9 Common Pregnancy Test Mistakes to Avoid

by Robin Elise Weiss, Ph.D. Health Professional

Did you know more than $200 million is spent on pregnancy tests every year? Knowing you are pregnant early on is important because it allows you to work toward having the healthiest pregnancy possible — especially considering all of the fetal development that takes place in the first weeks of pregnancy. However, problems can arise if you take the test incorrectly. Here are some mistakes to avoid.

Woman reading labels on boxes at a pharmacy.

Not checking the expiration date

Pregnancy tests are manufactured with expiration dates. This date should be fairly easy to find on the box. Many times, it is stamped on the end. Avoid buying a test, even if you are planning to take it immediately, if it is expired or expiring soon. A test that is past its “use by” date may give the right answer, but it could also be wrong. Check this before you buy.

Menstrual cycle tracking on calendar and phone.

Not being aware of your cycle dates

While many pregnancy tests on the market will try to convince you that you can accurately predict your pregnancy prior to missing your period, this can lead to false negatives in many cases. This is because your body may not have produced enough human chorionic gonadotrophin (hCG) to be detected by a pregnancy test yet. A false negative can lead people to risky behaviors because they think that they aren’t pregnant when they really are pregnant. Wait until you miss your period to get more accurate test results.

Woman reading pregnancy test instructions.

Not reading the instructions

The truth of the matter is that many pregnancy test errors are caused by humans. It is important to read the pregnancy test instructions prior to even starting the test. Failure to do this can cause you to mess it up, particularly if you are just assuming that the test you bought will work the same way as other tests you’ve used in the past. Reading the instructions takes just a few minutes and will help ensure the accuracy of your results.

Woman reading pregnancy test while sitting on a toilet.

Not testing at the right time of day

The main component of a home pregnancy test is your urine. You should be testing with the most concentrated urine you can for the best results. Typically this is the urine that you have in your bladder after sleeping all night, meaning you may want to test first thing in the morning. You can also wait a few hours during the day and then use that urine. Don’t try to drink a ton of fluids to build up your urine — just drink normally or you could dilute the sample.

Woman using a watch and waiting to read pregnancy test.

Not gathering all your supplies first

Typically you don’t need many supplies to take a pregnancy test. You might need the test instructions, the kit, a watch, and potentially a dropper and collection container. But it doesn’t hurt to get the details right when trying to figure out how to take a pregnancy test.

Woman holding a pregnancy test.

Reading the test too soon

You’re anxious about possibly being pregnant. You want to know now. But if you don’t wait the amount of time specified in the instructions, you are more likely to get a false answer. While you might believe that this would be a false negative, sometimes it can be a false positive because the pregnancy test window may look darker as the test is still working.

Pregnancy test.

Reading the test too late

This is a really tricky one that can cause a lot of angst. If you read the directions, the pregnancy test usually states a specific time frame in which it should be read. You should adhere to those guidelines. If you read a pregnancy test after this time, you may get a false positive. This is usually not an issue with a digital test.

Urine sample in a collection container.

Not using enough urine in the pregnancy test

Pregnancy tests require a specific amount of urine. If you are using a midstream pregnancy test, this involves sticking the wand into the urine stream. If you don’t have enough urine in your bladder to coordinate urinating on a thin stick, you may not have enough to test. This can invalidate the test. Some tests require you to collect the urine in a clean container and drop in a certain amount. You can also do this even if instructions don’t require it to help alleviate this problem.

Positive result on digital pregnancy test.

Misread pregnancy test

One of the most basic problems with a pregnancy test is that you may misread it. One small study showed that in the hands of average women, the digital, midstream pregnancy tests had the most accurate readings. So if you’re really concerned about a result, you can pay a bit more and have a digital pregnancy test to simply tell you the answer based on your hCG at the time of the test.

Happy couple reading a pregnancy test together.

What to do if you think you’ve misread a pregnancy test

Misreading a pregnancy test happens all the time. You can opt to wait a few days and retest. This is the most common advice you will get on the side of the package and when you call the customer tip line on the package of your pregnancy test. Waiting to retest not only gives you a second chance but also allows your body a few extra days at a time when your hCG is rising quickly if you are pregnant. If all else fails, a trip to your doctor or midwife is in order.

Robin Elise Weiss, Ph.D.
Meet Our Writer
Robin Elise Weiss, Ph.D.

Robin Elise Weiss, Ph.D., LCCE, CLC, AdvCD(DONA) is a childbirth educator, doula, founder of Childbirth.org, and the award-winning pregnancy and parenting author of “The Complete Illustrated Guide to Pregnancy” and more than 10 other books. Between her nine children, teaching childbirth classes, and attending births for more than two decades, she has built up an impressive and practical knowledge base. You can follow Robin on Twitter @RobinPregnancy, Instagram @Robineliseweiss, and Facebook @childbirthtrainings.