First and foremost, let me spell it out for you that you can get a negative pregnancy report even if you are pregnant and have missed your period. Yes, and there are reasons for it explained further below.
And of course, you can miss your period even if you are not pregnant and this can last for a good two to three months. Again, reasons explained below.
Simple causes such as a temporary phase of stress, emotional or physical, can cause you to miss your period or delay it.
Or even stopping of birth control pills can delay your period due to hormonal irregularity. Another reason for the hormonal imbalance that can cause you to have a delayed period is an underactive thyroid gland.
This post answers all these queries about testing negative in the pregnancy test and yet missing your period. Or, the period may be late.
However, you shouldn’t worry about small delays in your periods. But, if you have missed your period for three months and your pregnancy test confirms that you are not pregnant, then you should worry and see your doctor to rule out any underlying pathology.
You should know that a missed period is a classic sign of pregnancy in a normal situation.
There are a few reasons that cause your pregnancy test result to show negative in spite of you having missed your period.
I have divided the causes into two formats:
1. You are pregnant and the test is negative
2. You are not pregnant and yet have missed the period on the expected day. And not being pregnant, the pregnancy test report will obviously be negative.
First, know how the pregnancy tests detect pregnancy
Home pregnancy test and pregnancy blood tests detect pregnancy by identifying a hormone called human chronic gonadotropin (hCG), which is present in blood and secreted in urine during pregnancy.
HCG starts being produced after conception and when the fertilized egg gets implanted in the uterine wall.
Initially, its blood and urine levels are quite low in the earliest stages and may not be detected by the pregnancy tests.
The hCG levels start rising rapidly after implantation and the as pregnancy progresses. Some pregnancy kits are more sensitive and can detect pregnancy earlier by identifying the hCG hormone in urine and blood.
You are pregnant and yet the test is negative: Causes
The following are the reasons why your pregnancy test can be negative even if you are pregnant and have already missed your period.
Wrong timing of pregnancy test
The most common cause of a false negative pregnancy test is a miscalculation on your part of your menstrual cycle days.
In a typical 28 day menstrual cycle, ovulation occurs on the 14th day of the cycle. There are variations at times and the ovulation may be late as many women do not have a 28-day cycle. The duration of the cycle can vary from 21 to 35 days
In such a case, you may do the pregnancy test much too early for the test to detect the hCG hormone in urine or blood.
Secondly, hCG levels develop at different rates in different women, which can again wrongly give a negative result – meaning that in some women the detectable levels may be seen earlier than other women.
You could, therefore, do the test too early when the hCG hormone levels are low and not at levels that the pregnancy tests can detect.
Pregnancy test and implantation delay
Implantation usually occurs about 6 to 8 days after the sperm has fertilized the ovum. And this is when the hCG levels can be detected by the sensitive pregnancy blood tests.
An over-anxious mom-to-be impatiently goes in for the test at this date. However, at times the implantation can be delayed and can occur 12 days after conception in which case the test performed before implantation will be negative though you have conceived.
Improper Testing Techniques
This usually happens when you are testing yourself for pregnancy with a home pregnancy testing kit. Home pregnancy tests can be quite accurate and reliable if used correctly.
A review has shown that urine pregnancy tests or home pregnancy tests are accurate to the extent of 97% when performed by technicians but the accuracy drops down to 75% when done by non-expert users.
This only shows that accuracy greatly depends on the test being properly performed. The instructions on the kit are fairly explicit and it is the failure to follow them properly, which drops the accuracy of the test and can give false results. If the test is properly done by you and at the right time, you too can get high accuracy results.
You should also check for the expiry date of the pregnancy kit to ensure the validity of the kit.
Ectopic Pregnancy and Negative Pregnancy Test
Ectopic pregnancy is pregnancy, which develops outside the uterus (usually in the fallopian tube). The fertilized egg gets implanted in the fallopian tube instead of the uterus. This may cause hCG levels to fall and give a negative pregnancy result.
This is rare and happens in only 3% of the ectopic pregnancy cases. Take medical opinion if the test is negative, you have missed the period, and have symptoms of early pregnancy.
Medications that cause negative pregnancy test
Some medications like diuretics used for high blood pressure and Promethazine (antihistamine) given for allergy can give a false negative pregnancy test though you are pregnant.
In cases where the woman has missed her period and is pregnant and the test is negative, some early pregnancy signs can be a giveaway of your pregnant status.
Such symptoms can include
- Spotting, which can occur during the implantation of the fertilized egg onto the uterine wall
- Abdominal cramps that may indicate early pregnancy. This cramping occurs due to the implantation and the closure of the cervical opening of the uterus.
- A milky white discharge is quite common in early pregnancy and occurs due to the thickening of the vaginal wall after the implantation.
Reasons for no pregnancy and missed period
There are reasons why you may not get a period, which wrongly points to pregnancy and your pregnancy test is rightly negative.
The following reasons may cause you to miss a period for a month or even two to three months without being pregnant.
Emotional stress can adversely affect the functioning of the hypothalamus in the brain. The hypothalamus is responsible for the release of the eggs from the ovaries via the pituitary and the thyroid glands’ action on the ovaries.
Ovarian dysfunction can lead to problems in estrogen production and ovulation.
After ovulation at normal times, the inner lining of the uterus sheds itself if the egg does not get fertilized, and menstrual bleeding occurs. When the eggs are not released (as during stress) the uterus does not get the signal to shed its inner lining leading to no period.
An attack of common cold or a serious health disorder can throw your regularity into off balance and delay your period. This could well delay your period by a month or two until you recover fully.
Similarly, after a surgery, which causes physical stress on the body, you can miss your period, which can be delayed until all your systems have returned to their original conditions.
Too much of strenuous activity over days too, will affect your ovulation in the same way and cause you to get a delayed period. Excessive physical stress leads to the inadequate release of estrogen from the hypothalamus and this can disturb the menstrual cycle.
Change in schedule
Similarly, a change of duty to night shift can cause your period to become irregular.
A sudden gain or sudden weight loss can stress the hypothalamus.
Extreme weight loss stresses the hypothalamus, which will not allow the release of estrogen needed to build the lining of the uterus causing you to miss your period.
Sudden weight gain will cause excessive release of estrogen, which can cause you to go without ovulation for months. Or, it can cause overdevelopment of the uterine lining resulting in heavy periods.
An overactive thyroid may interfere with your ovulation and you may not ovulate properly. This will cause a missed period or other menstrual disorders. Hyperthyroidism can be medically treated.
Excessive prolactin secretion
Excessive prolactin secretion stimulated by the pituitary gland in the brain due to some other reason can cause you to miss your period or more than one period.
During pregnancy and lactation days, prolactin levels increase about tenfold to stimulate the production of milk.
Hyperprolactinemia is a condition in which the prolactin levels increase abnormally high in a non-pregnant woman. The most common cause of this is a growth or a tumor of the pituitary gland called a prolactinoma.
Hyperprolactinemia inhibits the secretion of gonadotropin-releasing hormone from the hypothalamus, which in turn restrains the release of the follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) and the luteinizing hormone (LH) from the pituitary gland. This results in no ovulation and no period.
This has to be investigated and the cause to be treated. Prolactin is normally produced during your lactation time and that is why you do not menstruate during breastfeeding days.
Perimenopause is the period of the woman’s life when her body gradually transits from her reproductive years over to menopause.
The average age of a woman going through menopause is 51 years. Perimenopause can set in 2 to 8 years earlier.
At this time, the body starts making less estrogen. This can cause changes in your menstrual bleeding such as irregular periods, heavy or light bleeding, shorter or lengthened periods. At this time, missed periods are also common and if you have a missed period at say 45 years or thereabout, don’t panic. This most probably is the reason.
There are other reasons for missing your periods such as a pituitary tumor in the brain or a polycystic ovarian syndrome. These conditions cause you to have no periods due to the hormonal imbalance.
If your period is over delayed or you have missed out on more than three periods, you must consult your doctor to rule out any underlying condition.