can lead to a false negative.

Can a pregnancy test be wrong when it comes to a false positive?

On the other side of the spectrum when it comes to incorrect test results is the false positive. A false positive means that you have been told by your test you are have tested positive for pregnancy, when in fact you are not pregnant.  It should be said that false positives are extremely rare.  Most of the time when you get a positive it does indeed mean that you are pregnant.  While these are rare, they can happen.  There are a few things that can lead to a false positive; most of them have to do with the test itself.  One of the main reasons for a false positive is because you may have gotten a bad or expired test.  Like most things, pregnancy tests do have an expiration date.  An expired pregnancy test may mean that the chemicals that are used to give you a result may have been compromised.  To ensure that you don’t use a “bad test” make sure to check the expiration date located on the box.  If you find that you have an expired pregnancy test in your bathroom, it is a good rule of thumb to toss it out and try again with a fresh test. 

One big of the biggest myths when it comes to a false positive is that your medication, like birth control, may be messing with the results.  This is simply untrue.  Your birth control should not affect your test results in any way and neither should your medications.  This is as long as you are not taking any hormone supplements. 

Final Thoughts

So, can a pregnancy test be wrong?  Short answer is yes.  But remember that there are many factors that go into getting an incorrect response on your pregnancy test.  Most of these factors can be simply chalked up to human error.  To avoid the heartache that can come from these error readings, make sure to always follow instructions carefully and also remember that every at home pregnancy test is designed differently which means that there will be different ways of reading your results.  The best way to put your mind at ease when it comes to getting a false positive or a false negative is to make an appointment with your doctor.  Your doctor will be able to do a more accurate blood test right in their office which will give you a guaranteed answer.  As long as you are using common sense when it comes to taking an at home pregnancy test, there is no reason why you shouldn’t trust the results.  Good luck.

Leave a Comment