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Reading Pregnancy Tests and Understanding HCG Levels


Links and information compiled by Amber Alyssa Swanson


Pink Dye or Digital Pregnancy Tests are BEST. Blue Dye tests tend to give false positives due to dye run.

Pregnancy tests are most accurate with first morning urine; they may not be as accurate in the afternoon (false negative). Any slight or faint line on a pregnancy test is positive.

Information About hCG Levels



Sensitivity Chart

For a full list of pregnancy tests and their sensitivities, visit http://www.fertilityplus.com/faq/hpt.html


Pregnancy Test Brand Sensitivity (or the hCG threshold at which a positive result is indicated). The lower the number, the higher the test sensitivity.

Answer Early Result Pregnancy Test 25 mIU/hCG

Clearblue Digital 50 mIU/hCG

Confirm 1-Step 25 mIU/hCG

Dollar Store Brand Pregnancy Test 50 mIU/hCG

e.p.t. Home Pregnancy Test 40 mIU/hCG

e.p.t. Certainty Digital Test 40 mIU/hCG

Equate 25 mIU/hCG

Fact Plus Pregnancy Test 40 mIU/hCG

First Response Early Results Test 25 mIU/hCG

One Step Be Sure Pregnancy Test 25 mIU/hCG

Target Brand 50 mIU/hCG

Walgreen Digital 25 mIU/hCG

Walgreens 100 mIU/hCG

WalMart Brand 50 mIU/hCG


There is one disadvantage of high-sensitivity tests, and that is the case of a chemical pregnancy. A chemical pregnancy is essentially a miscarriage that takes place during the earliest stages of a pregnancy. With a chemical pregnancy, hCG is produced, but only for a short period of time as the pregnancy does not continue. In fact, a large percentage of pregnancies do result in miscarriage just shortly after implantation. This is a very different situation than a later-term miscarriage and women should understand that chemical pregnancies are not uncommon. Unless you are testing early, most women may not even be aware that they were pregnant as a chemical pregnancy will often end before any physical pregnancy symptoms manifest (including a missed period). With a very sensitive pregnancy test, it is possible to receive a positive result – and then later test negative if the woman experiences a miscarriage (chemical pregnancy).


Ease-of-Use & Interpretation: False Positive Tests & Ghost Lines

Ease of use and ease of interpretation are other key factors in comparing pregnancy tests. Almost all pregnancy tests today are rather easy to use. Most tests offer handles and you simply point the tip of the test into your stream of urine as you pee. Easy. If you feel like playing doctor (and saving a lot of money), you can use strips (also know as dip strips or aimsticks). With the pregnancy test strips, you do need to collect urine in a cup and then just dip the end of the strip into the collected sample. Both methods are equally reliable. Women who actively TTC (try to conceive) frequently use the strips because they are the most affordable – and when you fertility chart, frequent ovulation and pregnancy testing is part of the deal.

Interpreting the test is also typically very easy. As noted above, new digital tests will even tell you in a clear digital display if you are pregnant or not. The problem with digital kits is that they are expensive and are less sensitive than more traditional tests. When it comes to interpreting the tests, there are a few important keys to increasing accuracy and early-detection.

These include:

  1. Use first morning urine. Why? Because FMU will contain the highest amount of hCG. This means you can receive an accurate result sooner!
  2. Hold your urine: If you need to test in the afternoon or evening, don’t flush your body with liquids or urinate before testing. Hold your urine as long as (comfortably) possible. This way the hCG in the urine will not be diluted. This is a good alternative if you want to re-test or if you cannot use FMU.
  3. Adhere to the test reaction time! If you go to Drugstore.com or any product review site, you will find many women complaining about false positive pregnancy tests. Actually, a false positive pregnancy test is quite rare. What may be happening here is that the test user is trying to read the test after the given reaction time specified by the manufacturer. The fact is, every test has a time interval that must be respected, typically between five and ten minutes. Any result determined after the reaction time should be disregarded or considered “invalid.” Why? Two reasons. The first is that a test will become increasingly more sensitive over time and may indicate a very faint test line based on naturally levels of hCG (present in non-pregnant women and even men!). Second, sometimes the chemical composition of urine will cause a ghost line or evaporation line. Typically colorless, an evaporation line will only appear well after the given reaction time of the test. In other words, if you see an evaporation line, you should not be looking at the test anyway! In other words, if you see a ghost line, this is not a false positive, as the test reaction time has passed and the any result should be considered not valid.


A false negative pregnancy test is typically due to situations where the user is testing too early or there is not enough hCG in the urine sample. To avoid false negative results, observe tips one and two, and follow the testing guidelines of the manufacturer. There may also be instances where hCG levels differ among women. In other words, for women the rate of hCG production is slower, meaning that she may need to wait a few days longer before receiving a positive result. Also, implantation may occur later, which will also result in a bit of a delay in determining a positive result.

hCG Levels In Early Pregnancy



First Response™ Insert Information



Other Useful Information

First Response Early Result is a test that claims you can test before your period is due. Calls to the company about the hCG level detected have been answered with “no comment” or “privileged” information. Now there is an article on the First Response web site saying the test can read a level of 6.3. An e-mail to the FDA about the test received a reply of 25 mIU, but this is not in the customer-searchable database. When it came out, a couple of people e-mailed FertilityPlus to say that the new test detects 15-20 mIU. So far we have had several people report false-positives, faulty tests, and several who have been pleased with early and very early detection . . . It is important to note that this test won’t work for everyone because implantation (6-12 dpo) needs to occur before one will get a positive result. The test scored highest on the Consumer Reports 2003 ranking of home tests.

The Equate brand switched manufacturers a few years ago. The older test had a significant online reputation for false positives, while the newer test, manufactured by LifeCare, appears as reliable as most other brands (most brands get some reports of false positives). The main comment the test still gets is to beware of evaporation lines and read the test, like all brands, within the time limit listed in the instructions.

Evaporation lines are reported with many brands, and should be considered normal for home pregnancy tests. This is why tests should be read within the time specified within the instructions. Most recently we have had reports about the Inverness Medical tests different brands, AimStick, and dBest. Clearblue/ClearPlan sometimes has a white line where the result should appear, or a gray line without colored dye — neither of which should be considered a positive result and require retesting.

Disappearing positives are probably negative results, but any confusing test result warrants retesting. Some brands suggest confirming a negative result at 3-5 minutes, so the initial wash of fluid through the test may make it look positive at first, but show negative when the test is complete.

Clearblue Digital, same as Eckerd Digital, has an official hCG level detected of 50 mIU, but some calls to the help line receive an answer of 25 mIU. Many brands can in fact detect a lower hCG level their published sensitivity.

Lifesign1 is available by mail order only from Geodesic Meditech — it is not the same as the one in stores such as Wal*Mart. According to Jeanne Olson, PA-C from Geodesic Meditech, in studies, this test could detect hCG levels of 5-20 mIU within 7 minutes. So, a positive within 7 minutes indicates that hCG was detected, but you should not read the test after 7 minutes. After 7 minutes that dye can break through and you may see an evaporation line. The test is now listed as reading down to 15 mIU.

Quidel, the manufacturers of Conceive, Precise and QTest are no longer selling over the counter pregnancy tests. They only supply medical professionals (the urine tests are accurate to 20 mIU and serum is accurate to 10 mIU).

Consumer Reports periodically ranks pregnancy tests mostly based on value to the consumer. FertilityPlus does not recommend any specific tests — the site puts out this often-copied FAQ for women who gathing information and capable of making their own decisions.

Is a faint line on a pregnancy test positive?















Pregnancy test information posted on Facebook Thursday, May 21, 2015