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3 Things I Never Knew About Early Pregnancy Tests

negative pregnancy test
Photograph by Getty Images

I stared at the pregnancy test, unsure of what it was telling me.

I knew I had tested early. Possibly too early. But, was that a line? A really, really, really faint line?

I think I saw one. I wanted to see one. I was a little worried to see one. But still, the excitement swelled in me. Was there a tiny little baby burrowing into my womb? Was I going to be a mama to a sweet little one? I snapped a photo, intent on getting to the bottom of this mystery pregnancy result. My best friend would know. She was pregnant and after a few months of trying, she had seen her fair share of pregnancy tests. But, the photo hid any hint of the line I thought I saw. Even zoomed in on my phone, the test looked negative.

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Setting aside my anticipation, I told myself to wait another day or two and test again. And, in the meantime, I started studying everything there was to know about early pregnancy tests.

I’d always heard that any line was a positive line so a piece of my heart held on to the idea that a baby was on the way. But I wanted to be sure.

In the days leading up to your possible missed period, you may be full of questions just like I was. So here's what I learned about early pregnancy tests:

How Do Home Pregnancy Tests Detect Pregnancy Anyway?

As soon as implantation happens, your body begins creating a hormone called hCG. This hormone is only made by pregnant women, thus, pregnancy tests aim to detect hCG levels in an expecting mama’s urine.

Pregnancy hormone levels double about every 48 hours so if you feel off or are anxious to know for sure test every other morning and you’ll get a more reliable answer as you get closer to missing your period.

If you read a test past the designated time you might be seeing an evaporation line and the results are most likely invalid.

Is One Brand Better Than Another?

Yes and no. Years ago my midwife told me that overall, there was no better pregnancy test than a dollar store test. They’re FDA approved, cheap, and pretty accurate. With that said, some more expensive brands boast being able to alert you to pregnancy up to 6 days before your missed period.

The very faint line I described above? That was a dollar store test 4 days before my expected period. The day before I expected my period I got a definite positive, so in my opinion, dollar store tests are the way to go!

Of course, you can avoid the whole “is that a line” dilemma by opting for a test that shows results as “Pregnant” or “Not Pregnant”. Just know it will cost you a bit more and with a maybe baby on the way you might want to use that money on more fun things!

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How Do I Know If the Line Is Real?

Pregnancy test directions always give a specific timeline for reading the test. So, if you’re hoping to let the test sit longer to produce a positive, don’t. If you read a test past the designated time you might be seeing an evaporation line and the results are most likely invalid. An evaporation line happens when the urine dries and leaves behind a faint line with no color. A positive test with show a colored control line and then a colored test line where the hCG hormone triggers an antibody strip if you are indeed pregnant.

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