Do Pregnancy Tests Expire?

There are two types of pregnancy tests: one that uses urine and one that uses blood. However, only urine pregnancy tests have expiration dates.

Key takeaways:
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    Home pregnancy tests can expire and are typically good for 2 to 3 years.
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    You may get a false negative result with an expired pregnancy test.
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    Follow up with your healthcare provider if you’re not sure of your pregnancy test results.

Blood pregnancy tests don’t expire because the analysis is done in a laboratory, whereas store-bought urine tests can expire.

The next time you reach for a home pregnancy test that is buried in the bathroom drawer, take a peek at the expiration date. While they can still technically give an accurate result, it’s best to follow it up with a new test. Here, you’ll learn when and why pregnancy tests can expire and how you can get the most accurate result.

Do pregnancy tests have an expiration date?

Pregnancy tests do have expiration dates. You can find these dates on the packaging of all pregnancy tests, including digital ones. Expiration dates can also be found on the outside package of each test, in case you throw away the box they came in.

When do pregnancy tests expire?

According to an interview in Insider with Paul Blumenthal, MD, pregnancy tests generally expire in 2 to 3 years. But this doesn’t necessarily mean it can be stored in your closet for this amount of time before use since it probably has been sitting on a warehouse shelf for some time before arriving to you.

It’s best to always check the expiration date before using a pregnancy test.

Why do pregnancy tests expire?

The reason why pregnancy tests expire is that the chemicals that are in the test start to become less effective at detecting a pregnancy over time. Home pregnancy tests detect a hormone called human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) present in your urine. Right after the fertilized egg, or embryo, attaches to the wall of the uterus, it starts producing HCG. Your body will produce more and more of this hormone until it can be detected in a home pregnancy test.

The chemical used in home pregnancy tests isn’t known to the public, as companies keep this information a trade secret. But we do know this substance is an HCG antibody. This antibody causes a chemical reaction to the hormone HCG if it’s present in the urine on the test strip. Depending on the test, this is what gives you the plus sign, second colored line, or the digital positive result.

But this HCG antibody doesn’t last forever. After a few years, it can no longer produce the chemical reaction as strongly and your test may be inaccurate.

Can expired pregnancy tests be accurate?

Planned Parenthood says a pregnancy test can be less accurate if it’s expired, so it shouldn’t be used. And according to Clearblue, the makers of the highly accurate digital home pregnancy test, expired tests may lead to a false negative result, meaning you are pregnant, even though the test showed you weren’t.

False positives aren’t common. A false positive means the test showed a positive result but you aren’t pregnant. If you get a positive on an expired test, chances are you are pregnant. Of course, you should follow this up with a new pregnancy test for the best accuracy.

How to get the most accurate outcome from a pregnancy test

Besides ensuring your pregnancy test isn’t expired, there are a few other steps you can take to make sure your home pregnancy test is as accurate as possible.

You will want to make sure to store pregnancy tests in a place where the temperature is between 36°F and 86°F. Keep pregnancy tests away from direct sunlight, moisture, or heat.

Read the instructions carefully before you take a pregnancy test. Each box contains a package insert that explains in words and pictures how to take the test.

Don’t test too early. Pregnancy tests tend to be the most accurate a day or two after your missed period.

Your first-morning urine usually contains the most concentrated HCG levels so try to test when you first wake up.

You will also want to confirm with your healthcare provider if you get a positive test. They can confirm a pregnancy result in the lab if needed.