Question Mark on Pregnancy Test: Causes and What to Do Next

When a woman takes a pregnancy test, she is looking for a clear answer. However, sometimes the result is not as straightforward as a positive or negative. Instead, a question mark may appear, leaving her confused and uncertain about what it means.

A question mark on a pregnancy test generally indicates an error or uncertainty in the test result. This could be due to various reasons such as the test being expired, improperly conducted, or the result being inconclusive. The appearance of a question mark means that the test has not been able to provide a definitive positive or negative result and it is usually advised to retake the test with a new kit, following all instructions carefully. If the issue persists, seeking professional medical advice is recommended.

Key Takeaways

  • A question mark indicates a test error, possibly due to expiration, incorrect use, or a defective test.
  • The symbol suggests an inconclusive outcome, neither confirming nor denying pregnancy.
  • To clarify results, retest using a new kit, strictly adhere to the instructions, and consider medical advice if needed.

Common Causes for Error Indications

A question mark or an error message can stem from a multitude of issues:

Expired Test Kits

Even the highly sensitive First Response pregnancy test can fail to detect hCG if it’s used past its expiration date. The chemicals in all pregnancy tests, including digital ones, are reactive substances that can lead to an invalid test result when expired. It’s crucial to not only store the kits in a controlled environment but also to handle them according to manufacturer guidelines, ensuring the integrity of the test for accurate results.

Incorrect Test Usage or Timing

A negative pregnancy test can be misleading if the timing isn’t right or the instructions aren’t followed to the letter. For instance, the First Response test, like others, is calibrated for specific hCG levels, which might not be present if testing occurs too early after a missed period. Not adhering to directions, such as how long the stick should stay in the urine stream, can result in an invalid test result and unnecessary anxiety.

Insufficient Urine Sample or Over-saturation

Getting accurate results requires not just the correct timing but also the correct quantity of urine. An insufficient sample might not trigger the necessary chemical reaction, while too much urine can overwhelm the test’s capacity, leading to invalid test results. It’s a delicate balance that necessitates precision for the test to read correctly.

Faulty Test Kits or Manufacturing Defects

Even the most user-friendly digital test can produce an invalid test result if there are hidden defects. Whether you’re using a First Response pregnancy test or a different brand, it’s possible for even a small imperfection in the manufacturing process to cause a glitch in the test’s function, resulting in confusing output like a question mark.

Immediate Steps to Take

Pregnancy Test - Immediate Steps to Take

If you see an unexpected symbol like a question mark on your pregnancy test, take the following steps:

Retest with a New Kit

An invalid test result should prompt a retest with a new kit, ideally from a separate batch or a different manufacturer, to mitigate the risk of a repeat error. A digital test may offer a more user-friendly interface, reducing the chance of misinterpretation and offering more clarity in test results.

Follow the Instructions Precisely

The precision of test results is directly correlated to the precision with which the test is administered. Especially with tests like those designed to detect hCG soon after a missed period, it’s essential to follow the guidelines meticulously. Reading the instructions multiple times before use can help prevent mistakes that lead to invalid test results.

Best Timing for Testing

The timing of the test is paramount for obtaining accurate results. Testing should ideally be done after a missed period, with the first urine after the longest period of sleep. First Response pregnancy tests and other digital tests are optimized for use during this period, as hCG concentration peaks in the morning urine.

When to See a Doctor

Pregnancy Test - When to See a Doctor

There are certain circumstances under which a doctor’s advice is essential:

Persistent Uncertainty

If after using a First Response pregnancy test or a digital test you’re faced with continuous ambiguous or conflicting test results, it’s prudent to get a professional opinion. A healthcare provider can conduct more comprehensive tests to detect hCG with greater accuracy.

Additional Symptoms

A negative pregnancy test coupled with symptoms that typically accompany pregnancy, like a missed period or morning sickness, warrants a consultation with a healthcare professional for a more definitive test result.

Confirmation of Pregnancy

In cases of a missed period or if you’ve received inconclusive results from home tests, a healthcare provider can administer a blood test. This test is more sensitive in detecting hCG, often providing earlier and more accurate results than urine-based tests.

Preventing Test Errors in the Future

Preventing Pregnancy Test Errors in the Future

To reduce the likelihood of encountering an error on your pregnancy test in the future:

Selecting the Right Test

Consider a First Response pregnancy test or a digital test known for reliability when selecting your test. Reviews and medical provider recommendations are useful resources to help you find the test that offers the most accurate results.

Proper Storage and Handling

Maintain the condition of your pregnancy tests by storing them in a cool, dry place away from sunlight. This helps preserve the chemical effectiveness of the tests, ensuring they remain sensitive to detect hCG and provide accurate results.

Understand the Limitations

Remember that home pregnancy tests, while highly effective, have their limitations and are subject to a margin of error. Recognize that factors such as hCG concentration variability and test timing relative to your cycle can influence the test results. Medications, fertility treatments, and certain medical conditions that introduce hCG into the system can also affect the outcome.


A question mark on a pregnancy test can be disconcerting, but it’s a signal to take specific actions rather than a definitive answer. By understanding the potential causes of test errors, taking immediate and appropriate steps to retest, and knowing when to seek medical advice, you can navigate this uncertainty. Always prioritize accuracy and health, and remember that medical professionals are your best resource for confirming pregnancy.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can a pregnancy test give a false positive result?

Yes, it is possible for a pregnancy test to give a false positive result. This can occur if the test is taken too early, if the test is not used correctly, or if there is a medical condition that causes a false positive result. However, false positive results are rare and most pregnancy tests are accurate.

Can a pregnancy test give a false negative result?

Yes, it is possible for a pregnancy test to give a false negative result. This can occur if the test is taken too early, if the test is not used correctly, or if there is a medical condition that causes a false negative result. However, false negative results are more common than false positive results.

What is a borderline positive result?

A borderline positive result is when the test shows a faint line, indicating that there may be a small amount of the pregnancy hormone (hCG) present in the urine. This can occur if the test is taken too early or if the hCG levels are low. It is recommended to wait a few days and take another test to confirm the result.

How long should I wait for a result on a First Response Digital Pregnancy test?

After taking a First Response Digital Pregnancy test, it is recommended to wait for three minutes to get accurate results. The test is designed to display a “pregnant” or “not pregnant” message on the screen.

What does a symbol on a pregnancy test mean?

The symbol on a pregnancy test indicates whether you are pregnant or not. A positive symbol indicates that you are pregnant, while a negative symbol indicates that you are not.

What are the marks on a pregnancy test and what do they indicate?

The marks on a pregnancy test indicate the level of hCG (human chorionic gonadotropin) in your urine. The higher the level of hCG, the more likely you are to be pregnant. The marks may vary depending on the brand of the pregnancy test.

What does a fake line on a pregnancy test indicate?

A fake line on a pregnancy test may indicate an evaporation line or a false positive result. It is important to read the instructions carefully and take the test correctly to avoid any confusion.

How accurate is the First Response Digital Pregnancy test?

The First Response Digital Pregnancy test is over 99% accurate when used correctly. However, it is important to note that no pregnancy test is 100% accurate and it is always recommended to confirm with a healthcare professional.

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