What You Should Know About Using an Expired Pregnancy Test

Have you been nauseous these past few days, late on your period, and worried you might be pregnant?

Do you have leftover pregnancy tests in the cupboard from God knows when? Are you wondering if you can use them even though they’re expired?

Home pregnancy tests are quick and easy to use. Plus, you can test in the privacy of your home, make lifestyle changes, and find prenatal care as soon as possible if you are indeed pregnant.

But, is an expired test as accurate as a viable one?

Do home pregnancy tests even truly expire?

We will discuss how home pregnancy tests work, when to take one, if and when they expire, and what to expect when using an expired test.


How Do Home Pregnancy Tests Work?

Early in pregnancy, a hormone called human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) increases rapidly day by day. This hormone is made by the placenta and supports the development of your growing baby.

The test strip in a home pregnancy test contains a chemical which detects the hCG in your urine, confirming whether or not you’re pregnant.

Taking A Home Pregnancy Test

Most doctors recommend waiting until one week after a missed period to take a home pregnancy test. However, some women either don’t experience a missed period or mistake implantation bleeding for a period.

So, if you absolutely cannot wait until you’ve missed your period, the earliest you should take a test is 14 days from the time you think you may have conceived.

You may be experiencing other symptoms of pregnancy during this waiting period, such as:

Do Home Pregnancy Tests Expire?

Many women never look for an expiration date, because they don’t even consider the fact, but home pregnancy tests do expire. They all have an expiration date listed on the box or outside packaging of the test.

This date is set at the chemical’s expected shelf life. Once a test is expired, it is essentially no longer valid, as the chemical will be ineffective at detecting hCG in your urine.

When Do They Expire?

This time frame varies, but most typically between two to three years from the time they’re produced. The less expensive tests usually expire sooner, while pricier ones tend to have a longer shelf life.

It is possible for expensive tests to be viable well beyond their expiration date. On the other hand, it’s also possible for cheap tests to no longer work months before, as they might contain low quality chemical reagents. This is why it’s recommended to purchase tests at least six months before their expiry dates.

Are Expired Tests Accurate?

Most home pregnancy tests claim to be 97 to 99 percent accurate when used correctly and taken one week after a missed period (source). But does this hold up for an expired test?

It is possible for a home pregnancy test to be viable after its expiration date. However, most of the time they are more likely to give false results.

Take Note

Expired pregnancy tests are less likely to detect the pregnancy hormone, as the chemical reactant has degraded, leaving you with a negative result, even if you truly are pregnant. This is called a false-negative result.

Although rare, it’s also possible to get a false-positive result with an expired pregnancy test, especially if the test has been exposed to heat or moisture. A false-positive is when you get a positive result, but are not actually pregnant.

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Other Reasons For A False Result

There are several other reasons besides the expiration date why you may receive a false result on a home pregnancy test.

False Negative

  • Taking the test too early: You may not have had enough hCG in your urine yet if you took the test too early. For best results, wait one week after your missed period to take a home pregnancy test.
  • User error: User errors like checking the results too soon, misinterpreting the results, and not using midstream urine could potentially lead to a false negative result.
  • Urine too diluted: The more dilute your urine is, the lower the concentration of hCG will be. This is why it’s recommended to use more concentrated urine (i.e., your first morning urine).

If you think you might be pregnant even with a false result, wait five to seven days and retake the test. It may also be a good idea to buy a new pregnancy test well ahead of its expiration date.

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False Positive

  • Ectopic pregnancy: An ectopic pregnancy is where the fertilized egg implants somewhere other than the uterus, such as the fallopian tubes. It is not a viable pregnancy, and can be dangerous, even fatal, if not treated. If you are experiencing severe abdominal pain or heavy bleeding, see your doctor as soon as possible.
  • Miscarriage: It can take weeks for hCG levels to drop after a miscarriage. If you had an early miscarriage, the hCG still in your urine could be giving you a false positive reading.
  • Fertility drugs: If you took the test too soon after taking a fertility drug with hCG, you could be experiencing a false positive result.
  • User error: Reading the test too soon or too late could give you invalid results. Evaporation lines can also be mistaken for a positive test line. To avoid any misinterpretations, carefully read the manufacturer’s instructions before using a home pregnancy test.

If you think you may be getting false results or are getting mixed results, check with your doctor and get a blood test to confirm conception (source).

Whenever you get a positive result on a home pregnancy test, you should call and schedule your first prenatal appointment. Then, start adjusting your lifestyle to accommodate your growing baby. That positive result could be a false-positive, but it’s more likely you truly are pregnant.

What To Expect With Expired Tests

What happens when you take an expired pregnancy test depends on the quality of the test, how much the chemical reactant has degraded, and whether or not you’re pregnant. You simply cannot rely on an expired home pregnancy test for accurate results.

If you chose to use an expired pregnancy test, be prepared for possible false results. Don’t jump to conclusions, as your results may or may not be accurate. It is best to buy a new one (six months before it’s expiry date) right after, to double check your results.

In my experience, an expired test is considerably more likely to give a false negative result than a false positive result. If you take an expired test and it is positive, you are most likely pregnant.
Headshot of Christine, Traxler, MD, BS

Editor's Note:

Christine Traxler, MD, BS

In Conclusion

Home pregnancy tests can give you fast, reliable results. But, to avoid any unnecessary doubts or false results, use a home pregnancy test well before its expiration date.

Most of them typically last two to three years from the manufacturing date. Around the expected expiration date, the chemical reactant in the test strip begins to degrade and loses its ability to detect the hCG hormone. This leaves you with possible false results and worries.

Have you ever used an expired pregnancy test? Were the results accurate? Share your experiences with us in the comments below and be sure to share this post with all of your friends who are trying to conceive.

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17 Reader Comments

  1. Lynsey Bodeker

    Hmm not sure what to think
    My period is very late and when I say very late I mean I’m on cycle day 76 with all of the common early pregnancy symptoms

    I took a few expired test strips that were faint positives then took a brand new FRER which came out faintly positive then have taken more expired strip tests and they seemed to get darker until todays test that had a weird curved line, it is pink but was kinda wavy, which I think could’ve been from moving the test while it was working so I’m not sure.. I have an appointment with the obgyn in two days and plan on taking the other FRER that morning but would like to know if anyone else has experienced anything like this and what happened.
    Thank you!

  2. Rebecca

    I had an expired digital test. It was expired by only a few months and it immediately read positive! That’s how I found out I was pregnant with my daughter.

    • Jenny Silverstone

      Congratulations Rebecca, and thanks for sharing your experience 🙂

  3. Celeste Zottich

    I just used a very expired digital pregnancy test with an expiration of 08/2017, so it’s been expired almost a year. It came back positive, and I am a week late for my period. Maybe I should buy a new test?

    • Jenny Silverstone

      Hi Celeste,

      If you got a positive result and your period is also late, there is a chance that you could be pregnant despite the test being expired. I would wait a few days and test again with a new test. Are you having any other symptoms?

  4. Dee

    Well, I am 2 days late and I only had 2015 pregnancy tests — well past the expiry date (it’s 2018 December now). It tested positive. I did another one the next day as the shops were closed and it tested positive too. Looked online and found your site to see if expired tests work. I’m going to see a dr to confirm on Jan 2 but so far, no period and a tiny bit of tummy nausea. Tiredness too. Will keep you updated!

    • Team Mom Loves Best

      Hey Dee! Thanks for reading. Please let us know how it goes! Crossing our fingers for you 🙂

  5. liza marie frilander

    I tried pregnancy testing twice but both kits were expired. Still, I got the same faint positive result. Is it possible I’m pregnant?

    • Team Mom Loves Best

      Hi Liz Marie,

      While it is possible, we’d recommend you re-test with a valid kit to be sure. All the best, and thanks for reading 🙂

  6. Samantha

    Hi there.
    My husband and i are also trying to conceive. I am late but I do have irregular cycles. So last night I found an expried test and thought I’d take it just not to waste it. So I took it this morning and it came out positive. Now I don’t know as the test expired 2/2018
    Any advice on that? My husband thinks we should take another test, but I’m so nervous that it will read negative.

    • Team Mom Loves Best

      Hi Samantha. Oh boy, that’s nervewracking. Did you end up taking another test? How did it go?

  7. Bre

    Took a First Response test that expired in Dec 2018 and it came back positive. I am four days late and usually have a very regular cycle. However, I’ve had slight cramping, lower back plain, acne breakouts like my usual PMS, also intermittent slight dark brown spotting. Just went out and bought another test to take. Thinking I should take it in the morning when I wake up? Any thoughts?

    • Team Mom Loves Best

      Hey Bre. Yes, a test would be good. Experts recommend testing your morning urine, so it would be a good decision to test in the morning. Please let us know how it goes 🙂

  8. Clee

    I tested positive on a 2+ year expired digital Clearblue test last night, extremely quickly (hence why I came to this sight). I then tested positive again on 3 other (non-expired) tests this morning. I am not TTC and was/am very shocked. I only used the test as I figured it was expired anyway, so why not!! I was only 1 day late for my period and have been more than a week late in the past. Safe to say, if an expired test shows a positive, it’s likely a positive!!!

    • Team Mom Loves Best

      Hi Clee! Congratulations!! Thanks so much for the feedback! We hope everything goes well with your pregnancy and baby 🙂 All the best!

  9. Kristian

    Well, I’m a week late so I took and e.p.t test. I got positive results almost immediately. Still in disbelief hours later, something told me to check the expiration date. To my surprise the test expired 1/31/19. So it’s a little over a year old. But after reading these comments I don’t think it will make a difference if I take another one or not. Lol

    • Team Mom Loves Best

      Haha, hey Kristian! It may not, but it’s always worth confirming–especially with pregnancy 😉 Unless of course, you have reason to be sure/unsure of the result. But, all the best, and please keep us posted 🙂

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