Pregnancy tests are usually easy to interpret, but sometimes the results are unexpected or are not quite as clear as you'd like. More than a few women have been frustrated by pale marks or a faint line on a pregnancy test. So what does it mean?
Reasons for a Faint Line
Usually, if you're pregnant, you'll see a strong, unmistakable result when you take the test. However, sometimes you will get a faint line or symbol as your final result. This can happen because you didn't follow the directions exactly, used a defective test, or tested too early. Whatever the reason, you'll need to try again with a fresh test.
Failure to Follow Directions
It's important to follow the directions on a home pregnancy test in order to get a definitive result. Each test is different, but typically the steps are the same. When taking a test, make sure you expose the test stick or strip to your urine for the right amount of time and that the correct area is saturated.
- If you see a faint "pregnancy" line, but no symbol to confirm that you've done the test properly, it's possible you didn't use enough urine.
- It's also possible that you used too much urine or got the wrong part of the test wet.
- Another reason that a faint pregnancy line may appear is that you waited too long to check the results. Most tests tell you to look for results within a few minutes. If you wait too long, the test can dry out and an "evaporation line" can appear. This might look like a faint positive, but it's really just the result of the urine evaporating and leaving a residue behind.
It's also possible that there is something wrong with the test kit if you see a faint line in the results window. This could be a manufacturer's error, resulting in a defective product. The test could also be expired, which can affect it's ability to detect hCG in urine.
Testing Too Early
Home pregnancy tests can only detect hCG after it's reached a certain concentration in the urine. Early in a pregnancy, from conception until about a week after you miss your period, hCG concentrations might be too low for the test to register at all. Or, there might be just enough hCG to cause a slight reaction, leading to a faint line on the pregnancy test.
One way to increase your chance of a clear positive in early pregnancy is to use your first morning urine, doing the test as soon as you wake up. The hCG will be more concentrated in your urine then. Also, don't test your urine soon after you've had a big cup of coffee or any other drink. Drinking a lot can dilute your urine, making it harder to detect hCG.
If you think the faint line on the test might signal an early pregnancy, check the sensitivity of the test you used. Some tests can detect hCG at a lower concentration than others. Some require a concentration of only 15mIU, while others require as much as 100mIU. Then try testing again in a few days.
Seeing a Faint Line on a Test
After you've double-checked the directions and are sure you've done the test properly, what should you do when you get a faint line on a pregnancy test? Assuming you followed the test's directions regarding when to use it, the easiest answer is to wait a few days and repeat the test. If it's positive, your pregnancy was probably too new to give a strong result the first time. If it's negative, you probably aren't pregnant. It's a good idea to check with a doctor if you're not pregnant and not getting periods, because this can be a sign of a medical problem.