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Can a Positive Pregnancy Test Be Wrong?

Medically Approved by Dr. Edward Salko

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This article is Medically Approved by Dr. Edward Salko

You’re pregnant! Or at least that’s what the pregnancy test stick says.

If you’re trying to conceive, this is a triumphant moment.

However, your obstetrician found out that your home pregnancy test was a mere false positive. Apparently, the over-the-counter pregnancy test kit produced an erroneous result. This type of error is actually rare, but it can still happen.

A positive pregnancy test can be wrong due to a faulty test kit, user error, or certain health conditions.

Learn more about how a positive pregnancy test can be wrong and learn how to avoid getting one. Read on and find out.

couple looking at pregnancy test result

How Do Pregnancy Tests work?

A typical pregnancy test kit found in the drug stores employs a quick analysis of your urine sample.

The test screens for human chorionic gonadotropin or better known as hCG. This substance is produced by the cells surrounding the growing embryo.

Eventually, the cells turn into the placenta, and more hCG is made.  As soon as the embryo attaches to the uterine walls, the production of hCG increases quickly.

hCG can be detected in the urine. However, more can be screened from a blood sample. 

Nonetheless, OTC home pregnancy tests require urine since sample collection is more accessible and safer than drawing blood from your blood vessels. The results are also generated a few minutes after the test was taken.

To sum it up, home pregnancy test kits are the go-to instrument to confirm pregnancy because they are widely available, produce fast results, and are cheaper compared to a lab test.

Most OTC brands are reliable. However, most pregnancy tests will require an ample amount of hCG to ensure accurate results.

What Causes a False Positive Pregnancy Test?

False-positive pregnancy tests are uncommon. But when it occurs, it may entail certain conditions like ectopic pregnancy.

Here are some of the possible reasons why you may get a positive result even if you’re not pregnant.

Mistakes in Using the Pregnancy Test

Taking a pregnancy test may be straightforward. All you have to do is collect enough urine samples in a container or directly pee on the stick.

However, even if you have seen how women do it in movies, it couldn’t hurt to check the instructions first.

Likewise, take note of the expiration date of the kit. Home pregnancy test kits that are past their expiration date can generate erroneous results.

A common mistake women make when taking a pregnancy test is doing it too early. This could produce false results.

The best time to take the test is a week after you missed your period or at least a couple of weeks after you had intercourse.

Also, make sure to take the sample from when you urinate right after waking up in the morning. It is considered your most concentrated urine, which contains plenty of hCG.

Chemical Pregnancy

If you get a false positive, it could be due to chemical pregnancy where the egg cell was successfully fertilized by the sperm cell. However, due to low-quality sex cells and other factors, the embryo did not develop or attach to the uterus.

When a woman experiences chemical pregnancy, it could be due to the following reasons.

  • Abnormalities in the uterus
  • Irregular production of hormones
  • Implantation outside the uterus
  • Sexually transmitted infections
  • Thyroid problems

Most chemical pregnancies remain unknown as women tend to assume that their period is just delayed when in fact, they’re experiencing an early miscarriage.

Ectopic Pregnancy

A developing embryo should undergo implantation in the uterus and nowhere else. But if the embryo does attach to other parts like the fallopian tube, it can lead to life-threatening bleeding.

Fallopian tube damage is often associated with ectopic pregnancy. This is because when an embryo travels from the tube to the uterus, it becomes extra tricky due to the said damage. As a result, the embryo could just settle in the fallopian tube and implant itself to the walls.

Women who are at risk of having ectopic pregnancy are those over the age of 35. The likelihood of such pregnancy is also high for those who have a history of multiple abortions and surgery in the abdomen and pelvis.

Since the embryo is implanted despite being outside the uterus, hCG is produced, and naturally, a woman would get a positive result in the pregnancy test.

However, a miscarriage may be on the way your obstetrician will prescribe a medication to halt the embryonic growth.

Misreading the Test Line

Depending on the brand and type of pregnancy test you have, there is a chance that you might be reading it wrong.

Cheaper home pregnancy test kits have two lines: the control line (which will always produce a streak) and the test line (which will only appear when you are pregnant). The test line confirms the presence of hCG.

Most pregnancy test strips or sticks provide a strict range of how long you should read the results. For example, some tests will tell you that you can’t read the test after five minutes.

One reason for this instruction is because some women observe the appearance of a line called the evaporation line on the testing part of the stick after several minutes or even hours.

An evaporation line results from the chemical reaction that happens when urine evaporates. It is usually faint and colorless instead of the clear, colorful streak that appears on the test and control lines.

Women who are expecting pregnancy often misread the evaporation line and assume a positive result.

Certain Medications and Medical Conditions

When you’re taking fertility medications, there is a chance that you get a false positive pregnancy when you take the test too early.

One of the medications prescribed by doctors to stimulate ovulation is a synthetic hCG shot. Additionally, drugs that treat anxiety, psychosis, and some allergies can also trigger a false positive pregnancy test result.

Diseases and certain medical conditions can also lead to a positive result despite not being pregnant. These conditions include ovarian cancer, ovarian cysts, kidney disease, and urinary tract infection.

Can You Avoid a False Positive Pregnancy Test Result?

Unfortunately, what you can do to prevent a false positive result is somewhat limited or almost non-existent.

Since the cause of this error can’t be determined easily, it could go beyond your control.

But if you want to have a more accurate pregnancy test result, you can always go for a pregnancy blood test.

hCG is more concentrated in the blood. Therefore, a blood test will not only provide you the Yes or No answer you seek, but it will also test the levels of hCG present in your blood.

pregnancy women touching stomach

The Takeaway

It is utterly frustrating to get your big fat positive (BFP) and then get told that it’s just an error, especially if you’re trying to conceive.

If your main concern regarding pregnancy testing is accuracy, you can never go wrong with a pregnancy blood test.

Although a false positive is rare, a blood test can strengthen the results of your at-home pregnancy test.

Furthermore, it can provide you an overview of the amount of hCG you produce and whether or not it falls under the normal range. 

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