Possible Causes of a Faint Line on a Pregnancy Test & What to Do Next

If you have a faint line on a pregnancy test, you could be pregnant, but it could also be a user error. Here's what you need to know.

Updated January 19, 2024
woman looking at a pregnancy test

Pregnancy tests are usually easy to interpret, but sometimes the results are unexpected or they're not quite as clear as you'd like. More than a few women have been frustrated by pale marks or a very faint line on a pregnancy test. So what does it mean? We explore the reason for a faint line on a pregnancy test and how to proceed. 

Three Reasons for a Faint Line Pregnancy Test

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 may be, 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 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 make sure 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 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 in reality, it's just the result of the urine evaporating and leaving a residue behind.

A Defective Test

Another reason for a faint line pregnancy test is that there's something wrong with the test kit. This can occur when:

  • There's a manufacturer's error.
  • The test is expired.
  • The pregnancy test was stored in a space that was too hot or too cold.
Need to Know

Health experts recommend storing pregnancy test kits at temperatures between 36°F and 86°F. When stored at temperatures outside of this range, it can affect the test's ability to detect hCG in the urine.

Testing Too Early

Home pregnancy tests can only detect hCG after it's reached a certain concentration in the urine. Early in 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 very faint line on the pregnancy test.

How to Increase Your Chances of a Clear Test Result in Early Pregnancy

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 at this time. 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 pregnancy test might signal an early pregnancy, check the sensitivity of the test you used as well. 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 to confirm that the original test was a faint positive pregnancy test.

RELATED: Things to Do After a Positive Pregnancy Test

Quick Tip

During the time between your first test and the time you retest, remember to cut out caffeine, alcohol, and tobacco. Also, you may want to start taking a prenatal vitamin, if you haven't already.

woman looking at pregnancy test

Retesting After Seeing a Very Faint Line on Pregnancy Test

After you've double-checked the directions and you're sure that you've done the test properly, plan to retest in a few days. If you get another positive result, 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 issue.

Getting Clarity 

Faint-line pregnancy tests can be frustrating, but when used correctly, they typically indicate that you are pregnant. It's likely that your mother's intuition is just kicking in early!

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Possible Causes of a Faint Line on a Pregnancy Test & What to Do Next