Expired Pregnancy Tests: Information You Must Know

Last Updated On: 

February 5, 2018

Given the fact that they’re constantly improving in accuracy, home pregnancy tests are rapidly rising in popularity and are becoming the absolute favorite method for women trying to conceive to see whether their attempts have been successful or not.

After all, what’s there not to like about them? They’re very convenient, allowing you to perform them from the comfort and privacy of your own home, and you don’t have to wait for days on end for the results – you get an answer back in just a few minutes.

When used the way they’re intended to be used, some of the most popular pregnancy tests on the market today claim to have a 97% to 99% accuracy rate – so it’s no wonder they’re being resorted to so often.

With that being said, you’re not always guaranteed an accurate result when using one of these pregnancy tests, and that’s for several different reasons – one of which is using them after they’ve expired.

Do Pregnancy Tests Expire?

You might have bought a few pregnancy tests in the past that you never really put to use back then, but want to do so now. After all, you did pay money for them and it would be a shame to throw them away just because you can’t use them now that they’re expired.

Unfortunately, though, this is just how it is. Every home pregnancy test does indeed have an expiry date to it. To find this expiration date, look at the box or packaging that the test comes in.

How Accurate Is An Expired Home Pregnancy Test? Can You Still Use It?

If you’re wondering whether the accuracy you’ll get back from using an expired test is just the same as the accuracy you’ll get back from using an unexpired one, then unfortunately the answer to that question is NO. Expired pregnancy tests will not give you back an accurate result.

If it’s already past its expiration date, then the only thing you can do is to get yourself a new pregnancy test that still has a good 2 to 3 years in it left before becoming useless.

Here’s why.

Pregnancy test strips work by having a chemical reactant detect whether or not the hormone Human Chorionic Gonadotropin (hCG) – which plays a vital role in the development of a baby inside its mother’s womb – is present in your body, and what levels it’s present in if so.

Why this hormone specifically? Well, women experience a huge surge in levels of hCG in their body when they become pregnant. This hormone is usually at its lowest levels towards the very beginning of your pregnancy, but rapidly increases with each and every passing day.

As soon as a pregnancy test expires, though, the chemical reactant that’s used to determine whether the hormone hCG is present in your urine or not will have degraded and becomes ineffective, thus rendering the entire test invalid.

As a matter of fact, using a pregnancy test without being aware that it’s past its expiration date is a reason for many cases of women getting back false negative results. A false negative result is when a pregnancy test claims you’re not pregnant, while in reality – you are.

This is also a common reason for women getting back false positives, although expired pregnancy tests result in false positives less often than they do in false negatives. False positives are when a pregnancy test claims you are pregnant, while in reality – you’re not.

How Long Do Pregnancy Tests Last Before They Expire?

Different pregnancy tests have chemical reactants with different shelf lives, so you should always look at the packaging or box that your pregnancy test came in to know the exact date.

With that being said, most pregnancy tests last between 2 to 3 years (on average) from the date they’re manufactured. Very little pregnancy tests out there will last more than 3 years from the date of their production.

Right after the pregnancy test is produced and packaged, the chemical reactant used to detect the presence of hCG in a pregnant women’s pee is constantly breaking down.

The process of breaking down is fairly slow and gradual, but the more time that passes by before you put it to use, the less accurate the results are likely to be.

By the time you get to the expiry date, the chemical reactant will be close to complete depletion, so will almost be useless.

Even though this isn’t always the case, but you’ll often find that the cheaper a pregnancy test is, the shorter its shelf life will be, while the more expensive a pregnancy test is, the longer its shelf life will be.

It all has to do with the quality of the chemical reagents used in these tests. The more expensive options usually use a higher quality chemical reagent, while the cheaper options usually use a lower quality chemical reagent to be able to offer you their product at a cheaper price.

This is one of the reasons why you should only ever buy a pregnancy test from a renowned pharmaceutical company that’s stood the test of time and has proven its worth in the market.

It should be made very clear that an expiry date is not always the sole determinant to whether or not a pregnancy test is still good to use.

Some of the more expensive and higher quality pregnancy tests on the market continue to deliver accurate results up to several months beyond their expiration date, because their chemical reactant has still not degraded enough to render the results inaccurate.

On the other hand, some of the cheaper and lower quality ones will start giving back wildly inaccurate results several months before their expiration date, because the chemical reactant is of such low quality to the extent that it has degraded before its expected time.

For this reason, it’s always best that you play it safe and use a pregnancy test that’s more than 6 months away from its expiry date.

Some boxes or packaging will make this an easier job for you by fully disclosing the expiry month, day and year. An example of this would be June, 14 2018.

Other boxes or packaging will make this trickier than it should be by only disclosing the month and the year. An example of this would be August 2018.

If you find yourself in this confusing situation without a specific day in the month being mentioned, it’s best to assume that the first day of the month is being implied. So, continuing with out example above, assume that August 1, 2018 is being implied here.

You’ll be playing it as safe as possible if you only use the pregnancy test 6 months before the first day of the month mentioned on the box or packaging.

Is This Applicable To Early Pregnancy Tests As Well?

Yes, everything discussed in this article so far about expiry dates and when it’s no longer to use a test also applies to early pregnancy tests as well.

The only difference is that early pregnancy tests work by detecting lower levels of the Human Chorionic Gonadotropin (hCG) hormone, which is the case during the earlier stages of pregnancy.

Everything else discussed so far about the chemical reactant, how it works, its break down and depletion after the expiry date also holds true for early pregnancy tests just as well.

What’s The Best Time For Me To Take A Home Pregnancy Test?

Experts suggest that the best time for you to take a home pregnancy test for the best chances of getting an accurate result is one week after a missed period of yours.

Assuming you’re one of many women who don’t end up missing a period of theirs, your best alternative is taking the pregnancy test after 14 days from the day you believe you may have conceived.

Why You May Get False Negatives Or False Positives

As we lightly touched on already in this article, sometimes it’s not really an expired pregnancy test kit you’re using, you may just be getting false negatives or false positives.

While reading the following, keep in mind that the best and most accurate way you could ever confirm a pregnancy is by having your doctor run you through a blood test.

False Negatives

The following list discusses some of the most common reasons why your pregnancy test may be returning back a false negative. (This usually happens more commonly than false positives).

1) Wrong Test Timing

When it comes to pregnancy tests and their accuracy, timing is everything. If you take the test way too early before adequate amounts of hCG are present in your urine, this is likely to cause a false negative.

Experts always suggest that the ideal time for you to take a pregnancy test is 7 days after a missed period.

2) Wrong Pee Timing

Not many women trying to conceive know this, but the time you urinate for a pregnancy test also plays a big role in the accuracy of the result you get back.

Most of the time, the best thing you could do is to put your first morning urine to the test, because this is the one that’s most likely to have the highest levels of hCG in it.

As you progress through the day, each and every one of your next urine sessions is likely to have less and less levels of hCG in them.

3) Not Adhering To Instructions

Many women get back false negative results just because of human error and failing to adhere to the instructions.

We’re all human beings after all and it does happen, so cut yourself some slack.

Not all pregnancy tests are created equally, different ones may have different ways required to make them work, so re-read the instructions, make sure you understand everything that’s on there and re-take the test again after around 5 to 7 days.

False Positives

On the other hand, the following list discusses two of the most common reasons why your pregnancy test may be returning back a false positive. (This usually happens less commonly than false negatives).

1) Miscarriages

When you have a miscarriage, the hCG levels in your body (and urine) do not go back to what they used to be before you conceived immediately after the miscarriage. These levels require some time to get back to what they were before pregnancy, sometimes several weeks on end.

2) hCG Levels

Sometimes, hCG levels may increase in your body (and urine) not necessarily because of pregnancy, but due to other factors.

The best (and most common) example in this case is women who take fertility drugs when trying to conceive.

Some fertility drugs have exceptionally high levels of hCG, so just taking these pills alone will cause a surge of this hormone in your body, which will be detected by a pregnancy test and will give back a false positive.

Some medical conditions you may go through could also cause a sudden increase in hCG levels in the body, such as a very uncommon type of cancer called “gestational trophoblastic tumor”.

Careful Where You Store It

Besides everything else mentioned in this article so far, it’s extra important that you pay close attention to where you keep your pregnancy test(s) stored until you put them to use.

Even if it’s no where near the listed expiry date yet, a pregnancy test could be damaged (and will deliver inaccurate results as a result) if it’s being directly exposed to sunlight and heat, or put away in a moist environment.

So, carefully read and follow the instructions on the box or package that state what the ideal storing conditions are.

Wrapping It Up

Home pregnancy tests are quickly becoming the favorite go-to method for mothers wanting to conceive to confirm they’ve reached their goal – and for very good reasons as well.

To ensure the highest chances of accuracy, though, you should never put a pregnancy test that’s past its expiration date to use.

Strive to only use a pregnancy test if it still has a minimum of 6 months until the date it expires on, or else the chances of you getting false-positives and false-negatives will gradually increase as you near that date.

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