How to Cope When the Pregnancy Test Is Negative

Woman in bathroom looking at pregnancy test
Peopleimages / Getty Images

If you've been trying to get pregnant for some time, you're probably no stranger to negative pregnancy tests. You may think you would develop a tolerance for them after a while, and while some people do, most find each successive test harder to take. When a pregnancy test is negative after fertility treatment, the disappointment is even greater.

Dealing with the avalanche of emotions—anxiety that perhaps you could still be pregnant, sadness thinking you probably aren't—can be difficult. Below, we explore the questions you may have and strategies for coping.

Could You Still Be Pregnant?

The first moment after a negative pregnancy test usually brings a slight ache in the chest for someone who was hoping for a positive, but the second moment may include a hopeful thought—perhaps you could still be pregnant. You may even get this hope when your period comes. Just maybe, maybe, this test or period is a fluke.

It's true that a negative pregnancy test doesn't automatically take you out of the running for that cycle, and there are some factors increase the chances that you could still be pregnant:

  • Your period is still late: If you got what you think is your period, it's highly unlikely you're pregnant. It happens, but rarely. If you still haven't gotten your period, there is always a chance you may be pregnant. If a week goes by, your period doesn't come, and your pregnancy tests are still negative, you may want to call your doctor.
  • You took the test early: And early doesn't necessarily mean three days before your period is due. (If you took it that early, seriously, don't let go of hope yet! That's way too early.) Every pregnancy builds up the level of hCG (the pregnancy hormone that pregnancy tests detect) slightly differently. Some women may not get a positive test result until they are a few days or even a week late.
  • Your cycles are irregular: If your cycles are irregular, you're more likely to not know with certainty when your period is late. It could be you just took the test too early.

You're most likely to get a false negative if you take the test too early—even the day of your expected period can be too early for many home pregnancy tests.

Decoding a Negative Test

The ache in the chest upon getting a negative pregnancy test is usually a reaction to what's happening at the moment: seeing only one pink line instead of two. Crying after a negative pregnancy test is often less about what's happening now and more about the story you've created regarding what the negative test means.

Everyone creates stories about what happens in our lives, and it's completely normal. For example, if your partner comes home without the milk you asked them to buy, it isn't necessarily such a big deal. However, the story you may tell yourself—"They forgot because they don't care" or "They never listen when I ask them to do things"—is what may get you increasingly upset.

Separate Fact From Fiction

Separating out the "facts" from the "story" can help you cope better with difficult situations. So, when the pregnancy test is negative, the fact is "the test is negative." It may or may not even mean the cycle failed (yet)! The stories you may tell yourself include:

  • I'll never get pregnant. This is the biggest and hardest one. One negative test—even 20 negative tests—doesn't mean you'll never get pregnant. Of course, the longer you try, the less likely you'll achieve success without help. But one test isn't a testament to this.
  • Treatment isn't going to work for me. If your test was negative after your first or even second try at a particular treatment, don't be so quick to think this is a sign of future failure. Three to four trials of a given treatment are commonly needed before you know if the treatment will work for you or not. Even if this is your fourth trial, this doesn't mean changing treatment or tweaking certain aspects of the treatment won't help.
  • I am a failure. Getting a negative pregnancy test can quickly bring us back to grade school, feeling that if we fail at a "test," that we are failures. This negative pregnancy test is no indication of your worth as a person. In fact, even if you never get pregnant, it still says nothing about your value.
  • I'll never be a mother/father. If, after getting a negative pregnancy test, you find yourself imagining the rest of your life without your dreamed-of child, you're in good company. Remember that this one negative test doesn't mean you'll never be a parent.

Confronting Fears

Also, remember that even if your worst fears come true and you can't conceive or can't pursue treatment to conceive, you may have other opportunities to be a parent, including foster care, adoption, or even being a wonderful Auntie or Uncle to your family and friends' children.

To be clear, these opportunities are not intended to brush away the sadness of that idea—of course, it's very upsetting. But at the same time, it's essential to keep the big vision in check and to not allow this one pregnancy test—or even the fear that you'll never become a biological parent—hold all the keys to your life happiness. Your life is worth so much more than this.

Next Steps

So when the test is negative, what can you do to cope?

  • Don't grieve this cycle if it's not over yet. If there's still a chance you may be pregnant (see reasons listed above), don't let one test get to you yet.
  • Allow yourself time to feel the sadness. Holding in the pain just makes it worse. Cry if you need to, and talk about your feelings with your partner, a friend, or a counselor.
  • Separate out the facts from the story. You may want to make a list of the stories you're telling yourself about this one negative test. Once you've made that list, write down a comforting, rational answer to those stories. Be your own Wise Counselor. You may be surprised how much wisdom you have inside yourself.
  • Start thinking about your future plan of action. So this cycle is over. What are you going to do now? Knowing you have a plan of action, even if it's an extremely simple plan of continuing your current treatment or trying to conceive efforts, can help. Your plan may even be to take a month or two off from trying to conceive. Thinking of the future helps you remember this is not the end of the road.
  • Do something fun and different to take your mind off the failed cycle. Yes, make time to feel the hard feelings, but then follow up by making time to live life again.

A Word From Verywell

Getting a negative result on a pregnancy test can be heartbreaking. Most of the time, you can count on the accuracy of the test—unless you've taken it too early. Either way, know that one negative test (or many) doesn't mean your pregnancy dream won't happen in the future. Be kind to yourself as you grieve. Then, let yourself begin to feel hopeful for a positive result on the next one.

Was this page helpful?