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What Does An Invalid Pregnancy Test Mean?

You think you may be pregnant, so you purchase a test so you can tell for sure if you are pregnant or not, right? Well, getting accurate results may not always be the outcome.

You have peed on the stick and you anxiously wait for the results. The time has gone, you pick up the stick and in the little window is only the control band or no bands at all. You check the instructions with great confusion and frustration to realize that you have an invalid test result.

What does an invalid pregnancy test mean?

There are a few reasons why your test would come back as invalid. Most are due to user error, I’m afraid.

How Does A Pregnancy Test Work?

Before we get into the results of a test, you need to know exactly how they work. All pregnancy tests work on the same basis.

They are looking for a hormone in your urine called human chorionic gonadotropin or hCG. This hormone is usually only produced by cells in the placenta so it is only present when a woman is pregnant. Your body starts producing this hormone around 6-12 days after conception.

What Causes An Invalid Pregnancy Test Result?

This can be a hugely confusing and frustrating situation.

Not so long ago, it was very simple you waited until the day you missed your period and then you took a test. With developments in technology, you are now presented with a whole host of tests that tell you that they can confirm your pregnancy days before your missed period.

This is fantastic news. Unfortunately due to the way these pregnancy tests work, by testing for hCG, this is where the problem starts.

The error of timing is what causes the invalid result here. Not every woman will have the same amount of hCG in their urine at this time. You may not have enough hCG in your urine for the test to register that you are pregnant.

Not Waiting Long Enough Before Reading Results

The trick to getting the best result from the pregnancy test is to read the very explicit instructions contained within the box. Once you have dipped the test stick in your urine, it travels up the absorbent strip to the indicator window.

At this time, it is possible for there to look as though there are two lines or a plus sign is present. But hold on as this does not mean you are pregnant, it just means that the test is doing its thing!

You must wait until the end of the time stated in the instructions before reading your result. This is usually two or three minutes. It’s best to use your watch or timer on your phone to be sure.

Waiting Too Long To Read The Results

This is the complete opposite of the above problem. This occurs when you take the test first thing in the morning, you pee on the stick and put it to one side while you get ready for work and then you check the test after that.

With these tests, you have an ideal window of time in which to read the results. After this time, the results become invalid. It is usually around 5 minutes long but this will be clearly stated in the instructions.

If this time has gone, the test will continue to work and if you read the results now it is possible that it will give you a faint positive, when in fact this is not the case. It will be the same if you decide to fish it out of the garbage hours later ‘just to check’ the result you got that morning.

Don’t be tempted!

Pregnancy Instructions

Most pregnancy tests come with very clear and explicit instructions contained within the box. They would normally have pictures as well to avoid any confusion. Every test is different so you need to read the instructions carefully but they all have the same general principle.

These are general instructions:

  1. Most tests these days can be performed at any time of the day but first-morning urine is preferable.
  2. Remove the test from the pouch. Remove the cap.
  3. Hold the test by the thumb grip. Place the absorbent tip of the test in your urine stream for around 5 secs until it is thoroughly wet.
  4. Lay the stick down flat (very important) with the result window facing up. Wait 3 minutes before reading the result (this time varies for each test).

That’s it, the test is done. Now let’s read the results!

What The Results Mean

There are three possible outcomes of a pregnancy test. As long as you have carried out the test following the instructions clearly, then there should only be two possible outcomes.

You must ensure that you read the results in that window of time that we talked about above. Do not read the results outside of this time as the result will not be reliable.

1 Line = Not Pregnant

If only one line is present in the control window next to the control band (C) then that means you are not pregnant. No hCG has been detected. If a week passes and there is still no sign of your period it would be advisable to test again.

2 Lines = Pregnant

If two lines appear, one in the test band (T) and one in the control band (C), the test is positive. Congratulations you are pregnant. The lines may be very light in color this would be due to the level of hCG present.

Invalid Result

If there is no line present in the result window or if there is only one line present in the control band (C), the test is invalid. It would be advisable to redo the test the following day ensuring that all the instructions are clearly followed.

woman looking at pt

What To Do Next?


If you have received a positive test result…

And it’s what you were hoping for, then congratulations! Your next step is to make an appointment with your doctor to start your prenatal care.

If the result is positive and it is not what you wanted…

Do not pretend that it is not happening to you. Your next step would be to consult your doctor, get the pregnancy confirmed, and then discuss your options with them. They are there to help and not to judge!

I understand that this can be a very distressing time but you need to start the process moving as early as possible.

If the result is negative…

I’m really sorry it can be a very difficult time with a lot of emotions swirling around. If there is no sign of your period within a week, then it is definitely worth doing another test just to ensure both your safety and the safety of your potential baby.

A Word From Us

Pregnancy is a very emotional time, whether it is planned or unplanned. But the important thing is if you have any concerns that you may be pregnant, test early. This will ensure that you get the medical and emotional care that you need and deserve.

The medical profession is supportive and well-informed in order to give you all the information that you need to make the choice that is right for you and your life!

Medical Disclaimer. All content and media on the Mom Informed Website is created and published online for informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice and should not be relied on as health or personal advice.