The Pregnancy Panic Companion: When a Pregnancy Test is Negative

A virtual doula to get you through this hot mess with a cool head

This is part of our Pregnancy Panic Companion. Click here to go back to the beginning.

You said you are scared about a pregnancy, but you (or your partner) have tested for pregnancy and received a negative (not pregnant) result.

If you (or your partner) followed the directions of the test you took, or had a test done by a medical professional, we can know you're not pregnant.  You may still feel scared about pregnancy, but you are not pregnant right now. So, as far as managing a possible pregnancy goes, you don't have any next steps, because there is no pregnancy here to manage. 

If this negative result didn't put an end to your scare all by itself, your next steps are about taking care of yourself, letting this go and moving forward, including figuring out what you need to shift or change so you don't keep getting scared or stay scared.

Your feelings are real. The pregnancy you may have convinced yourself they are about isn't. So, you want to shift your focus, if you haven't already, to your feelings, not to the idea of pregnancy.

Where do you think those feelings are coming from? What made the idea of pregnancy so scary? What seems to trigger these fears for you the most? What can you do to just take care of yourself right now, deal with whatever issues are probably the real issue -- like feeling afraid of your family in some way, engaging in sex you don't really want or feel uncomfortable with even though you do want it, or an underlying mental health condition -- instead of keeping yourself distracted with a focus on being pregnant?

Who might you need to talk to about these fears, or the situations that either trigger them, or that you think are what you're really scared of?  You may need to talk to a partner to set some limits, be those insisting on some kind of contraception, taking some kinds of sex off the table, or doing a better job when it comes to active consenting in your relationship. You may need to talk to your family members, like to tell them that even the thought of pregnancy sends you into an apocalyptically-intense fear spiral because you worry if that ever happened to you, they wouldn't support you. You may need to talk to friends, perhaps asking them to stop talking about their own -- or your recent -- pregnancy panic with you, or may need to ask them to dial down any pressure for you to be sexual in ways that scare you.

Here are some more things you can do to help yourself: 

If you're not sure if you (or your partner) took the test properly, or feel it may have been taken too early, wait another week or two and retest. If that test also shows a negative result, there truly is no need for any more. Clearly, there's no pregnancy.

Self-care: To deal with the stress and worry you're probably experiencing, you've got to manage it by taking good care of yourself, and doing things that make it more likely for you to be able to start to calm down and get through each day, rather than things more likely to keep you stuck in a panic, or that will make you panic more. Not sure what "self-care" means, or need some ideas about things you can do? Check out our big list of ways to care for yourself at Self-Care a La Carte.

On that note (and I say this with love): GET OFF THE FREAKING INTERNET ALREADY.  As someone who's probably talked online to more people in a pregnancy scare than almost anyone else on earth, I have a good idea of how well internet use tends to serve people with this stuff. Not well. Not well at all.  If you're staying online after finding this information to listen to music or watch videos of adorable kittens, you're golden.  If you're using it to access solid emotional support with people online or offline you know can be trusted to give you that, great. But if you're using it to keep searching for reassurance or a level of information about human reproduction even scientists can't speak to, reading or watching other people in scares or telling some kind of horror story related to how they did not know they were pregnant until they were in labor (more on that for you at the bottom of the page), or anything else that's about pregnancy or pregnancy scares, turn whatever you are using to access it off and keep it off, limiting your use until you really start to relax about this. Go do something else. Go outside (you remember outside, right? The place with the oxygen and the grass?). Journal, rearrange your room, read a book, learn to play the ukelele, take a shower, hang with friends: do almost anything but staying camped out on the internet and using it to keep or increase your anxiety or stress, for which it is, unfortunately, a remarkably good tool.

If you haven't already, check in with a healthcare provider, especially if some of what has you still concerned are physical issues like a missed period or abdominal pain.  Things a lot of people think of as symptoms of pregnancy can also happen for other reasons. Sometimes those reasons are nothing you need to worry about, like experiencing PMS or eating too many tacos in one sitting (we often have users in pregnancy scares report concerns about a "fluttering" feeling in the abdomen, which for pregnant and non-pregnant people alike, is almost always just gas). However, sometimes those things are caused by health conditions you need qualified help managing or treatment for, such as PCOS or pelvic or ovarian cysts or tumors, endocrine disorders, digestive system illnesses or conditions, or mental health issues. While your fears about pregnancy may not be sound, what you are feeling physically may, in fact, be linked to something else that needs your attention.

Seek out some mental healthcare: If you can access some counseling -- be that through school, health insurance or low-cost to no-cost community or public health services -- you can get some good help from someone who knows their stuff when it comes to getting to the bottom of your fears and helping you learn to manage them, including if they're based in an underlying mental health  or interpersonal relationship issue, like an anxiety disorder, sexual shame or an abusive relationship. If you don't have access to that kind of help, don't want it, or want to get started with that on your own, you can take a look at You're Not Pregnant. Why Do You Think You Are? for some possibilities of the bigger issues that may be underneath these fears.

Take a break from anything that seems to trigger these fears for you for the bit: If you continue to do the things that are freaking you out, or that you're not yet able to do in a way that reduce real risks of pregnancy, then even if and when a period does arrive, you'll have a whole new cycle of worry start right up from risks you took after the last one, or things you did since that scare you. It can also be easier to stay stuck in a scare this way, as that scare may feel like it never ends for you because you keep staying in the fear those activities are causing for you. Need help figuring out what limits you want or need? You can take stock with Yes, No, Maybe So: A Sexual Inventory Stocklist.  Need help communicating that to a partner? Have a look at Be a Blabbermouth! The Whats, Whys and Hows of Talking About Sex With a Partner or Whoa, There! How to Slow Down When You're Moving Too Fast.

Re-evaluate what you're really ready for and want to deal with: When we feel afraid, it's often for good reason, and when it comes to fear and sex, these kinds of fears are often a cue that we're doing something we're either just not ready for, don't really want, or are in a sexual situation or relationship that's not right for us in some way. For example, you may need a reliable method (or a reliable method and a backup method) of contraception to feel okay about sex, a partner who shows a real respect and concern for your limits and boundaries or who is more willing to stick with a sexual pace you're comfortable with, a more committed relationship, more time to be sexual by yourself before hooking up with partners, more ease in your own body and sexuality, or help or support with getting past sexual fears instilled by your community or culture, or managing stress or anxiety. Want some help?  Check out Ready or Not? The Scarleteen Sex Readiness Checklist or Yes, No, Maybe So: A Sexual Inventory Stocklist for some ideas about what might be the missing readiness pieces for you or your partner.

Here are some things you can avoid or limit that won't help: Keeping yourself in the panic, rather than doing what you can to let go and move on: How much we hold unto certain ways of feeling or thinking is often mostly within our control, and up to us. If we keep ourselves focused on the scare -- doing things like nearly breaking Google constantly searching for "symptoms" or ways people say you can miraculously be pregnant that just aren't for real or at all likely for you, or continuing to go over and over the situation again in your mind that got you so scared -- then we're putting our energy in staying stuck, rather than getting ourselves unstuck. (On that note, I just tested the awesome Unstuck app for using with a pregnancy scare, and it was actually quite helpful: check it out!) To move on and away from something, we have to invest our time and energy in letting go of it, not in holding on.  If you'd like some advice about learning how to let go, here's one good starter guide for you.

It might sound bonkers, but consider if there's something this scare is giving you that you want: Sometimes when we get stuck in something that is uncomfortable, and can't seem to let it go, it's because however uncomfortable it is making us, it also is giving us something else we want and find beneficial in some way, like attention, emotional support, the chance to talk about sex or your sexual life, or even just something that makes our lives feel as big and intense as we want them to be. If this is the case for you, and you can figure out what that is, chances are mighty good you can figure out another way to meet your needs without having to stay in a pregnancy panic or keep having them.

Reassurance seeking: While it can seem like it will help to keep asking people -- online, offline, at the bus stop, anywhere you feel you can, even including places where the information is about as likely to be reliable as you are to find a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow -- if they think you are pregnant or not, or had a risk or not, in truth, it rarely does.  It usually only tends to keep you away from the kind of self-reflection, self-validation and self-care that helps you ably manage this stress and move forward. Even  when it does make you feel better, that feeling tends to fade fast, setting you up for an endless pattern of seeking reassurance that does little except keep you in your panic and help you to avoid what's really going on. Reassurance seeking, especially as a pattern, tends to keep people stuck in the stress of a scare, and keep them from learning how to self-validate and move on.

Hyperobservation of your body and its processes: Since you've been scared of a pregnancy, you've probably been paying attention to and noting every single thing your body does like a detective on a case, and only looking at all of those things through the lens of how you think they could relate to pregnancy. You have other things in your life that need your attention, and likely other things in your life you'd also much rather pay attention to! Time to stop doing that: it's not like if you don't keep doing that, your body will make itself pregnant, and drop a clue you'll miss. If you're going to give your body some attention, give it the good stuff that helps you manage and move past this stress, like feeding it well, giving it good rest or some active movement, and doing things that make you feel phycially pampered and cared for.

Holding on to the idea that people can be pregnant for a long time and not know: In reality -- not reality television, which is not an unedited real life where someone just left a camera on, but in actual reality --  while this can sometimes happen, it is very rare, and also tends to occur primarily in very specific populations or circumstances that probably don't apply to you.  Things like someone having a pre-existing health issue or condition that already makes them feel pregnant and having no periods, being so deep in a drug or alcohol dependency they just don't notice jack about their bodies anymore, someone so deeply and presently traumatized by something like severe domestic violence or assault that they are tuning out everything they can just to survive, or someone so in denial about really beign pregnant, they have simply managed to convince themselves they're not AND -- with any of these -- also not testing for pregnancy in the first place. You did that already, which is why even if we know nothing else about you, or if anything like this is part of your picture, we can know that situation isn't yours. You took a test, and it showed you that you are not pregnant.