Pregnancy Test Still Positive If a Line Is Lighter?

Pregnancy test lines
Allan Kosmajac/Getty Images
Table of Contents
View All
Table of Contents

When you take a pregnancy test, you'll want to ensure that you are following the instructions and doing it correctly. You might be concerned with how to read the test results even after you have read the instructions.

How to Read Pregnancy Test Results

There are different features of a pregnancy test. Each feature can provide different information.

Pregnancy Test Lines

Pregnancy tests have lines that indicate a couple of things. These lines are to help prevent you from misreading the test and to know if an error has occurred.

The main window is the test indicator window. It will typically have two lines. One line indicates that the test is working properly (control line), and the second line is considered the actual pregnancy test line. A second line is what indicates pregnancy.

A few tests have a separate window for the control panel, meaning that each line is in its own window. The instructions that came with the test will explain which line is the control line.

Different Line Colors

When taking a pregnancy test, any line in the test indication area is considered a positive pregnancy test, even if it is lighter than the control line. The darker line is usually the control line. 

This is not a sign of a problem with the pregnancy or the pregnancy test, assuming it came up within the time limits of the test. It does not mean your pregnancy is in danger. It does not mean that you need to do anything special. It could be because at the time you tested your hCG levels (pregnancy hormone measured by the test) is high enough to trigger the test but not as high as later in pregnancy.

Sometimes this second line is so faint, you can barely see it. If there is a line, not an evaporation line, but a true line, no matter how light, you should read that as a positive pregnancy test. 

Common Errors and Issues

This discrepancy in the coloring of the lines is one of the reasons that you should read your pregnancy test within the time frame outlined in the instructions. Waiting to read the pregnancy test until late can result in problems and lead to you misreading the test or in an error in the reported results.

There is also a possibility that the pregnancy test has expired. One of the things you should do prior to purchasing a pregnancy test is to check the expiration date. If you are using a pregnancy test you have had a while, be sure to check when you go to use it. An expired test may look and feel like a regular pregnancy test, but the results may be compromised. 

You may also find examples of pregnancy test results given in the instructions included. The examples given in pregnancy test instructions or on the box are merely examples. Anything other than a blank is considered to be positive, even if it's a very faint line. Try holding your pregnancy test up to a white sheet of paper or the wall to get a better perspective.

You may see online forums filled with photos of pregnancy tests asking for help from people to read them. Wanting to be pregnant can make you really doubt yourself when reading this test. If it makes you feel better and you don't mind posting potential news of your pregnancy on the internet—go for it. But consider anything that you post on the internet, even in a private space, to be public information.

What to Do If You're Uncertain

You have two options if you are still unsure of your pregnancy test results. You can wait and retest in a few days or you can go see your doctor or midwife for a test in their office. Depending on when you tested, waiting to retest may be the best option. This is particularly true if you are testing before your expected period.

Many of the pregnancy test instructions themselves request that you wait at least a week prior to retaking another pregnancy test. This gives your body a chance to build up the pregnancy hormone hCG if you are, in fact, pregnant. 

1 Source
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Montagnana M, Trenti T, Aloe R, Cervellin G, Lippi G. Human chorionic gonadotropin in pregnancy diagnostics. Clin Chim Acta. 2011;412(17-18):1515‐1520. doi:10.1016/j.cca.2011.05.025

By Robin Elise Weiss, PhD, MPH
Robin Elise Weiss, PhD, MPH is a professor, author, childbirth and postpartum educator, certified doula, and lactation counselor.