Is that a line? Could I be pregnant? Learn what a faint line means on an EPT pregnancy test.
Your period is late so you buy a pregnancy test. You follow the instructions word for word to ensure an accurate result. After placing the test stick on a flat surface for the recommended two minutes, you apprehensively pick it up, not knowing what the results will show. There’s a faint line looking back at you. Is it a positive? Negative?
As a general rule of thumb, a visible test line on a pregnancy test (no matter how faint), indicates a positive result.
“Some women see a clearly distinguishable positive line after take a home test,” according to Healthline Media. “But in other cases, the positive line appears faded. In these instances, a faint positive can be caused by low levels of the pregnancy hormone human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG).”
What the Experts Have to Say
Today, home pregnancy tests are fairly accurate. In fact, after your period was due the accuracy of a home pregnancy test is 97 percent, according to Sean Daneshman, M.D., ob-gyn in San Diego and founder of the non-profit organization Miracle Babies.
However, a very faint line on a pregnancy test can still be confusing and may make you wonder if you’re really pregnant or just seeing things. Here’s what some experts have to say.
“The only way a home pregnancy test can give you a positive result is if you have a detectable level of hCG in your urine. And the only way you’ll have a detectable level of hCG in your urine (unless you’ve been receiving fertility treatments) is if you’re pregnant.”
What to Expect When You’re Expecting, Heidi Murkoff
“It’s common for the first few home pregnancy tests to be light (where the test result line is lighter than the control line) because the hormone levels are lower in the early stages of pregnancy.”
Expecting 411, Dr. Michele Hakakha and Dr. Ari Brown
“Unlike ovulation predictor testing, the darkness of the line on a home pregnancy test does not factor into the interpretation of positive versus negative; any second line is considered positive.”
Your Over-35 Week-by-Week Pregnancy Guide, Kelly M. Shanahan
“It is very rare to get a false positive result from a home pregnancy test, unless you have been taking hCG as part of your treatment. If you are taking hCG, the fertility clinic should have made this quite clear to you, and will have explained that it would affect a home pregnancy test.”
Precious Babies, Kate Brian
“Hold off on the HPT until your period is at least one day late. That’s the earliest that an HPT can possibly detect pregnancy – in fact, most HPTs are unreliable until your period is a week late.”
Pregnancy from A to Z, Dr. Irina Webster
Rise of hCG Levels During Pregnancy
Knowing exactly how the tests work can help you better understand why you may see a faint line on your pregnancy test. It starts with the placenta. The placenta is a sort of lifeline between your blood supply and the baby. During pregnancy, it allows the baby to eat, breathe, and thrive.
Just a few days after the embryo implants in the uterine wall, the new placenta begins pumping out hCG, or human chorionic gonadotropin. A blood test can first detect hCG about 11 days after conception, according to VeryWell, while a urine pregnancy test can usually detect the hormone 12 to 14 days after conception.
Once the fertilized egg has attached to the uterine wall, hCG levels begin to rise rapidly. Throughout the first trimester, hormone levels gradually increase, doubling every two to four days on average. Most women have a peak of hCG around 60 to 80 days past fertilization.
During this time, it’s common to experience early pregnancy symptoms such as irregular spotting, sore breasts, pelvic pain, and nausea from morning sickness. In short, hCG-based pregnancy tests help you determine if you are pregnant. If a blood test or HPT has a positive result, then you are pregnant.
Factors that Can Influence Test Results
Like all things in life, pregnancy tests are not free from flaws. Here are a few things that can influence the results of your pregnancy test.
User Error: Not reading the instructions carefully when using a pregnancy test can result in inaccuracies. Be sure to expose the test strip to urine for the recommended time period and handle the test strip as instructed.
If the instructions say that the test reading is invalid after 10 minutes, do not read the test results after the time limit. Faint lines after the time limit has lapsed are more likely to be evaporation lines.
Poor Timing: As mentioned previously, at home pregnancy tests determine pregnancy based on hCG levels in the urine. While hCG continues to rapidly increase during early pregnancy, most HPTs will not pick up on a pregnancy until after you’ve missed your period.
If the line is faint, it may be because you’re testing too early. The line may also be faint if you test later in the day when the hormone is more diluted due to fluid intake.
Medications/Conditions: Certain medications or health conditions can influence the results of a home pregnancy test. If you take a medication that contains hCG, such as Pregnyl or Pergonal, it may create a false positive.
While rare, certain medical conditions can also alter the results of your pregnancy test. If you think you may be pregnant and discover a faint line, ask your doctor for a blood test.
Seeing a faint line on a pregnancy test can be frustrating. Are you pregnant or are your eyes playing tricks on you? Chances are, if you see a faint line you’re pregnant – congrats! But just to be sure, confirm the pregnancy with your doctor.