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Houston Fertility Journal

How Common are False Positive Pregnancy Tests?

[fa icon="calendar"] Jan 28, 2019 11:09:00 AM / by Center of Reproductive Medicine   

Center of Reproductive Medicine

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If you have dreams of becoming a parent, fertility issues are among the most challenging issues you can face. Thankfully, modern science has advanced quite a bit in recent years, allowing for female infertility to be more accurately tested for and diagnosed than ever before. For couples and individuals alike, the sensitive nature of infertility is certainly an emotional time, and perhaps nothing is more frustrating than a false feeling of success. After months or even years of trying different therapies and medications, some aspiring parents are faced with the brief exhilaration of a positive pregnancy test, only to be dismayed to ultimately discover that their conception journey isn’t quite finished yet.

If you or someone you know has experienced the crushing defeat that accompanies a false positive, you can at least take solace in the fact that such a scenario is far more common than you may think. In fact, let’s discuss the misconception behind false positives and why you may want to wait for your physician or fertility specialist to verify your pregnancy before celebrating this milestone.

A Familiar Misconception

Most home pregnancy tests boast roughly 97 percent accuracy. In fact, many claim to do so just a day after you missed your period. So why are so many aspiring parents — especially those already contending with fertility issues — having to deal with false positives in their results? Well, there’s a number of reasons why, which we’ll get into in a moment. But first, let’s clarify how these home tests actually determine whether you are pregnant in the first place.

Home pregnancy tests typically check a woman’s urine for the presence of a hormone called human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG). If hCG exists in a significant capacity in the urine sample, then the test assumes that a pregnancy is already in progress. In most cases, there’s little reason to doubt it. After all, hCG is produced by the placenta once an embryo has successfully implanted. Bear in mind though that infertility patients tend to be tinkering with their hormonal levels to begin with, leaving the results of home pregnancy tests to be perhaps less reliable than it otherwise would be.

The Medication Conundrum

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In fact, one of the most impactful factors on home pregnancy test results is the medication you may have in your system. Infertility patients often have to cycle through several different treatments before they achieve conception, and yet, some of these medications actually introduce hCG into the system, thereby directly skewing your at-home tests. If you’re currently taking any medications that may lead to false positives, your doctor may recommend that you wait a week or two after your most recent injection before you take a home pregnancy test.  

Other medications — and even surgical procedures — also may interfere with your test results, especially those that interact with your endocrine system. These may include certain cancer treatments, immunosuppressant drugs (such as those used during organ transplant patients) and any drugs that are liable to affect the thyroid or pituitary gland. Of course, taking a particular medication isn’t the only contributing factor that might lead to a false positive. Some health conditions, such as certain tumors and blood disorders, can lead to similarly inaccurate results.

What to Do Next

Regardless of what treatment you may be undergoing or what health condition you suffer from, remember to always consult your physician or fertility specialist after getting a positive result on a home pregnancy test. As we’ve discussed, these results are especially subject to manipulation for fertility patients, and you owe it to yourself, your partner and your family to investigate whether some outside force is interfering with your test results. Once you visit your doctor, he or she can confirm your results using urinalysis or a blood test. This office can even monitor your hCG levels or perform a transvaginal ultrasound to determine with absolute certitude if you have conceived a child. In the latter case, identification of the gestational sac will confirm the presence of a pregnancy and, if there is one, its current status.

When you’re trying so hard to conceive a child and overcome infertility issues, it’s all too easy to get caught up in the excitement of the moment when you finally get a positive result on a home pregnancy test. But, if the result isn’t substantiated, it can make the subsequent treatment that much harder to move past. You may feel like your dream was granted and then immediately snatched away, particularly if you’ve been working with a fertility specialist for an extended period of time. That’s precisely why we’re discussing the notion of false positives in such a frank, transparent way: to empower you with the knowledge that sometimes these things happen. It doesn’t reflect on your ability to still get pregnant or even the current success level of your treatment. With so many factors in flux, it’s simply better to err on the side of caution.

Moving Forward

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So you’ve received a positive test result and discovered, upon a visit to your doctor, that you’re not pregnant. As we said, it happens. But don’t let that discourage you from pursuing your dreams of becoming a parent one day. Fertility research has grown by leaps and bounds, and you still have every shot of earning a true positive result on your home pregnancy test. If you’re working with the right fertility clinic and/or specialist, you likely have several other approaches you have yet to try.

If you’re reading this and have yet to find a fertility clinic or specialist, you should be asking the right questions to ensure that you and your partner are getting the kind of treatment you deserve. While the right doctor can propel you on your way to parenthood, no one knows what you need like you do, particularly when it comes to as sensitive a matter as your fertility. Armed with the right knowledge and a positive attitude, you’ll be able to accomplish much more than you ever thought possible. Stay strong, and parenthood may be right around the corner.

Getting Pregnant 101: Facts, Myths, and Secrets To Fertility

Topics: False Positive Pregnancy Test, Fertility Journey

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