The scariest part? It could happen to anyone.
Imagine this: You’re pregnant, visit the doctor for routine blood work, and then get the news you never saw coming: The doctor tells you you’re HIV positive. That’s what happened to Jenn Morson, who details her story in a super-personal essay on Ozy.com.
Of course, Morson racked her brain for answers. She and her husband had received a clean bill of health a year earlier, so how could this be? Had her husband been unfaithful?
Deep down, she truly believed that there must be some other answer. So when her doctor wouldn’t listen, Morson took matters into her own hands. She called her former nurse midwife, who put her in touch with an immunologist. After another blood draw which was analyzed at a lab in California, Morson received a call. "No, I was not HIV-positive," she shares. "The test results showed my pregnancy had caused an elevated antibody count, not HIV. I was free to resume my normal routine."
It may sound like Morson’s case is one in a million (read the full story here), but unfortunately, that’s not so. According to the Society of Obstetricians and Gynecologists of Canada, about 1 in every 20,000 HIV tests renders a false positive. And since pregnancy throws your hormones out of whack, pregnant women may be more at risk.
It’s not just HIV you have to worry about. We recently reported about Maggie Downs, who tested positive for the drug methamphetamine during pregnancy. Though she had never taken the drug and the false positive was likely due to a legal drug she was using to treat her asthma, it took weeks for hospital social workers to officially change her records.
So, what can you do if you suspect a false positive? Fit Pregnancy talked to Dr. Lanalee Araba Sam, M.D., an OBGYN in Fort Lauderdale. "The long and short of it is that most of these are lab errors, which I see a lot," Dr. Sam says. "The biggest message [I can] give readers is to have the strength and wherewithal to demand repeat testing if [the original results] are blatantly impossible, unlikely or incorrect."
Dr. Sam also has advice for doctors when it comes to false positives: "I do my best to always listen to my patients and their instincts rather than the incredibly fallible technology we depend on far too much," she admits.