Can Pregnancy Tests Be Wrong?

(October 10, 2012)

Nowadays, there are pregnancy tests available that can be taken as early as 14 days from possible conception. However, on the whole, doctors recommend that you take a test to determine if you are pregnant or not one to four days after your missed period for the most accurate results. While home pregnancy tests boast a 97% accuracy rate, mistakes are still possible.

False Readings and Why They Occur

There are two possible wrong readings you can get with a home pregnancy test - the first is known as a false negative reading where the results say that you are not pregnant, when in actuality you are and the second is a false positive, when you are not pregnant but the test indicates that you are. False negative readings are more common and can occur due to a variety of reasons.

  • For example, you may have taken the test too early. Different types of pregnancy tests differ in terms of their sensitivity to the Human Chorionic Gonadotropin (hCG) in your urine. Even though conception has taken place, your body may still not be producing enough hCG to be detected by a home pregnancy kit. If you repeat this test in another couple of days, you may get a different reading.
  • The way you take the test can also determine the accuracy of the results. If you did not dip the tester stick into the urine for long enough or if you dipped it for too long or you did not hold the stick properly in your urine stream, wrong results are possible.
  • Another reason for a wrong pregnancy test result is the miscalculation of the reaction time. Read the instructions on the box carefully before taking the test and note the time needed before the results should be read. Wait too little or too long and you may get a wrong reading.
  • Defective pregnancy tests will give an erroneous result as well; so check the expiry date on the box before using it.

More serious reasons for a wrong pregnancy test reading could include:

  • An ectopic pregnancy where low or falling hCG levels can give a false negative result.
  • A miscarriage during the early stage of pregnancy will also result in a false negative result.

There are also a number of reasons why you could get a false positive result from your pregnancy test. These include:

  • If read after the specified time, your test may show a faint positive result. Use a timer to read the results at the proper time for the most accurate results.
  • Once the test is taken, there is no need to go back to the tester stick after some time to double check if the results are the same. Some tests may show a positive reading after the stipulated result time has passed.  
  • Drugs such as phenothiazine, anti-convulsants, and diuretics can affect the results of a home pregnancy test. Urine can also be contaminated by vaginal discharge, protein or blood caused by other underlying medical conditions that may affect results.
  • In rare cases, a tumor along the reproductive tract could lead to a spike in hCG levels and give a false reading. If you experience symptoms such as abdominal pain, vaginal bleeding, nausea and vomiting along with a missed period, contact your doctor at the earliest.

So to answer your question, 'can pregnancy tests be wrong?' the answer is yes. Since many test kits come with two testers, repeat the procedure in a few days time to be doubly sure of the results. If you still think the test results are wrong, visit your doctor for a blood test to get an accurate result.

Submitted by N on October 10, 2012 at 01:48

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