Negative Pregnancy Test – What Are The Chances Of A False Negative?

It is not an uncommon experience that a woman’s period is late and a negative pregnancy test results when it is taken.

  • So does a negative pregnancy test indicate?
  • Does it always mean that a woman is not pregnant?
  • Can there be a negative pregnancy test even when there is a pregnancy subsisting?
  • So you are a week late but the negative pregnancy test says you are not pregnant. Whom do you believe and why would something like this happen?

These are confusing questions that we try and simplify here:

Usually speaking, a negative pregnancy test would mean that a woman is not pregnant.

However, when such a negative test is accompanied by symptoms such as a missed or late period, and tiredness, breast tenderness, needing to go the loo more often, morning sickness etc, then it is possible that there may be a pregnancy subsisting.

There are several reasons why a pregnancy test could show up negative even when there is a subsisting pregnancy:

  1. One reason could be that the pregnancy test kit that you have bought is a low quality one, or a low sensitivity one. Some test kits are capable of detecting hCG levels only when they reach a certain threshold and not before. So either one’s hCG levels have hot reached that level yet or the brand is a less sensitive one; typically one that asks you to wait until the first day that you would have missed your period.
  2. The test may have been taken at a time when the hCG levels of a woman’s urine sample are not at their highest and therefore may yield a false negative. It is important to perform the test using the first morning urine sample when the level of hCG in the urine are their most concentrated.
  3. Sometimes a negative pregnancy test could result from a faulty or expired test kit. Always check to see that a test kit is not past its expiry date; beyond which its efficacy will go down.
  4. It is also important to make sure that instructions for testing are followed fully. Many may say there’s nothing to peeing on a stick, but things can go wrong. Also wait for the amount of time indicated for the results to develop, don’t be in a hurry to discard the test.
  5. While some women could have conceived well before the expected date of a period, others may have conceived just a few days before a period is due. In  the event, those that have conceived a little later in their cycle would have had the embryo implanted late as well and consequently their hCG levels may not be high enough to be detected by a test kit resulting in a false negative pregnancy test result.

Rule out all possible other reasons for a missed period if there is a negative pregnancy test, and remember that pregnancy tests could be negative for all these and yet other reasons.

Though they are accurate 97% of the time, there is still that 3% that we have to factor in!


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