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What Is The Hook Effect and How Does It Relate to Pregnancy?

Updated on January 8, 2013
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When Rachael isn't in her studio dyeing yarn (her real job), she's called to her passion for writing, and so here she is : )

Hook effect demonstrated on HPTs. The 1st test is taken with undiluted urine, and the 2nd test is taken with urine diluted by 50% or more.
Hook effect demonstrated on HPTs. The 1st test is taken with undiluted urine, and the 2nd test is taken with urine diluted by 50% or more.

If you're pregnant in today's modern world, there is a good chance that you've spent a bit of time on the internet, researching various symptoms and stories about pregnancy.

It's a nervous time for many woman, and especially if there have been problems.

The internet, as it does for most subjects, provides an absolute plethora of information from the basics, through to the more complex.

But even with all this easy access to information, there are still some things that you don't ever learn about, unless you have to.

The Hook Effect is one of these things that most pregnant women won't ever have cause to research on Dr Google.

But it's a strange and scary anomaly that can cause a great deal of panic for a pregnant women.

The Hook Effect In Pregnancy Tests

The Hook Effect is essentially when the test antibodies are overwhelmed by the introduced antigen and are unable to bind to the antibodies.

To make this easier to understand, and to apply it's relevance to testing for pregnancy, basically what this means is that the Hook Effect occurs when the levels of HCG are so high in a pregnant women, that they can not be bound to the test antibodies and therefore the test is unable to process effectively.

The levels of HCG need to be extremely high for this to occur and this can happen between 8-10 weeks, or earlier in multiples pregnancies, before the HCG begins to level out again later in pregnancy.

When the Hook Effect occurs, you will get either a very faint positive on a pregnancy test, despite having darker positive lines previously, or you may get a complete false negative with no line whatsoever $6. The test just hasn't been able to deal with the high levels of HCG and is giving you false results.

What To Do If You Experience The Hook Effect

First of all, don't panic if you use a home pregnancy test later in your pregnancy, and get a faint line or a negative result. Especially if you have had no bleeding or cramping.

If you really want to verify that the Hook Effect is in play, take another test, but this time with urine diluted by at least 50%. You will likely get a positive result 2nd time around because you have lowered the amount of HCG the test needs to deal with, by diluting it.

If you are still concerned, or still get a faint or negative result, contact your OB or midwife.

DISCLAIMER

Please note that this hub article serves only as information, not as a replacement for qualified medical advice.

If you have concerns about your pregnancy, do not hesitate to contact your OB, midwife or healthcare provider.

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