February 27, 2024
Missed Period Negative Pregnancy Test Cramping White Discharge

18 Reasons for Missed Period, Negative Pregnancy Test, Cramping & White Discharge

A woman’s body is amazing in many ways. She has the power to bear a child for months and sustain it long after birth through breastfeeding. Many changes happen to a woman’s body when she gets pregnant so it’s safe to say that pregnancy is a monumental life event for any woman.

Some changes that women experience can point to a positive pregnancy, but there are a few signs in their body that mean other things and may be mistaken for pregnancy. Sometimes, a woman might experience missed period negative pregnancy test cramping white discharge without a clear explanation. This can be nerve-racking for a woman whether she wants to have children or not.

For women who are hoping to start a family, experiencing strange changes like a late period, white discharge, and cramping turns into disappointment when their home pregnancy test produces a negative result.  This article will explain the possible reasons why you’re experiencing these symptoms. You will also get answers to your most common questions about home pregnancy tests and your own fertility.

How Home Pregnancy Tests Work

Pregnancy tests are made to detect if a hormone unique to pregnancy called human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) is in your urine or blood. This hormone is released by the placenta soon after a fertilized egg attaches to the wall of the uterus. (1) (2)

This commonly occurs 6 days after the sperm fertilizes the egg. Every 2-3 days, the hCG levels of pregnant women rapidly increase and double; the longer you wait, the more likely a home pregnancy test will detect the hCG in your urine. (3) If you have a regular 28-day cycle, hCG in your urine can be detected 12-15 days after ovulation, or around the time of your missed period. (4) (5)

There are two main types of pregnancy tests:

1. Urine Tests

This type of pregnancy test can be done at home or in a clinic by a doctor. As the name suggests, a urine test requires your urine, which is usually collected in a cup and tested with a stick. It can also be done while peeing on a stick and catching the urine mid-stream. The result will be shown by a line, changing color, or a plus or minus symbol. (6) For example, in a lot of home pregnancy test kits, two lines mean ‘pregnant.’

2. Blood tests

Pregnancy blood tests are not as common as urine tests and can only be done at a facility with blood testing capacity. It can discover pregnancy earlier than a DIY pregnancy test, but the result takes longer to come out. (7)

One type of blood test is a qualitative hCG blood test, which checks your blood for elevated levels of hCG. (8) This test is performed via venipuncture, or the extraction of blood from your vein using a needle (9)

Another type of blood test is a quantitative hCG test. Your doctor may call an hCG blood test by a different name, such as beta-hCG blood test or quantitative blood pregnancy test. (10) This test counts the exact number of hCG in the blood and it can detect low levels of hCG early in the pregnancy. (11)

Comparing the two tests, a study found that, even though doctors prefer qualitative hCG blood tests over quantitative because of a perceived faster turnaround time, the reality is qualitative tests take longer to transport from extraction to the laboratory and is slightly less sensitive than quantitative tests (78% compared to quantitative’s 96.8% diagnostic sensitivity). (12) For women who want a more definite pregnancy test result, asking for a quantitative hCG test is advisable.

Menstrual Cycle and Ovulation

The menstrual cycle is responsible for a woman’s ability to bear children. During your reproductive years, you experience cycles of hormone-driven changes in your body that happens monthly—typically but not always. (13) In summary, the menstrual cycle starts with your menstruation, which leads to the ovaries releasing an egg and the uterus lining its walls to get ready for fertilization. When fertilization doesn’t take place, the lining sheds as menstruation and the cycle repeats.

A menstrual cycle is counted from the first day of menstruation (menses) of one cycle to the start of menses of the next. The average length of a menstrual cycle is 28 days, ranging from 25 to 30 days, but different women have different cycles. Sometimes, the cycle of the same woman can vary from one month to another. Typically, a girl’s first period comes when she’s 11 to 14 years old. (14) (15)

The following are the four phases of your menstrual cycle, including ovulation:

1. Menstruation / Menstrual Phase

The menstrual cycle begins with the shedding of the endometrium, or the lining of the uterus, which comes out as menstrual fluid. This contains cells from the uterine lining, blood, and mucus and typically lasts from 3 days to a week. This is when you need sanitary pads or tampons to absorb the menstrual flow. (16)

Just like the menstrual cycle, women’s menstruation varies from woman to woman. What’s normal for one woman is not normal for another.  In general, during a woman’s first year or two of getting her period, she may have longer, irregular cycles, while older women have shorter, more predictable cycles. Mind you, it can still change even for women with mostly regular cycles. For example, being on birth control or IUD may change the timing of your menstruation. (17)

2. Follicular Phase

The follicular phase starts on the first day of your period and ends when you ovulate. The region of your brain called hypothalamus signals the pituitary gland to let follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) go, which then stimulates the ovary to make follicles (tiny nodules containing an egg). Only one follicle normally survives into a mature egg. This happens about 10 days into a 28-day cycle. (18)

3. Ovulation

After a follicle turns into a mature egg, ovulation begins when this mature egg is released from the confines of the ovary, through the fallopian tube, and into the uterus. There, the egg awaits a sperm to fertilize it; if no fertilization occurs, the lining of the uterine wall is shed as menstrual fluid. (19) When sexual intercourse occurs during this time and a sperm combines with the egg, you become pregnant.

Ovulation happens in one day about 14 days before you expect your period or 14 days after your last period. This time frame can change from one month to the next or depending on your normal cycle. If you’re hoping to get pregnant, you’ll need to track your ovulation as you are most likely to conceive around this time. (20)

According to March of Dimes, the best time to have sex in order to conceive is a day or two before your ovulation or on the day itself. Having sex multiple times around this time increases the chances of getting pregnant. Check online for an ovulation calculator or calendar to help in monitoring your ovulation. (21)

Take note that a sperm can live inside your body for up to 7 days, so it’s possible to become pregnant even if you don’t have sex on the exact day of your ovulation. The sperm can wait for your egg and fertilize it. (22)

Also, according to studies, only an estimated 30% of women have predictable ovulation or “fertile windows”; most women become fertile much earlier or later than the normal 14-day mark. This can happen even for women with regular cycles. (23) This means that relying on an ovulation calendar may not be the best form of contraception if you’re avoiding getting pregnant.

4. Luteal Phase

The luteal phase is generally constant for women and lasts for 14 days. (24) After the follicle releases an egg during the follicular phase, it transforms into the corpus luteum, which is responsible for pregnancy hormones like progesterone and estrogen. These hormones thicken the lining of your uterus wall in preparation for fertilization. (25)

When you get pregnant, your body will produce the hCG hormone, which is detected by pregnancy tests. This hormone continues thickening your uterus wall upon fertilization. In the absence of a sperm, the corpus luteum dissolves and your estrogen and progesterone levels lower, resulting in premenstrual syndrome (PMS) in some women.  (26)

White Discharge and Pregnancy

During pregnancy, women experience an increase in vaginal discharge. A normal vaginal discharge during this time is leukorrhea, a thin/thick, clear/milky white, and mild smelling discharge. Pregnant women usually experience more than usual amounts of leukorrhea as their pregnancy progresses. (27)

1. Can You Have White Discharge Even When Not Pregnant?

Yes. It’s normal to have leukorrhea throughout your menstrual cycle. This discharge especially occurs around the time of your ovulation and may get thicker leading up to the day you ovulate. (28)

Leukorrhea is meant to keep the vagina moist and prevent infection. It occurs at any age for a woman, but the amount of discharge changes at different times. It usually gets heavier if a woman is pregnant, sexually active, or using birth control. (29)

2. Is Leukorrhea One of the Early Pregnancy Signs?

Yes and No. It’s true that leukorrhea is more noticeable during pregnancy, but as mentioned before, it’s also normal to have white discharge at other times during your reproductive years. Usually, leukorrhea during pregnancy may increase late in a woman’s first trimester or even at the start of the second trimester. It’s not an ideal sign to wait for if you want to know about your pregnancy early on. (30)

3. What Is Abnormal Vaginal Discharge?

Leukorrhea is mild smelling and is no cause for alarm, but your vaginal discharge can also indicate that something is wrong internally.  If you notice a green or yellowish color in your discharge, it may be a sign of a problem. If it smells strong and you feel itchy around your vagina, you may have some form of vaginal infection like a yeast infection. It could also be a sexually transmitted disease (STD). (31)

You should talk to your doctor if you notice any of these changes or something more serious like pain or bleeding. To help keep your vaginal discharge normal and healthy, avoid using douche, deodorants, and perfumed soaps or gels on your vagina. (32)

Most Common Reasons for Missed Period Negative Pregnancy Test Cramping White Discharge

A one-week late period doesn’t always indicate pregnancy. At the same time, a negative pregnancy test doesn’t automatically mean you’re not pregnant. Most women receive a true positive pregnancy test after 3 weeks of pregnancy, while others get a clear result at the first try. The only way to be sure if you’re pregnant is to take a pregnancy test at the right timing or to do a more accurate pregnancy blood test.

If you’re experiencing a missed period, cramping, and white discharge with a negative pregnancy test, here are the most common reasons that could explain your condition.

1. Pregnancy

Most of the time, a missed period is the first sign that a woman is pregnant. This is especially true if you and your partner are trying to get pregnant. It may be that you tested too early or too late (as I’ll explain later).

To be really sure, your doctor may ask you to do a blood test. A quantitative blood test or a beta-hCG blood test is a highly accurate pregnancy test with an accuracy of 99.5–100%. (33)

Early Pregnancy Symptoms

Every pregnancy is different. Symptoms of early pregnancy may vary from woman to woman so do not immediately dismiss the possibility that you’re pregnant if you don’t experience the following symptoms:

a. Spotting or light bleeding

One of the earliest signs of pregnancy, bleeding is common as the fertilized egg or embryo implants in the uterus six to twelve days after fertilization. This is usually experienced with cramping, but some women do not notice this at all. (34)

b. Missed period

If you’re of a reproductive age and a week or two has passed without your expected period, it could be that you’re pregnant—except if your period is irregular or inconsistent. (35)

It’s also normal for women to have some bleeding as a sign of pregnancy, so finding blood in your underwear doesn’t mean you’re not pregnant. Missing your period could also mean other things like hormonal problems, stress, or weight gain. (36)

c. Fatigue

It’s normal for pregnant women to feel extreme tiredness during early pregnancy. With the surge of progesterone in the body, a woman might feel sleepy all the time. (37)

d. Nausea

Commonly known as ‘morning sickness,’ nausea is one of the most common signs a woman is pregnant. This symptom normally starts 2-8 weeks after fertilization. For some women, nausea occurs at any time throughout the day and not just the ‘morning.’ (38)

These are just a few of the most common pregnancy symptoms. Other signs are tender breasts, frequent urination, mood swings, bloating, dizziness, and other changes. If you suspect you’re pregnant, talk to your doctor or take a pregnancy test at home or at a healthcare facility.

2. Tested Too Early

One of the most common causes of an inaccurate test result is if you do the pregnancy test too early. Remember that pregnancy tests work by detecting the amount of hCG in your urine or blood, so if you test too early in the pregnancy when you still have low levels of hCG, it’s possible to test negative even if you’re pregnant. This is called a false negative result. (39)

Many home pregnancy tests claim to be 99% accurate even on the first day of a missed period. A 2005 study that tested 7 over-the-counter pregnancy tests revealed that most of these products detected only a small percentage of pregnancies when the test is taken on the first day of a missed period. The most sensitive test, First Response Early Result, was able to detect more than 95% of pregnancies with its capacity to detect 6.3 mIU/mL of hCG levels. (40)

If you have irregular periods or not sure when your period is due, it’s best to wait another week after your probable first day or at least 3 weeks after you think you ovulated. (41) (Remember a woman’s ovulation usually happens 14 days or 2 weeks after her last period).

3. Faulty Test Kit

Although it’s rare, some women get a positive result from home pregnancy tests even when they’re not pregnant, or what’s known as a false-positive result. (42) This could happen if you have blood or protein in your urine or if you took certain drugs like anti-convulsants, tranquilizers, or hypnotics. (43)

It’s also possible that the test is expired or your urine is diluted because you took the test after drinking lots of water or fluids. (44) In rare cases, the test kit has a manufacturing defect such as what happened when more than 58,000 Clear & Simple digital pregnancy tests were recalled in October 2018 after wrongly informing women they’re pregnant. (45) If you think you’re pregnant even after a negative test result, you should take the test again after a few days.

4. Not Following Instructions Correctly

It’s important to follow instructions carefully when you take a DIY home pregnancy test. Urine tests are considered qualitative and their accuracy depends largely on how you handle the testing. Most home pregnancy test kits will ask you to hold a strip and catch your pee mid-stream, while others will make you use a cup to collect your pee and then dip the strip in it. Make sure to read the instructions on the packaging.

Most of these kits claim to be 99% accurate, but the testing of these products is done inside a laboratory. In real life, they are subject to mishandling and many studies have found that the accuracy of home pregnancy tests decline when women test their own urine. (46)  To get the best result possible, always read and follow instructions.

5. Tested Too Late

There are rare cases in which a woman late in her first trimester can test negative in a urine pregnancy test. This false-negative phenomenon has a very low rate of happening but has been observed to happen even in hospitals. hCG levels come in different variants and change their concentrations throughout pregnancy. When hCG is in excess, it may not bind well with the antibodies in a urine pregnancy test, leading to a false-negative test or what’s called a “hook-like phenomenon.” This excess of hCG can happen late in the first trimester of pregnancy. (47)

If you’re testing five weeks or more after possible conception, then a urine-based pregnancy test may not be your best option. A blood test is in order.

6. Late Period

Of course, having a negative pregnancy test can mean that you are not pregnant and your period is just late. There are many possible reasons for this, including the possibility of menstruation problems like ovarian cysts and polycystic ovarian disease. It could also be a temporary shift in your cycle caused by external factors like work and exercise.

Some low-carb diets have been associated with amenorrhea, or the absence of menstruation for 3 months or more. In a study of the ketogenic diet among adolescents, 45% of the young women experienced menstrual dysfunction after following the ketogenic diet. (48)

7. Irregular Period

If you have a regular period and you’ve never missed a period before, it’s likely that you are pregnant when you suddenly miss a period. But for women who have always had irregular periods, a missed period is not a reliable indicator that they’re pregnant.

It’s also possible for women who have regular periods to miss their periods without pregnancy. Changes like dieting, stress, exercise, and other life events can lead to a short disruption in a woman’s menstrual cycle.

8. Excessive Exercise

A sudden shift in your level of physical activity can also cause changes to your menstruation. For example, going to the gym and exercising excessively in a short span of time can throw your hormones off balance and cause you to miss your period. Resting your body can get everything back in order. Try also to exercise in moderation.

9. Anxiety and Stress

Stress is linked to longer or shorter and even absent periods. (49) Find time to relax by doing regular exercise or other relaxing activities like reading a book. Studies also found that stress and anxiety interact with hormonal changes during the premenstrual phase which may lead to clinical anxiety in women. (50) This is why it’s important for couples who are trying to conceive to remain positive and calm throughout this process. Stress and other worries can disrupt the menstrual cycle and further delay pregnancy.

10. Birth Control

It’s not unusual to miss a period while taking contraceptive pills. Certain types of contraception can even stop periods totally, namely contraceptive injection, progestogen-only pill, and intrauterine system (IUS). (51) Birth control has been associated with 2 main effects on a woman’s menstrual cycle: persistent bleeding or suppressed bleeding. (52) Both are not reasons to stop taking them but do talk to your doctor if there is a more suitable form of contraception for you.

If you’re on the pill, have not missed taking them, have no other signs of pregnancy but missed one period, it’s highly unlikely that you’re pregnant, but if you miss 2 periods in a row, you should take a home pregnancy test even if you’ve been taking your pills. Take a home pregnancy test too if you forget one or more pills and miss your period. (53)

11. Emergency Contraception

Emergency contraception, such as the ‘morning-after pill’ and the copper IUD, prevents pregnancy if used at a specific period of time after unprotected sex. Some emergency contraception can be taken up to five days after sex. They work by influencing your ovulation. (54) If you’ve taken emergency contraception, you may experience a delayed period by up to a week. (55) It’s normal and should return after a few days.

12. Multiple Pregnancy

Because of the very high levels of hCG in pregnancies of two or more babies, home pregnancy tests may have difficulty detecting the hCG. This is another example of the “hook effect,” which results in a false-negative result.

If you think you could be pregnant and showing symptoms of pregnancy, consult your doctor about having a pregnancy blood test for better accuracy. (56)

13. Ectopic Pregnancy

Ectopic pregnancy is one of the leading causes of mortality in women of reproductive age in the US. This happens when an embryo implants in one of the fallopian tubes instead of the uterus. Missed periods are among the classic signs of an ectopic pregnancy. About 1% of ectopic pregnancies result in a negative urine pregnancy test. (57)

14. Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)

Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), or polycystic ovarian syndrome, is a common reproductive problem among women of childbearing age. Hormonal imbalance may cause problems in the ovaries, preventing the release of an egg. One of the most common symptoms of PCOS is irregular periods that lead to enlarged ovaries or ovaries with cysts. Symptoms of PCOS are treatable but it’s not yet known how to cure it.

This condition may lead to infertility so it’s important to seek medical help if you suspect you have PCOS. (58) (59)

15. Hypothalamus Dysfunction

Hypothalamus is an important endocrine gland that controls the ovaries. It releases gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) which signals the pituitary gland and ovaries to start menstruation. If this hormone is not released, you can’t have your period, but you’re not pregnant either.

Some common causes of hypothalamus dysfunction are stress, excessive physical activity, and uneven sleeping patterns. If you’re suffering from hypothalamic amenorrhea, making important lifestyle changes may bring back your regular menstruation. (60) (61)

16. Gestational Trophoblastic Disease (GTD)

Gestational trophoblastic disease (GTD) is a group of rare tumors that grow inside a woman’s uterus. Instead of forming the placenta, a tumor grows in its place. A woman with GTD is pregnant, but a baby cannot be formed from this growth.

One form of GTD is known as a molar pregnancy, which may develop into a cancerous GTD later on. The large number of hCGs in a molar pregnancy can result in a false-negative pregnancy test (“high-dose hook effect”).  This is an abnormal pregnancy that usually ends in miscarriage. (62) (63)

17. Perimenopause

Before menopause, women experience perimenopause, which is the body’s way of preparing for menopause. During this time, they start having irregular menstrual cycles, mood changes, and disturbed sleeping patterns. If you’re in your 40s and you missed your period, perimenopause may be the reason for a negative pregnancy test. However, a woman can still get pregnant during this time if her period returns. (64)

18.  Menopause

Menopause marks the end of a woman’s reproductive years. If a woman in her 40s or 50s misses her period for a year, it’s most likely because of menopause. The average age for menopause in the United States is 51.

A woman’s body produces less estrogen and progesterone during this time and may experience symptoms like hot flashes and irregular periods. Talk with your doctor if you’re concerned about experiencing menopausal symptoms. They may ask you to take blood tests checking for follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) and estrogen levels. (65) (66)

Some Frequently Asked Questions

1. I am having cramps, late period, and got a negative pregnancy test.

Light cramps are signs of PMS and may mean that your menstruation will start soon. If it doesn’t start in a few days, take a pregnancy test again. If the result remains negative, talk with your doctor about the possible cause. For instance, if you’re experiencing serious abdominal pain, it might be a sign of more serious conditions like an ectopic pregnancy, so you should consult a healthcare provider as soon as possible.

2. Late period, negative pregnancy test, when should I test again?

A negative pregnancy test result is less reliable than a positive test, so it’s important to test again. Wait for 3 to 4 days and try again. If the result is still negative and your period is still late, consult a doctor about the possibility of health issues such as low body weight and hormonal imbalance as the cause. (67) (68)

3. My period is about 2 weeks late but still negative pregnancy test. What should I do?

The most common cause of amenorrhea, or missed periods, is pregnancy. If home pregnancy tests keep turning up negative, you may want to consider getting a more accurate quantitative pregnancy blood test. If you’re not inclined to do this, you should still talk to your doctor as there is surely a health issue that causes the absence of your period. (69)

4. I didn’t have intercourse but my period is late and experiencing white discharge. What can be the reason?

If you didn’t have sex, then pregnancy is highly unlikely. Your late period could be because of other reasons such as major life changes, stress, unhealthy lifestyle, hormonal imbalance, or PCOS. Wait a few days for your period to start. Talk with your gynecologist if it still doesn’t come.

5. My period is 6 days late with a creamy white discharge.

It’s normal to see a thick, white discharge at the beginning or end of your menstrual cycle. But if you see creamy white discharge accompanied by a delayed period, then there’s a possibility you’re pregnant as this is one of the first signs of early pregnancy. Take a pregnancy test as soon as you can. If it’s positive, congratulations are in order. Talk with your doctor for advice on things you should do now that you’re pregnant. (70)

6. Missed period, negative pregnancy test and white discharge. Can I still be pregnant?

Yes, there’s still a possibility. The levels of hCG vary among pregnancies. It’s possible that you took the test too early or before your hCGs reached levels detectable by a home pregnancy test. You should try again after a few days.

If you want to know for sure as soon as possible, you should visit a clinic or hospital for a pregnancy blood test. A beta-hCG or quantitative blood test is more accurate than a urine test.

How to Get an Accurate Pregnancy Test Result

When you take a pregnancy test too early, chances are it might not detect the low levels of hCG in your urine. The waiting time varies as it largely depends on your own menstrual cycle. Here are some tips on how to get an accurate pregnancy test result:

1. Timing

Depending on the sensitivity of the home pregnancy test, you can test for pregnancy from the first day of your missed period. If you’re not sure when your next period is due, count 21 days after your last unprotected sex and do the test. (71)

For the most accurate result, wait until one week after your missed period. This gives your hCG levels time to increase and lessens the chances of a false negative. If you want to know sooner, doing a pregnancy blood test is advisable. (72)

When you do take a pregnancy test at home, do it in the morning as the concentration of hCG in your urine is highest during this time. Some at-home tests do say it’s okay to take the test at any time of the day, so check the package. (73)

2. Instructions

Most pregnancy tests contain one or two sticks in a box. They will require you to pee on a stick and, after a few minutes, the result will appear on the stick. Set a timer before checking the results so you wouldn’t end up checking too early. All tests have different instructions, so make sure that you read the package before taking the test and that you follow everything carefully. (74) (75)

Check also if the expiration date is passed or not. The more recently manufactured the test, the more accurate the result would be.

3. Results

Wait a few minutes for the results. Depending on the design of the test, results may appear as a line, a change in color, or a plus (+) or minus (-) sign. (76) You should refer to the package or the manual that comes with the test to know exactly what the results mean. Typically, a plus sign or two lines mean you’re pregnant, while a minus sign or one line means you’re not.

Unless you’re using a faulty test kit, a positive test result is almost always correct, while a negative result is less reliable. If your results are negative but you have pregnancy symptoms like a missed period and white discharge, retake a pregnancy test after 3-4 days. (77) If your results are positive, congratulations! You’re now pregnant. Make an appointment with your doctor to talk about the next steps in your pregnancy.

Pregnant or Not Pregnant?

Having pregnancy-like symptoms such as a missed period, cramping, and white discharge doesn’t always mean you’re pregnant. Likewise, getting a negative pregnancy test result doesn’t mean you’re not. It’s responsible to take extra steps to ensure that your body is healthy. and these symptoms are not a sign of something more serious.

If this is the case, we hope that you get the necessary help you can get as soon as possible. If you eventually find out that your symptoms of missed period negative pregnancy test cramping white discharge mean that you are pregnant, then we are happy for you and hope that you have a healthy pregnancy. If you still have questions about the unexplained changes you’re experiencing, you should talk with your doctor about your worries and concerns. It’s always best to get expert medical advice and, if necessary, the tests that will help determine what your condition is.

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Helen

Helen is the founder and chief creative officer of ParentsList. Helen is a mom of three, two boys and a girl, her youngest. She’s a stay-at-home mom who just happens to love writing on the side. She loves spending time with her children, especially on warm, cozy Sunday afternoons when everyone’s just relaxed and enjoying each other’s company.

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