False Positive Pregnancy Test Results

False Positive Pregnancy Test Results

Most women dream of the day they find out they are going to bring a new life into this world. From the time they are little girls, society is seemingly preparing them for motherhood. It is often the defining status symbol of being a woman. While many pregnancies are unplanned, couples who plan their pregnancies or have fertility issues are often plagued with worry, anxiety and disappointment when it comes to pregnancy testing as so often, the test comes back disappointingly negative. Claim Your 20 Free Pregnancy Tests – Click Here

Nothing can be more heart wrenching than getting a positive pregnancy test result only to find out later that the results were false and they are, in fact, not pregnant. What causes false positive pregnancy results? What steps can you take to ensure that your home pregnancy test results are accurate?

Understanding a home pregnancy test

Fact: Home pregnancy tests are around 97% accurate when taken correctly, however, there are times when errors occur. In order to understand why women can receive false positives, you must understand how a home pregnancy test works.

Basically, a home pregnancy test measures the level of the pregnancy hormone, hCG (Human Chorionic Gonadotropin). A woman’s body naturally begins to produce this hormone in order to sustain a healthy pregnancy.

In a normal pregnancy, hCG levels can be detected through a blood test as early as 11 days from the time of conception and approximately 12-14 days when using a urine pregnancy test. The hCG levels in a woman’s body will reach its peak between the 8th and 11th weeks of pregnancy; after which it will begin to level off for the duration of the pregnancy.

It is important to note a number of things regarding hCG:

The only thing that can interfere with hCG levels are medications which contain the hCG hormone, such as, fertility drugs

In a woman who is not pregnant, hCG levels are <5.0 mIU/ml

In postmenopausal women <9.5 mIU/ml

Low hCG levels can signify onset of a potential miscarriage, blighted ovum, ectopic pregnancy or pregnancy dating miscalculation

High hCG levels can signify being pregnant with multiples, a molar pregnancy, and a miscalculation of pregnancy dating

What can cause a false positive?

There are a number of factors that can cause a woman to believe that she has a positive test result when in fact she is not pregnant. While some of the causes are natural, most are due to simple human error.

Evaporation lines

Of all the human errors, this is the most common cause of misinterpretation of pregnancy test results. Evaporation lines occur when the urine passes through the test strip window and dries. This faint line can often be misinterpreted as a positive result. In order to avoid this confusion always read the results within the amount detailed on the test packaging. Do not read results after the time allotted. If you miss the time stipulated, retest using a new test.

Chemical pregnancy

A chemical pregnancy or otherwise known as an early miscarriage, occurs when the body technically becomes pregnant yet does not sustain the pregnancy. Some women, especially those undergoing fertility treatments, often test very early in pregnancy.

Unfortunately, this often leads to great disappointment when she goes on to have her regular monthly cycle. In order to minimize this heartbreaking situation, keep track of your monthly cycle and test only after you have missed a period.

Chemical interference

This scenario often occurs in women undergoing fertility treatments which contain hCG, such as hCG shots. The hormone in the drugs may cause the test to read a false positive. To avoid this- ensure that you have allowed enough time for the shot to be completely out of your system before using a pregnancy test. If you are unsure, retest a week or two later and/ or see your doctor for medical advice and testing.

Defective pregnancy test

Believe it or not, pregnancy tests can be defective. Always store unused pregnancy tests in a clean, dry place. Exposure to excessive moisture can cause possible false results. When testing, place the test device on a dry surface and time result reading accurately.

While not as common as a false negative, false positive results do happen. Being aware of the reasons for such errors can save you both time, money and unnecessary heart break. Trying to conceive can be the most stressful time in a woman’s life, but the joy from getting a truly positive test result will be one of the happiest.

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Monica Scott, BS, RN
Monica Scott, BS, RN | ConceiveEasy
Ms. Scott joined ConceiveEasy after working in prenatal obstetrical care for two years in a private practice before being promoted to Director of Nursing. She has a strong interest in women's health with an emphasis on promoting fertility awareness.