5 Ways to Avoid a Pregnancy Test Error

OJO Images/Getty Images

When you take a pregnancy test, the most important thing is that you get the correct answer. This is something that every mother worries about before taking a pregnancy test, and even after getting the answer. The truth is there a couple of common mistakes that people make when it comes to taking pregnancy tests. Here are some of the more common errors many people make:

1. Taking the Pregnancy Test Too Soon

This can be a very confusing situation.

It used to be rather simple, you waited until the day you missed your period and then you took a pregnancy test. End of story. The problem is that now there are many other pregnancy tests on the market that say that they are valid before you miss your period. The problem here is that not everyone will have the same levels of hCG in their urine. This is one of the most common causes of pregnancy test errors, though it is not an error inherent in the test, but rather an error of timing.

2. Not Waiting Long Enough for Test Results

Most home pregnancy tests come with very explicit instructions. (The exception being some of the very inexpensive dollar store tests.) These tests will tell you the timeframe in which you should wait to read your pregnancy test. As the urine travels through the indicator window it may look like both lines are present, or a plus sign is present. This does not mean that you are pregnant, it simply means that the test is working.

You must wait until the end of the time allotted in the instructions to read the test, this is normally one or two minutes. I would encourage you to use a watch or your phone if timing is an issue.

3. Waiting Too Long To Read The Test

In the exact opposite of the previous problem, is waiting too long to read the results of your pregnancy test.

I see this most often when women take the test first thing in the morning, jump in the shower, and then get going without checking the test again. Typically the instructions will tell you that the window of opportunity to read the test is about five minutes long. After this point, the test may continue working and it may look like a faint positive when in fact no hCG was detected in your urine. Don't be tempted to read anything into your pregnancy test the next day or after you've fished it out of the garbage hours later to confirm your results.

4. Not Believing Positive Test Results

There actually very few instances where a positive pregnancy test is wrong. The most common causes of pregnancy test mistakes are due to user error and not the test itself. If you have a pregnancy test that says you are positive then you should assume you are pregnant and act accordingly. In this case, it is more likely that you've had a chemical pregnancy or very early miscarriage than you had a false positive. This is where you've got enough hCG to turn a pregnancy test positive, but miscarry shortly afterward.

5. Not Following Up On a Negative Test

If you received a negative pregnancy, particularly if it was an  unexpected result, or you have not started your period a week later, you need to retest.

This is the directions that most pregnancy tests give. The reason being is that it allows time for your body to produce detectable amounts of hCG in your urine. Therefore, a negative test may not truly be a negative test. It, in fact, may be too early for the test to turn positive.

As you can see, there are plenty of reasons why your pregnancy test might not be giving you the right answer. The good news is that you have nearly complete control over the correctness of your pregnancy test. Following these few rules and ensuring that you don't have an expired pregnancy test will go along way towards improving the accuracy of your pregnancy test results.

As always, when in doubt, you should contact your doctor or midwife for advice.

Sources:

Avoiding Inappropriate Clinical Decisions Based on False-Positive Human Chorionic Gonadotropin Test Results. Number 278, November 2002 (Reaffirmed 2013). Committee on Gynecologic Practice. 

Er TK, Chiang CH, Cheng BH, Hong FJ, Lee CP, Ginés MA. “False-positive urine pregnancy test in a woman with adenomysosis.” Am J Emerg Med. 2009 Oct;27(8):1019.e5-7. doi: 10.1016/j.ajem.2008.12.023. Epub 2009 Sep 22. 

Johnson S, Cushion M, Bond S, Godbert S, Pike J. Comparison of analytical sensitivity and women's interpretation of home pregnancy tests. Clin Chem Lab Med. 2015 Feb;53(3):391-402. doi: 10.1515/cclm-2014-0643.

Continue Reading