Trying to conceive (TTC) can be an emotional rollercoaster — to put it mildly.
All the more so when you throw the possibility of misleading test results into the mix.
So can you get a false positive pregnancy test?
Is this possible?
How likely is it?
And what causes it?
If you’ve just had a positive test, it’s totally normal to have many questions right now.
Take a deep breath.
We’ve got you covered with everything you need to know.
In this article: 📝
- Can you get a false positive pregnancy test?
- What can cause a false positive pregnancy test?
- What causes hCG levels to rise if not pregnant?
- What medications can cause a false positive pregnancy test?
- Can a UTI cause a false positive pregnancy test?
- Can hormonal imbalance cause a positive pregnancy test?
- How likely is a false positive pregnancy test?
- How many pregnancy tests should I take if positive?
- Can a positive pregnancy test be wrong twice?
- Is it an evaporation line or faint positive?
- Can a pregnancy test turn positive after 30 minutes?
Can you get a false positive pregnancy test?
The short answer here is: yes.
Before we dive into the details, let’s take a quick look at how pregnancy tests work:
You pee on a stick and wait for a chemical reaction to produce your result.
The test looks for a hormone called human chorionic gonadotrophin (hCG).
This hormone is essential in helping to maintain a healthy pregnancy.
And usually, it’s only really around in the body when you’re pregnant.
If hCG is sufficiently present, you get the positive sign (or some variation of it).
Not enough, and it lets you know that you’re negative.
Different pregnancy tests deliver the news in different ways — sometimes a double line or positive sign for “pregnant” and a single line or negative sign for “not pregnant.”
Digital tests take the guesswork out of it and just display the word on the screen.
What can cause a false positive pregnancy test?
If you have hCG in your system for another reason, your test could show positive.
This means the test would say you’re pregnant when you’re not.
Although a false positive result is incredibly rare, it’s possible.
On the other side of the equation, if you test too early in your pregnancy, your levels of hCG are sometimes too low to pick up, and your test will show negative.
This is a false negative.
And they are way more common than false positives.
To avoid this, wait to test until the day after your next period is expected.
HCG becomes detectable from around ten days after conception.
Conception is most likely to happen around the time you’re ovulating.
Because pregnancy is counted from the first day of your last period (two weeks before this), you’ll technically be about four weeks pregnant by the time you can get an accurate positive result.
(Counting pregnancy weeks can be confusing.
We give you the full lowdown here.)
What causes hCG levels to rise if not pregnant?
A test can be positive for several reasons other than pregnancy.
The most common ones are if you’ve given birth recently, experienced pregnancy loss, or terminated a pregnancy.
HCG levels can be higher than normal for four to six weeks after giving birth or experiencing pregnancy loss.
Certain medical conditions can also produce hCG.
Some of these are ovarian cysts, kidney disease, pituitary problems, and ovarian cancer.
Some fertility treatments and medications can cause hCG hormone levels to rise.
Important: if you get a positive result and then later find out you’re not pregnant because you’ve had an ectopic pregnancy, or experienced early pregnancy loss, your positive test results were true positives.
Pregnancy loss at any stage can be devastating.
You don’t have to just go on business as usual.
And you don’t have to go through this alone.
Reach out to family, friends, and your healthcare provider.
And know that your Peanut community is here for you.
What medications can cause a false positive pregnancy test?
Any medication that contains hCG can cause a false positive pregnancy test result.
Other medications that may cause a false positive pregnancy test result are progestin-only birth control pills and some antipsychotics, antihistamines, sedatives used for surgery, and anti-anxiety medication.
For a full list of medications that could cause a false pregnancy test, head here.
And when in doubt, talk to your doctor.
Can a UTI cause a false positive pregnancy test?
Yes, if you have a serious urinary tract infection (UTI)—with high levels of white cell counts, red blood cells, and nitrites—it can occasionally cause your pregnancy test to show a false positive.
Can hormonal imbalance cause a positive pregnancy test?
If you’re going through menopause or are post-menopausal, you could have higher levels of hCG in your system.
That means you could get a positive result, even if you’re not pregnant.
How likely is a false positive pregnancy test?
So, what are the chances of a false positive pregnancy test?
Luckily, very low — less than 1% if the pregnancy test has been used according to the instructions.
How many pregnancy tests should I take if positive?
If you get a positive result on your home pregnancy test, it’s a good idea to make an appointment with your doctor.
They might do a blood pregnancy test to confirm the result, which is far more accurate than a home pregnancy test.
Alternatively, you can wait a few days and take a second home pregnancy test.
(Agonizing, we know.)
If that’s still positive, then check in with your healthcare provider.
Can a positive pregnancy test be wrong twice?
It’s highly unlikely you’ll get two false positive tests if you’ve followed the test’s instructions correctly.
An important part of this is timing — not waiting too long to read the results but not reading them too soon, either.
Also, make sure you check the expiration date on your pregnancy test.
Unfortunately, they do expire.
But an expired test is more likely to give you a false negative than a false positive.
That’s because older tests might struggle to detect hCG.
Is it an evaporation line or faint positive?
Many home pregnancy tests show two lines when hCG is present (meaning you’re pregnant) and one line when hCG isn’t detected.
An evaporation line, as the name suggests, is from evaporated urine rather than from hCG and can result from waiting too long before reading the result.
Can a pregnancy test turn positive after 30 minutes?
If you read the test result after the recommended time, you might see an evaporation line that can be mistaken for a positive.
It’s important to follow the instructions carefully to ensure your results are as accurate as possible.
Whether you’re TTC or trying not to, all of this can be nerve-racking, we know.
If you want some support, join us on Peanut.
We’re here for you. ❤️