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Getting Pregnant

Late Period, Negative Pregnancy Test? Find Out Why.

What does it mean if you have a late period but you’re getting negative pregnancy tests? It means that your period isn’t actually late—you probably just had a late ovulation. Without tracking your cycle, it’s impossible to know when to take a pregnancy test.

Some women have irregular cycles and are never really sure when to expect their periods. Other women have very regular cycles; their periods always seem to come at predictable intervals. If you recently came off birth control pills, you might be used to very regular cycles—but your natural cycle length might be very different from the artificial cycle length you had while taking the Pill.

If your cycle length is usually pretty consistent, it can be very alarming when your period is late. But your body is not a machine, and regular cycles in the past does not guarantee regular cycles in the future.

Does late ovulation mean late period?

The good news is, if you understand the phases of the menstrual cycle and how to track them, you will always know when your period is due.

The menstrual cycle is broken down into two phases. The follicular phase begins on the first day of your period and ends when you ovulate. The luteal phase begins after ovulation and ends when you get your next period.

During ovulation, an egg bursts out of a follicle in your ovary. The spent follicle transforms into something called a corpus luteum, which is a temporary structure that secretes progesterone. The progesterone helps thicken your uterine lining. After about two weeks, the corpus luteum stops producing progesterone, your uterine lining can no longer be sustained, and it sheds during your period.

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The luteal phase ranges from 10 – 16 days, but it doesn’t vary much in individual women. If your luteal phase is usually 12 days, it may occasionally be 11 or 13 days, but it will probably never be 16 days.

The follicular phase, on the other hand, is more likely to be variable from cycle to cycle. Things like travel, stress, illness, and changes in diet and exercise can delay ovulation. Since the length of the luteal phase is usually fixed, a longer follicular phase will mean that your period arrives later than normal—but it will still be the same number of days after ovulation.

How to Never Be Surprised by a Negative Pregnancy Test

The best pregnancy tests can be accurate starting from around 5 days before your period is due. But when your period is due depends on when you ovulated:

  • If you typically ovulate on cycle day 14 and have a 14-day luteal phase, you might be able to get an accurate result from a highly sensitive pregnancy test by cycle day 24—4 days before your period is due.
  • Let’s say you were sick with the flu, and as a result, you didn’t ovulate until cycle day 20.
  • In this case, you shouldn’t expect an accurate pregnancy test result until cycle day 30 at the earliest. If you’re not pregnant, your period would likely arrive around cycle day 34.

Bottom line: if you ovulate late …

  1. Your period will be late if you’re not pregnant
  2. If you are pregnant, you won’t be able to get an accurate result on a pregnancy test until later in your cycle (testing too early will give you a false negative pregnancy test)


Lindsay Meisel

Lindsay Meisel is the Head of Content at Ava. She has over a decade of experience writing about science, technology, and health, with a focus on women's health and the menstrual cycle. Her work has been featured on The Fertility Hour, The Birth Hour, The Breakthrough Journal, and The Rumpus.

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