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High Hcg Levels

High Hcg Levels

HCG Basics

HCG is produced in the cells of your placenta during pregnancy, according to the American Pregnancy Association. Your doctor can first detect this hormone in blood tests roughly 11 days after pregnancy begins. She can also detect it in your urine in roughly 12 to 14 day after the start of pregnancy. In the vast majority of women, hCG levels double approximately every 48 to 72 hours, until they reach peak levels sometime between the eighth and eleventh week of pregnancy. After this peak, your hCG levels will gradually decrease until you give birth.

How do pregnancy tests detect hCG levels and determine if you’re pregnant?

Pregnancy tests are designed to detect changes in hCG levels using a scientific technique called sandwich enzyme immunoassay, and while this sounds complicated (and the biochemistry definitely is!), the principles are about as complicated as making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

hCG is a large molecule made of two separate components: the alpha part and the beta part. A pregnancy test comes with antibodies (aka “bread slices”) to detect the alpha part (“the peanut butter”) and the beta part (“the grape jelly”). So, if you take a pregnancy test and are pregnant, hCG in your urine will be sandwiched by the antibodies on the stick, and this sandwiching triggers the release of a dye, creating the dark line which indicates a positive pregnant test. The second line is a control test to make sure the antibodies are working.

What do high hCG levels mean?

High hCG levels can mean a few possible outcomes, and it’s important to consult with your doctor to know for sure:

Miscalculation of pregnancy dating: As in the case of low hCG levels, miscalculating the pregnancy date can mean inaccurate expectations of hCG counts.

Molar pregnancy: While not technically a form of miscarriage, a molar pregnancy is when defective placenta cells, which either grow too fast or around a non-viable embryo, continue secreting hCG. If you experience heavy bleeding in early pregnancy and have high hCG levels or experience high blood pressure in early pregnancy, then it’s possible that a molar pregnancy has occurred. It’s important to seek a medical professional right away in order to assess whether intervention to remove the abnormal cell growth is needed.

Multiple pregnancy: If hCG levels are higher than expected, it’s possible that you could be pregnant with multiple embryos, meaning twins or more.

hCG Levels & Pregnancy Loss

After a pregnancy loss, hCG levels should drop down to less than 5mlU/ml within around six weeks. The time it takes to reduce will depend upon the level of the hormone at the end of the pregnancy, and how the loss occurred. If you experience a pregnancy loss, your healthcare provider will recheck your hCG levels a few weeks later to make sure they have reduced.

Why is the hCG blood test performed?

The hCG blood test is performed to:

  • confirm pregnancy
  • determine the approximate age of the fetus
  • diagnose an abnormal pregnancy, such as an ectopic pregnancy
  • diagnose a potential miscarriage
  • screen for Down syndrome

The hCG blood test is sometimes used to screen for pregnancy before you undergo certain medical treatments that could potentially harm a developing baby. Examples of these treatments include X-rays.

If an hCG test concludes that someone is pregnant, healthcare professionals can ensure that they’re protected and that the fetus isn’t harmed by those medical treatments.

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