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Hcg Levels

Hcg Levels

What Is Human Chorionic Gonadotropin (hCG)?

Human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) is a hormone produced by the placenta during pregnancy, and an hCG blood test measures the level of this hormone in your bloodstream. There are two different types of hCG blood tests:

  • Qualitative (returning a yes/no answer about whether the woman has hCG in her blood)
  • Quantitative (returning a measurement of the precise amount of hCG in the blood)

What do low hCG levels mean?

Human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) is a hormone that is produced by cells in the placenta during pregnancy. Its job is to nurture and feed the embryo that is attached to the wall of the uterus.

Lower than normal levels of hCG may indicate a problem with the pregnancy including:

  • miscarriage
  • ectopic pregnancy
  • fetal death

Levels of hCG can vary significantly between individuals and from one pregnancy to the next in the same person. But, typically, hCG levels follow a typical range throughout a healthy, uncomplicated pregnancy.

How Early Can hCG Be Detected?

This is a common question, because hCG is what at-home pregnancy tests are testing for, and hCG levels can give you information about how your pregnancy is developing.

HCG levels rise during the first trimester and can be detected in the urine as early as 7-11 post fertilization (sometimes even a little bit earlier!). HCG can also be detected via a simple blood test, which is usually how your healthcare provider confirms your pregnancy.

Where does hCG come from?

hCG comes from the placenta and enters the blood soon after implantation and is detected via pregnancy tests. hCG starts to be produced by the placenta as soon as implantation occurs. This happens about one week after fertilization and ovulation when the embryo implants and the placenta attaches to the uterine lining.

What level of hCG is considered pregnant?

When hCG levels rise to be greater than 25 IU/mL, then this is considered significantly higher than baseline, and a woman is considered pregnant.

when Do hCG Levels Stop Doubling?

It's important to note that hCG doubling time can be an important tool in early pregnancy, but as pregnancy progresses, doubling time slows down.

By six to seven weeks gestation (or when your level passes 1,200 mIU/ml) doubling time decreases to roughly every three days, and after the level reaches around 6,000 mIU/ml, doubling time occurs every four days.

By the time you reach eight to 11 weeks, your hCG level will have reached its peak.

While hCG doubling times become less reliable later in the first trimester, other tools such as transvaginal ultrasound become more important in determining the status of your pregnancy.

What Does It Mean If Your hCG Levels Are High?

More commonly, when hCG levels are high, it usually means that your pregnancy is a little further along than you initially thought. Repeat testing for levels, coupled with an ultrasound, will help you determine where you are at in your pregnancy.

Here are couple more reasons why you might have high hCG:

Twins: If there are two or more babies developing, a woman will generally have higher than normal hCG levels. (More on this below!)

Molar pregnancy: This rare complication of pregnancy results when there is an abnormality in development following fertilization. This abnormality can result in a very large placenta, a fetus that dies early on in pregnancy, or a placenta with no fetus at all. In any of these situations, the cells are forming abnormally, similar to a tumor, resulting in higher than expected hCG levels.

Genetic conditions: Less commonly, very high hCG levels can indicate Down syndrome