PREGNANCY

What Is the Hook Effect?

A PSA for the anxiously pregnant (especially after loss)

Julia Marsiglio
Family Matters
Published in
4 min readMay 21, 2021

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A woman with brown hair and beige skin holds a pregnancy test in her had while sitting on a white-covered bed. Her eyes are closed and her body tense.
Image by Gpoint Studio on CanvaPro

I got pregnant with my third child three months after the devastating loss of my second child. To say I was nervous was an understatement. At that time, I didn’t know about the hook effect.

By about 5 or 6 weeks gestation I was certain I was losing another pregnancy. I wasn’t just worried that I might. It was — to me — as clear as day that it was happening. Here’s why:

Amazon sold super cheap pregnancy tests. I think they cost me about $0.25 apiece, and I had stocked up for my trying to conceive journey. My first child had taken a while to conceive. We had been lucky the second time, but I didn’t know how long it might take.

When I got a faintly positive test after the first month of trying, I almost didn’t believe it. It was too lucky to have conceived two babies in a row the first month trying. So I tested the next day. It was slightly darker, but I still wasn’t convinced.

By the third day of testing, it was an obvious positive, though still astronomically fainter than the control line. I developed a daily ritual of peeing on a stick to watch the line get darker. And it did.

This was a good sign. Darkening lines meant that the baby was implanting properly. At least so said the internet forums I was frequenting for reassurance.

The control line soon became the lighter of the two lines. Everything was progressing nicely. I lined up the tests and wrote the date on each one.

Then, one day, the line didn’t get darker. In fact, the line was slightly lighter than the day before. I rushed to my phone to query the Facebook mom’s group de jour I was following.

“It’s probably just the concentration of your urine. If you drank a lot, and it’s less concentrated, it will show as lighter.”

I breathed a sigh of relief. A logical explanation. I could live with that. But the next day it happened again. And again. And again. For over a week more I tracked my urine diligently, holding a silent vigil for the baby I thought was gone. The line faded into obscurity, to the point it was hard to see anymore.

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Julia Marsiglio
Family Matters

I answer rhetorical questions. Intersectional feminism. Neurodivergence. Trauma. Grief. Canada things. A smattering of poetry and fiction.