Women who undergo an embryo transfer can decide to find out if they’re pregnant via one of two ways. One: wait until the official blood pregnancy test that transpires approximately nine or ten days after transfer. Two: test on their own using an early detection home pregnancy test. The latter is the preferred choice for obvious reasons – who wants to wait ten excruciating days for exciting pregnancy news?! However, this choice is not without its own heartache and confusion as false negatives – and even worse, false positive pregnancy tests – are common on even the most reliable home pregnancy tests. Before you’re tempted to “pee on a stick” and test on your own, read our cautionary tale of two lines below.
A Line is a Line: Early Positive Pregnancy Test
One of the biggest things that’s happened to us since we began IVF transpired six days after our third embryo transfer: I took a First Response Early Results home pregnancy test and saw a faint second line. I was floored. Although early, six days post embryo transfer has always been the first day I allow myself to start testing for pregnancy, as it’s the first day the embryo starts emitting hCG into your system.
We have never seen a second line on a pregnancy test before and I could hardly believe it was real. In hindsight, I shouldn’t have. The rules of thumb when testing with a home pregnancy test are the following:
- Test Time: The second line should appear within the official test time window.
- Line color: The second line should be dark enough to easily spot with the human eye. In other words, no “squinters,” which is a term implying you have to physically squint to see the second line.
- Progression: The second line should continue to get darker over a 24 to 48 hour time period.
Although our positive pregnancy test met none of the requirements above, I felt emboldened by the old pregnancy adage: “a line is a line” – meaning, if there’s even the slightest trace of a second line present, the test is unequivocally positive and you are pregnant.
My husband and I spent the afternoon gushing over our good news and basically planning this child’s future up until college. During our celebratory frenzy, and as if the pregnancy gods wanted to make us even happier, I got a call from the nurse saying that my luteal blood test from that morning came back looking “Really great!” When doing a medicated transfer, a luteal blood test is done halfway through your “two-week wait” to confirm that your progesterone levels are high enough (i.e. that you’re administering the drug correctly). Although they aren’t testing for the pregnancy hormone of hCG, they can usually tell if things are looking “pregnant-ish” if your progesterone has spiked more than usual. Apparently, mine had spiked substantially and the nurse was practically gushing over the phone. 🙂 Things were definitely happening, and I could not believe it….
Until, it all came screeching to a halt.
The Saga Continues: False Positive Pregnancy Test
After our excitement had died down, I decided to take another pregnancy test a few hours later. Although promising, the faint line on the first test left me wanting more reassurance. To my horror and surprise, this test showed a second line that was markedly lighter than the first. In fact, some could argue, it wasn’t even there at all.
Although I was extremely disappointed, I started to prepare myself mentally for the inevitable. However, a few hours later, I decided to take a third test and the second line came back markedly darker than the previous test. And so began the next 48-hours of home pregnancy testing hell.
I will spare the gruesome details of this two-day saga, but let’s just say that three boxes of pregnancy tests and a whole lot of tears later…it looks like we had an embryo that attempted implantation, held on for a few hours, but ultimately didn’t stick. Some call this a “chemical pregnancy,” I call it one of the worst rollercoaster ride of emotions that I’ve ever experienced.
For those that have or are struggling with something similar, I’ve posted how our timeline of tests went below. (Note that I did not have an hCG trigger shot).
6dp5dt – 12:30pm – A faint second line appears within the 3-minute window of test time.
6dp5dt – 3:45pm – A fainter second line appears, but after the 3-minute window of test time.
7dp5dt – 6:45am – FMU – Stark white negative. We think this is our official negative.
7dp5dt – 10:45am – SMU – Faint second line (fainter than previous day) appears after 3-minute window of test time, but is visibly there.
7dp5dt – 5:45pm – Faint second line (same “faintness” as the previous test) appears after 3-minute window of test time, but is visibly there.
7dp5dt – 9:00pm – Faint second line (same “faintness” as the previous test) appears after 3-minute window of test time, but is visibly there.
8dp5dt – 9:30am – FMU – Stark white negative.
The Final Results: Pregnancy Blood Test
A few excruciatingly painful days later, I went for my official pregnancy blood test and a nurse called me later that afternoon with the negative results. Of course I was expecting to hear it, but it still didn’t stop the world from crashing down around me for a moment.
Months of work and sacrifice and it all comes to an end with a few deflated sentences from a complete stranger. The nurse said: “Your test is negative and you can stop all meds. When you’re ready, you can call your doctor to talk about next steps. You’ll get your period in a few days. Goodbye.”
How many times can they call me with this shitty news? Needless to say, we are devastated. This was our third and final transfer attempt and we are officially out of frozen embryos now. To attempt another transfer, means starting the entire IVF process over from scratch – a concept that makes me physically ill at this moment.
Why do normal, healthy embryos keep failing when transferred? What is wrong with me/us/the procedure? What can we do differently? Is a chemical pregnancy a good sign for future transfers?
I have so many questions, but no longer have the physical or emotional energy to tackle them right now. Meanwhile, the summer – my absolute favorite time of the year – is in full swing, and I couldn’t feel less like myself. I’m broken and unhinged and it’s time to put this puzzle down and heal.
While planning this last transfer, I thankfully had the foresight to book a mini-vacation for my husband and myself the weekend after our results. I figured it would either be a celebratory trip or a “let’s escape our current reality” trip. I’m so sad it’s the latter, but so happy to get out of here for a few days. We are headed to Newport, RI to try and forget these sorrows, if only for a little while.
Conclusion: The Pitfalls of Early Testing
Although it’s exciting and fun to attempt to find out your pregnancy results earlier, the realities of early home testing finally became clear to me during this experience: if you go looking for something, you’ll probably find it. But that doesn’t mean it’s actually real…yet. Unlike women who are conceiving naturally, women doing IVF have physically had an embryo placed into their uterus. The chances of that embryo registering slightly on a home pregnancy test are high. The probability of it actually “sticking” and developing into a full blown pregnancy, however, are lower. So before you pick up that stick during the early days of your two-week wait, ask yourself what it is you’re ready to find.
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I’m sorry about your chemical pregnancies. You should read the book “Is your body baby friendly” by Dr. Alan Beer, who pioneered the area of reproductive immunotherapy. Most IVF clinics eschew this emerging field because it could greatly undermine the lucrative business they have going. Good luck.
I’m so sorry to hear about your chemical pregnancy too. I’m currently in the middle of my 2 week wait and have read the whole of google (even though I’m a doctor myself and should know better…) trying to figure out whether to test early or not. This been the most practical and helpful thing I have read and has made me decide to hold on and wait until 14 days post transfer. I hope things get better for you soon.
I am so sorry for your loss and experience but thank you infinitely for this impactful post. It was just what I needed to hear during this 9-day wait. With gratitude, -KJS
I don’t know how long ago you wrote this but im sorry i know your pain.
On the 21 os November i had frozen transfer. We used last two( the two before wasn’t successful)
11 days after i did the pregnancy test using clear blue and shows that im pregnant 1-2weeks! It was Monday. The same week on Friday i had another test done using the one showing lines and the second line was faint but I don’t know howl long after i checked and the second line was very visible. Then week 3 i start spotting. Dark colour not heavy. Test shows again second line faint but after some time very visible. On the 20th off December i have a scan and i am terrified.
Wishing you all good luck!
This post has helped so much, I’m going to wait and not take that test
Very well written. Informative and realistic yet ironically comforting. Thank you for sharing! Hopefully writing this painful experience also provided a measure of healing. Well wishes.
Thank you for this post!