In my forty years on earth, there are a few times that stand out in my life as pure unadulterated joy. And the moment I saw two faint lines on a stick, indicating that I was pregnant was one of them. Equally memorable, though, was that one moment when I learned that the two faint lines that had given me a brief moment of hope and exhilaration was a false positive.
I remember feeling overwhelmed by my own reaction to the news that it was an inaccurate test. There was no baby growing in my belly and something about that was killing me. In my heart of hearts, I wanted the positive result to be real and for the first time in my adult life, I knew for sure that not only was I ready for motherhood but that I truly wanted it.
But before I was going to go down that scary path of emotional upheaval because a test gave me the wrong results, I wanted to know what had happened and how could I prevent that kind of devastation from happening again. I talked to my doctor and I learned that false positives are fairly common and they have a ton of causes. By knowing this, I could hopefully better understand my own body and timing and be able to trust test results in the future.
False-positive pregnancy results aren’t uncommon and they can be emotionally devastating for women who are trying to conceive – and for those who, like me, saw the positive and were elated by the stunning and unexpected results. There are many causes for why this happens and it’s not always because the test itself is flawed.
For example, if a woman ovulates later than usual and she’s missed a period than she may have elevated HCG (pregnancy hormone) levels, which would lead to a false positive reading on a home test. Other causes for a false positive reading include infertility drugs that have HCG as an active ingredient, which would give a false positive on a test. Some medical conditions like certain kinds of cancers, ovarian cysts, urinary tract infections and kidney disorders, perimenopause and menopause, abortion or miscarriage, and problems with the pituitary gland would all affect HCG levels that would trip a false positive on a home test.
Because of human error and known medical causes for false positives, it is wise to seek a pregnancy test at a medical doctor’s office to rule out any issues that aren’t pregnancy-related.
But all the preparation and precautionary calculations in the world can prepare a woman for the awful feeling of thinking you’re expecting a baby and then having your hopes dashed because a test didn’t work accurately. I can tell you from experience that it is painful and soul-crushing.
To help soften the blow of bad news while trying to conceive it is important to know that a false positive test is not an indicator that something is wrong or that you can’t ever get pregnant. Talking to your partner, trusted friends, and your medical doctor can help you to sort through all the details on conceiving but also to help deal with the emotional side when those lines on the stick don’t line up with what is happening in your womb.