You’re staring at two lines on your pregnancy test – it’s a positive result. You might feel excited, you might be frustrated, or you might feel upset. No matter how you feel, you want to make sure those results are accurate, and that you don’t have a false positive pregnancy test.
It can be devastating to have a false positive pregnancy test, especially if you’ve had troubles conceiving or actively are trying to conceive. One minute, you’re jumping for joy, then you’re crushed.
It’s not a good feeling.
The first thing that you need to know is how a pregnancy test works. Then, we’ll look at the reasons why you might get a false-positive test.
How a Pregnancy Test Works
Pregnancy tests look for a hormone called HCG, which is short for human chorionic gonadotropin. HCG production begins during pregnancy when a fertilized egg attached to the uterine lining successfully.
Typically, HCG is detectable 10-14 days after conception, depending on when the egg implants into the uterus. The HCG levels usually double every 48-72 hours throughout the first 8-11 weeks of your pregnancy.
So, a pregnancy test that you take at-home looks for HCG in your urine. Each test has a set limit of when it can detect HCG. If the hormone is present, it triggers a reaction, giving a positive result.
As long as you take the test closer to your period, most tests are close to 99% accurate. Since ultrasounds can’t detect pregnancies until 5-6 weeks of pregnancy, taking an at-home test lets you know even sooner!
Reasons You Might Get a False-Positive Pregnancy Test
Here are some reasons why a false-positive result could happen!
1. The Test Sat Too Long
Before you take the test, make sure that you read the instructions. All tests need to be read in a set time frame. If you let a pregnancy test sit too long (usually 10 minutes or longer), the urine can evaporate on the test, making it appear as if there are two lines rather than one.
This is called having an “evap,” and it totally can happen. The line will be super light, and it won’t have any color. However, in the right light, it can very much look like a positive test.
2. You Used an Expired Test
Yes, pregnancy tests have an expiration test – seriously! Expiration dates aren’t just for food products.
When a test goes past its expiration date, the chemicals used to detect HCG might not function properly. It increases the likelihood of a false positive.
3. You’re Taking Fertility Medications
Taking fertility medications, such as those used in IVF treatments, can cause a false positive. This is why even though you might be super excited, it’s better not to take pregnancy tests too early if you’re using fertility medications.
4. You Experienced an Early Miscarriage
If you get your period a few days after a positive pregnancy test, you might be quick to assume you had a false-positive result. However, there is a chance you had a very early miscarriage, which is called a chemical pregnancy.
Having a chemical pregnancy doesn’t mean that your test was wrong – it did detect HCG in your system because you did conceive. Unfortunately, it results in a miscarriage rather than a pregnancy.
Chemical pregnancies are prevalent; most women never have any idea that they experienced one because they might not even have a late period. Some estimate that chemical pregnancies are 50-75% of all miscarriages, and abnormalities in the fertilized egg most likely cause them.
5. There is Residual HCG After Delivery or a Miscarriage
Whether you have a miscarriage or gave birth, there will be HCG in your system for a few weeks or a few months. Some doctors estimate that it can take up to six weeks for your HCG levels to return to normal.
So, if you take a pregnancy test soon after either one, you might get a positive result that is due to detecting residual HCG in your body rather than HCG from a new pregnancy.
6. You Had an Ectopic Pregnancy
If you have an ectopic pregnancy, it means that the fertilized egg grows on the outside of your uterus, typically in the fallopian tubes rather than inside of your uterus.
Unfortunately, ectopic pregnancies are not viable because the embryo isn’t inside of your uterus. It’s unable to grow in another area of your body. Ectopic pregnancies can be life-threatening, so you need to let your doctor if you experience any of these symptoms:
- Severe abdominal pain
- Severe pelvis pain
- Vaginal bleeding
There is always a slight chance that you have a false-positive pregnancy test. However, most positive results are accurate. Call your doctor and request a blood test to be sure!