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'd get used to them after a while, and some people do, but many find each successive test harder to take. Especially when a pregnancy test is negative after fertility treatment, the disappointment can be even greater.

Dealing with the emotions—hoping that perhaps the test was wrong and you could be pregnant (but knowing that you probably aren't), and worrying that you never will be—can be difficult. Understanding and acknowledging feelings like worry and sadness sparked by a negative pregnancy test can help you cope.

Could You Still Be Pregnant?

It's true that a negative pregnancy test doesn't necessarily mean you did not conceive during this cycle. There are some reasons that a negative pregnancy test might not be accurate.

  • You haven't had your period yet: Until you do, there is still a chance you could be pregnant.
  • You took the test early: A home pregnancy test can typically give accurate results starting the day after your missed period, although some newer tests do tout the ability to provide results earlier. If you took a test before the day your period is supposed to start, don't give up hope. In every pregnancy, the level of hCG—the pregnancy hormone that pregnancy tests detect—develops slightly differently. Some people 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.

Separating Fact From Fiction

The ache you might feel when you see a negative pregnancy test result is usually a reaction to what's happening at the moment: only one pink line instead of two. But feeling sad or worried 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.

Separating out the facts from the story can help you cope. So, when the pregnancy test is negative, the fact is simply that the test is negative. It may or may not even mean the cycle failed (yet)! Some 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 it takes, 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 fertility 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 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. Even if you never get pregnant, it still says nothing about your value.
  • I'll never be a parent. If, after getting a negative pregnancy test, you find yourself imagining the rest of your life without your dreamed-of child, you're not alone. Remember that this one negative test doesn't mean you'll never be a parent. There are many paths to building a family.

Confronting Fears

Even if you eventually discover that 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 being an aunt or uncle to your family and friends' children.

Of course, it is okay to feel sad about your pregnancy dreams not going as planned, and it is important to be realistic about your ability to conceive. But at the same time, it's essential to keep the big picture in mind. Don't allow 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.

Next Steps After A Negative Test

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, and haven't started your period yet, 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. 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 negative test. Once you've made that list, write down a comforting, rational answer to each story. You may be surprised how much wisdom you have inside yourself.
  • Think about your future plan of action. Knowing you have a plan of action, even if it's an extremely simple plan of continuing your current treatment or efforts to conceive, 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.

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.
  1. Gnoth C, Johnson S. Strips of hope: Accuracy of home pregnancy tests and new developmentsGeburtshilfe Frauenheilkd. 2014;74(7):661-669. doi:10.1055/s-0034-1368589

  2. Hasan R, Baird DD, Herring AH, Olshan AF, Jonsson Funk ML, Hartmann KE. Patterns and predictors of vaginal bleeding in the first trimester of pregnancyAnn Epidemiol. 2010;20(7):524-531. doi:10.1016/j.annepidem.2010.02.006

  3. Cole LA. The utility of six over-the-counter (home) pregnancy testsClin Chem Lab Med. 2011;49(8):1317-1322. doi:10.1515/CCLM.2011.211

  4. Centers For Disease Control and Prevention. 2017 Assisted Reproductive Technology Fertility Clinic Success Rates Report.

By Rachel Gurevich, RN
Rachel Gurevich is a fertility advocate, author, and recipient of The Hope Award for Achievement, from Resolve: The National Infertility Association. She is a professional member of the Association of Health Care Journalists and has been writing about women’s health since 2001. Rachel uses her own experiences with infertility to write compassionate, practical, and supportive articles.