When you miss your period, the first thought that comes to mind is, ‘Am I pregnant?’ You rush to the pharmacy and buy a pregnancy test. You take the test, and the result comes out negative. Your hopes are dashed, but there is still a nagging thought in your mind – ‘Is this pregnancy test faulty?’ And if this test is accurate, ‘what is going on in my body?’
In this article, you will learn about how home pregnancy tests work, the correct way to take a pregnancy test, and the reasons you may miss your period when you are not pregnant.
How do home pregnancy tests work?
Home pregnancy tests were invented in 1976 so that women could confirm that they are expecting at home. These tests check your urine for a hormone called human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG). This hormone is produced in the body only if you are pregnant.
A woman’s body makes this hormone after a fertilized egg attaches to the wall of the uterus. This process happens after six days of fertilization. The levels of hCG rise quickly after this, doubling every two or three days. Most of these tests are effective and accurate, and you can take them in the privacy of your home.
What is the correct way to take a home pregnancy test?
You must read the instructions given on the pregnancy test as the instructions may vary according to the brand. To improve the accuracy and avoid false negatives, you must do the following –
- Check the expiration date on the pregnancy test.
- Don’t drink a lot of water or other liquids before you take the test as it can dilute the hCG levels.
- Use the first urine in the morning to take the test as it contains more hCG.
- Depending on the test you choose, you can collect your urine sample in different ways. For some tests, you have to collect your urine in a cup and dip a testing stick into the liquid. For others, you collect your urine in a cup and use a dropper to put a small amount of urine into a special container on the test stick. Some other tests require you to place the testing stick into your expected urine stream area so that it will catch it midstream.
- Now you need to wait for the recommended amount of time on the test.
- You will see the result as a change in color, a line, a plus or minus symbol, or as words ‘pregnant’ or ‘not pregnant.’
How soon can you take a home pregnancy test?
Your body needs time to develop high enough hCG levels for it to be detected on the home pregnancy test. Your body generally takes seven to 12 days after the implantation of the egg to reach these levels. Taking the pregnancy test too early can lead to inaccurate results.
Though some tests can give accurate results even before you miss your period, you should wait until the day after your period is supposed to start. At this stage, you will get a 90% accurate result. Some reasons for false negatives on pregnancy tests are –
- You take the test before your period date. At this stage, you may be pregnant, but your hCG levels are too low for the test to detect.
- You did not use the first urine of the day, you drank too much liquid before the test, or the test you bought is not sensitive enough for early testing – even if you’re pregnant.
How soon should you take another test to be sure?
If your menstrual cycle is unpredictable, and your first test was negative, you might be pregnant but took the test too early. Even if you did miss your period and it hasn’t been at least a couple of weeks since you conceived, you could still get a ‘false negative.’
If you feel reasonably sure that you are pregnant, you can take another pregnancy test in a week. Just because your first test was negative, does not mean your next result will be the same.
The reason why your period is late even though the home pregnancy test is negative
1. Ectopic pregnancy
During ectopic pregnancy, the fertilized egg does not attach to the uterus and attaches to the fallopian tube, abdominal cavity, or cervix. In some rare cases, an ectopic pregnancy can show a negative result in the pregnancy test.
Women who are breastfeeding are quite likely to have irregular or missed periods. The hormones that support breastfeeding can cause the body to delay ovulation or ovulate infrequently. Even if your period comes back, it may take some time for it to be regular. A sudden increase in breastfeeding due to a growth spurt in your baby can also lead to a missed period.
Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a common condition that can cause irregular periods. An imbalance of reproductive hormones causes PCOS. With PCOS, the egg may not develop properly, or it may not be released during ovulation as it should be. If you suspect you have PCOS, contact your doctor for diagnosis and treatment.
Your missed period could be a result of stress. High levels of stress can cause an imbalance in your hormone levels and cause irregular or missed periods.
You can avoid stress by making sure that you have some time to relax. Breathing exercises, mediation, and yoga can help. If you still find it hard to cope with stress, you may be advised to take cognitive behavioral therapy.
Hormonal birth control pills can cause changes in your menstrual cycle. They can lighten your periods and even cause them to stop. Blood pressure medications, anti-allergy medication, antidepressants, and hormone replacement medications can also lead to a missed period.
6. Excessive exercise
Excessive amounts of exercise can cause your metabolism to slow down to conserve energy. In some cases, this can lead to irregular or missed periods.
7. Sudden weight gain or weight loss
Sudden gain or loss in weight affects your hormones, which can make your menstrual cycle irregular. People with anorexia and bulimia can also suffer from irregular or missed periods.
8. Thyroid issues
Thyroid problems like hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid) or hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid) can affect the frequency of your periods. Thyroid problems can be diagnosed with a simple blood test.
The average age for menopause in the US is 52 years. Perimenopause, the transition to menopause, start much earlier. The symptoms of perimenopause include irregular periods.
Having a missed period but a negative pregnancy test can be quite frustrating when trying to conceive. You may feel stressed, worried, and confused. You may be wondering if I am not pregnant, then why have I missed my period?
Firstly, you may not have taken the test correctly. Taking the test too early, drinking too much water before the test, and not using the first urine of the day, can lead to false negatives. Take the test after a week to confirm you are pregnant.
Some of the other reasons you may have missed your period include ectopic pregnancy, breastfeeding, PCOS, thyroid issues, side effects of medications, perimenopause, stress, excessive exercise, and sudden weight loss or weight gain.