Wondering if you’re pregnant or not and waiting to find out can feel like torture.

Taking a home pregnancy test is often the first course of action. These easily available tests are no substitute for a doctor’s care, of course – and even a negative pregnancy test can be misleading. Then there’s the phenomenon of getting a negative pregnancy test result yet still “feeling” pregnant, but is your negative test result really negative?

So are you or aren’t you?

Changes in your body – some naturally occurring, some a result of a possible medical condition – may imitate the signs of pregnancy.

  • If you missed a period … you may just have an irregular menstrual cycle. Other non-pregnancy factors, like stress or sleeplessness, can cause you to skip or be late. Some highly athletic women experience late or no menstruation – called amenorrhea – due a hormonal imbalance triggered by a lack of calories in their diet combined with high-energy activity. If you take or have recently stopped taking birth control, the change in hormones may account for an irregular cycle. If you’re around age 40, a late, missing or irregular period may be a sign of perimenopause.
  • If you feel tenderness in your breasts you may be experiencing a typical side-effect of PMS. Other non-pregnancy sources of tenderness include medical conditions like infection or cysts. You may even be feeling sore from wearing an ill-fitting bra or pulling a muscle around the chest wall. But any severe or lasting breast pain or tenderness, or a sudden change in the look of the breast, should be checked out by a physician.
  • If your abdomen looks or feels swollen you are likely not in the early stages of pregnancy, as it takes several months of fetal development to produce the considerable change in your body’s shape. However, you may be bloating from PMS, retaining food or fluid due to an allergy or intolerance, or have a non-cancerous uterine fibroid developing in that area.
  • If you have “morning sickness” the nauseated feeling may be due not to pregnancy but to a viral or bacterial infection. Migraine headaches can trigger nausea, as can extreme emotional states. You may be feeling the effects of food your body doesn’t tolerate well. Appendicitis or problems with the gall bladder can also produce symptoms of nausea.

Timing your test

It’s natural to want to “pee on the stick” the moment you notice you missed your period. But rushing can produce a false negative pregnancy test. “If you test too soon in pregnancy, even with a sensitive test, the amount of [the hormone] hCG in your urine may not be high enough to detect,” notes Baby Centre UK.

If you want to be sure of the result (whether negative or positive) call Gateway for a free, lab-certified pregnancy test. We have nurses on hand to answer your questions.