When you get a positive pregnancy test result when you’re not expecting one, it can come as a huge shock. In this situation, it’s natural to wish that the results aren’t real. Many women who come to our center ask us if it’s possible they got a “false positive” on their home pregnancy test, but this often isn’t the case.  Learn how common false positives are and what causes them, then contact DAZZ today at 843-225-3010 for a free confirmation pregnancy test or pregnancy options counseling.

How Pregnancy Tests Work

Before talking about how a false positive can happen, it’s important to understand how a pregnancy test actually works.

When you become pregnant, your body starts going through a huge number of rapid changes to prepare for the pregnancy. Most of these changes are triggered by hormones that affect different parts of your body. Hormonal changes are also the reason many women experience side effects during early pregnancy such as nausea, lightheadedness, cramping, and body aches.

A pregnancy test works by detecting these hormone levels in your urine – specifically, the hormone hCG, or human chorionic gonadotropin. This hormone is only produced by your body  from cells produced in the placenta when you are pregnant. When a pregnancy test detects its presence in your urine, it almost always means you are pregnant. 

However, it takes time for hCG levels to build up in your body. hCG levels roughly double in your bloodstream every three days, but they are too often low to detect until about 7-10 days after conception. If you take a pregnancy test before this, you could still get a negative result, even if you are actually pregnant. These “false negatives” are very common in early pregnancy.

The Trouble with False Positives

While false negatives are very common, a false positive – where a pregnancy test tells you you’re pregnant when you aren’t – is extremely rare. That’s because there are very few circumstances when your body would produce hCG without being pregnant. 

Chemical Pregnancy

The most common cause of false positives is when you experience a “chemical pregnancy.” This term is slightly misleading, as a chemical pregnancy is actually a pregnancy, but it ends in very early miscarriage.  In these cases, a pregnancy test can detect the hCG in your body, but it won’t tell you if the pregnancy is viable or not.

Ectopic Pregnancy

You can also get a positive pregnancy test result from an ectopic pregnancy, which is a pregnancy that implants outside the uterus. Ectopic pregnancies can pose a serious threat to both the mother and the child. If an ectopic pregnancy isn’t caught early, it could cause your fallopian tubes to rupture, causing massive internal injuries. A doctor or hospital clinic can diagnose an ectopic pregnancy through an ultrasound examination. If you notice anything out of the ordinary or are experiencing symptoms such as severe abdominal or pelvic pain, heavy bleeding, or lightheadedness, contact your doctor or OBGYN immediately.

Medical Conditions & Medications

There are also some medical conditions that can cause false pregnancy positives in rare cases. These conditions can vary, but some of the more common ones are certain types of cancer and ovarian cysts. Additionally, you can get a false pregnancy positive after taking certain medications that contain hCG (such as fertility drugs), anti-anxiety medications, and some antipsychotics.

Mistakes When Taking the Test

Finally, the most common cause of a false positive is simply not following instructions when taking a pregnancy test. You should always check to make sure the pregnancy test you are using isn’t expired, and you should carefully time how long the test is in your urine stream to get an accurate result. Additionally, if you read the test results after the recommended amount of time (usually about ten minutes), you can receive inaccurate results.

How to Get an Accurate Pregnancy Test

The best way to make sure you get an accurate pregnancy diagnosis is to visit a doctor, clinic, or pregnancy center. These places all have trained and helpful staff who can ensure you take the test correctly and get an accurate result. If you do get a positive test, you can also follow up with an ultrasound to ensure your pregnancy is healthy and viable.

At DAZZ, we offer free pregnancy testing and ultrasound examinations to make your pregnancy results simple, safe, and convenient.  We are always available to answer your questions and discuss your pregnancy options with you in a safe, judgment free zone. Call us today at 843-225-3010, schedule an appointment online, or walk into our center at any time.