Does a faint positive line on a pregnancy test mean you're expecting? - We share advice on interpreting this confusing result.
Home pregnancy tests should be so straight forward; you simply pee on a stick and wait a couple of minutes to find out what you'll be doing in nine months time. Unfortunately, test results aren't always this clear cut and can leave you feeling really confused - what happens if you get a faint positive?
Is a faint line a positive?
Home pregnancy tests work by detecting levels of the pregnancy hormone hCG (human chorionic gonadotrophin) in your urine. This is only produced once a fertilised egg implants in your uterus (something that occurs between 6 - 10 days after ovulation) so assuming you have tested correctly you can take a faint positive symbol to mean you're pregnant.
As levels of hCG double almost daily throughout the early stages of pregnancy the longer you wait to test the more clear and accurate the results will be. If you get a really faint test result it can be best to wait for a couple of days and then re-test; if you are pregnant a clearer line will show.
What causes faint positives?
When you take a home pregnancy test it's really important that you read the instructions carefully and follow them exactly or you may compromise the reliability of the results. If you get a faint result on both lines or symbols of the pregnancy test it may be that there was insufficient urine exposure to produce a clear result, re-testing will help to resolve this issue.
Testing too early
As hCG is only produced after implantation, if you test too early there may be insufficient levels of this hormone present in your urine to give a strong positive result. Even if you have been charting your menstrual cycle its possible that you ovulated later than expected so testing again in a couple of days time will help to confirm your pregnancy.
Home pregnancy tests differ in the levels of hCG they are able to detect; if you get a faint positive it may be that the test you are using isn't sensitive enough to give a more conclusive result. The sensitivity of your test will be detailed on the side of the box in 'mIU' with lower numbers signifying increased sensitivity; for example a 20mIU pregnancy test will be able to detect a positive result sooner than a 50mIU test. If you get a faint positive it can be worth re-testing with a more sensitive kit.
hCG levels are at their most concentrated first thing in the morning so where possible it's best to test as soon as you get up. If you test later in the day, especially after you have been drinking lots of fluid, the hCG levels in your urine will be diluted and less easy for a home pregnancy test to detect. This may cause a faint positive result especially if you are in the very early stages of pregnancy.
For an accurate result most pregnancy tests need to be read within a specified amount of time, usually 5 - 10 minutes after urine exposure (but this will be detailed on the testing box). If you notice a very faint positive symbol developing after this 'reaction time' it is likely to be an evaporation line. Evaporation lines do not signify a positive result but instead develop as urine evaporates leaving a very faint mark where the 'pregnant' symbol should be. In this instance its best to take the test result as a negative however you may like to test again in a day or so in case you conceived later than expected.
If you experience a very faint positive followed by a negative when you test again a couple of days later if may be that you have experienced a chemical pregnancy. This is where the fertilised egg implants but does not develop any further causing a very early miscarriage before any other pregnancy symptoms are experienced and often even before a period is missed. Some women prefer to hold off testing until a little later so that they avoid the upset of knowing if this happens but of course that is down to personal choice.
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