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Low Hcg Levels

low hcg levels

The hormone human chorionic gonadotropin (better known as hCG) is produced during pregnancy.

It is made by cells formed in the placenta, which nourishes the egg after it has been fertilized and becomes attached to the uterine wall.

Levels can first be detected by a blood test about 11 days after conception and about 12-14 days after conception by a urine test.

Typically, the hCG levels will double every 72 hours. The level will reach its peak in the first 8-11 weeks of pregnancy and then will decline and level off for the remainder of the pregnancy.

How HCG Is Measured

Following conception, hCG can be detected in the blood as early as day 11 using a test known as the quantitative serial beta-hCG assay, which measures the volume of hCG in a milliliter of blood. A single hCG test may be used to see if levels are within the normal range expected at that point in pregnancy.

In order to see how quickly hCG is doubling, serial hCG measurements are done. Quantitative hCG blood tests are drawn two to three days apart in line with expected rates of increase. By and large, serial testing provides more useful information than a single hCG level when evaluating a pregnancy.

When HCG Trends Are Abnormal

Most miscarriages occur during the first 13 weeks of pregnancy. It is at this stage that hCG monitoring is most valuable for assessing the health and status of a pregnancy. If you're expecting and your hCG levels are lower than they should be or are increasing more slowly than they should, or even beginning to drop, your doctor will want to figure out why. Here are possible reasons for each of these scenarios:

  • A low HCG level can mean your pregnancy date was miscalculated and you're not as far along as you had thought. Further testing would be needed to determine the cause, which may or may not include a miscarriage, a blighted ovum, or an ectopic pregnancy.
  • Slow-rising HCG levels may be a sign of trouble in early pregnancy. Keep in mind, however, this occurs is around 15 percent of pregnancies that continue without complications. 
  • Dropping HCG levels in the first trimester over the course of two to three days is usually the sign of an impending miscarriage. This is especially true for women experiencing symptoms of miscarriage such as heavy vaginal bleeding. Decreasing levels of hCG in the second and third trimester usually aren't a concern.

It is also important to note that excessively high levels of hCG may indicate multiple pregnancies or a molar pregnancy, which results from a nonviable, fertilized egg. As with a low hCG, a high hCG could simply be due to a miscalculation in the pregnancy date.

Monitoring hCG levels is a useful tool for making sure a pregnancy is proceeding in a normal and healthy way, but try not to worry if your hormone levels aren't "behaving" as expected and your doctor is watching them closely. Ask as many questions as you need to ease your mind and stay positive: Chances are all is well, and before you know it you'll be showing off an impressive baby bump.

Causes of low HCG levels

If your HCG levels fall below the normal range, it’s not necessarily a cause for concern. Many women have gone on to have healthy pregnancies and babies with low hCG levels. Most women don’t ever have cause to find out what their HCG levels are specifically.

However, sometimes low HCG levels can be caused by an underlying problem.

What’s the outlook?

Low HCG levels alone are not necessarily a reason to be worried. There are many factors that affect the levels, and the normal range varies hugely between individual women. Your doctor will be able to monitor your HCG levels for you if you have concerns. Even if they remain low, there is nothing that you can do. It’s also important to remember that low HCG isn’t caused by anything you’ve done.

If your low HCG levels are due to a pregnancy loss, this doesn’t necessarily mean that you won’t be able to get pregnant and carry to term in the future. If you lose a fallopian tube due to an ectopic pregnancy, your fertility shouldn’t change significantly as long as your other tube is functioning. Even if it isn’t, reproductive technologies like in vitro fertilization can help lead to successful pregnancy.