My home pregnancy test showed a faint line. Am I pregnant?

Tests you can do at home are very sensitive and can pick up the presence of pregnancy hormones in your system even before you have missed a period.

For a home pregnancy test to give you a positive result, your body has to be making a detectable level of the hormone human chorionic gonadotrophin (hCG). However, not all pregnancy tests can detect the same amount of hCG; a sensitive test is one which turns positive even if a low amount of the hormone is present. The more sensitive a pregnancy test is, the earlier it will show a positive result.

If the test you're using is only faintly positive, it may not be very sensitive. If you still have the box, it should say somewhere what the test's sensitivity is; the lower the number, the better the test. For example, a test with a sensitivity of 20 IU/L (milliInternational Units per Litre) will tell if you're pregnant sooner than a test with a sensitivity of 50 IU/L. Read the side of the box to see what it says.

Many women get a faintly positive result if they're not as far along as they expected. If this turns out to be the case for you, taking another test in two or three days should give you more exact results. Most home urine tests should be positive by the time your period is due if your body is making the normal amount of hCG.

Pregnancies with complications also produce hCG but in lesser amounts, so that could be causing the faint line. If your test is faintly positive and then a few days later turns completely negative, you may have had a very early miscarriage.

Experts estimate that about 50 per cent of fertilised eggs don't make it, and a further 15 per cent of recognised pregnancies end in miscarriage, so unfortunately this is very common. It is only since pregnancy tests became so sensitive that people have realised how often early miscarriages can happen. In the past, these very early losses might not even have been noticed, and the woman would never have known she had been pregnant.

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