Can You Be Pregnant and Still Get a Negative Pregnancy Test?

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Modern home pregnancy tests (which use a urine sample to detect the presence of human chorionic gonadotropin or hCG, a hormone produced during pregnancy) are very reliable. So, most of the time, getting a negative result on a pregnancy test means that you are probably not pregnant. But there are a few situations in which a false negative can happen. For example, very early in pregnancy, you may get a negative pregnancy test result if you test in the afternoon.

If you do get a negative pregnancy test result but still think you may be pregnant, test a few days later and/or contact your doctor for guidance. Learn more about situations in which you may be pregnant but get a negative pregnancy test.

Testing Too Early

Pregnancy tests will always be more accurate if you wait until your period is late before testing. Even a test marketed as giving an early answer can give you a false negative if you test before your menstrual period is due.

For example, say that you tend to have a typical, 28-day menstrual cycle. You're more likely to get an accurate reading from a pregnancy test if you wait until you haven't had a period for at least 29 days. To be extra safe, you might even consider waiting until day 36, since menstrual cycles in adult women can be anywhere from 21 to 35 days long. Menstrual cycles in young teens can even be as long as 45 days.

When you become pregnant, your level of hCG tends to double every two to three days in the early weeks of gestation. If you test for pregnancy too early, your level of hCG may be so low that it's undetectable by an at-home pregnancy test. 

Not Conducting the Test Properly

If you make a mistake while using the test, such as not using enough urine on the test stick or not waiting long enough to see a result, you may get an incorrect result. But usually, if the control line shows up, that means your ​test result is accurate.

Testing Late in the Day

In very early pregnancy, it is possible (but not common) that drinking a lot of water during the day and testing in the afternoon or evening could affect the accuracy of the test. When urine is diluted, it can be harder for some pregnancy tests to determine whether hCG is present.

However, research suggests that highly sensitive pregnancy tests should stand the challenge of diluted urine. To be safe, test earlier in the morning to avoid any confusion.

Negative Test After Positive Test

If you get a negative pregnancy test after having previously had a positive test result, you may be having a miscarriage—especially if you are also having abdominal cramping and vaginal bleeding and if you notice the loss of any pregnancy symptoms (such as fatigue, nausea, and sore breasts).

There is a chance that one of the issues above might be affecting the accuracy of your second pregnancy test if you are still in very early pregnancy. When in doubt, call your doctor's office for advice.

A Word From Verywell

If your period is late but your pregnancy test is negative, there are a number of possible explanations. Call your doctor if you believe that you are pregnant. They may perform a blood test, which can detect not just the presence of hCG, but the amount.

4 Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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By Krissi Danielsson
Krissi Danielsson, MD is a doctor of family medicine and an advocate for those who have experienced miscarriage.