Human Chorionic Gonadotropin (hCG) during Pregnancy

November 12, 2012

Human Chorionic Gonadotropin (hCG) during Pregnancy

This hormone is known as ‘the pregnancy hormone’. The body’s hCG levels during pregnancy can be used to determine the possibility of problems with pregnancy.

About Human Chorionic Gonadotropin (hCG)

Human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) is a hormone and it is made from cells which form the placenta and is produced during pregnancy. The placenta gives nourishment to the egg after fertilization and it becomes attached to the wall of the uterus. A blood test carried out about 11 days after conception can detect levels of hCG. At 8-11 weeks pregnant the levels of hCG will have reached their peak, it then starts to decline and levels off for the rest of the pregnancy. Key points to be aware of in the levels of human chorionic gonadotropin:

  • hCG hormone levels will double over a period of 24 – 48 hours in approximately 85% of women experiencing a normal pregnancy. The more the pregnancy progresses the more the hCG levels are being raised. The time these hCG levels take to double increases to 96 hours.

  • An ultrasound which is carried out after a gestation period of five to six weeks will show the correct, accurate results. Many pregnant women have shown low levels of hCG hormones and went on to produce a healthy, normal baby.

  • The level which is seen as negative for a pregnancy is the hCG level being lower than 5mlU/ml. A reading of 24mlU/ml and above is seen as positive for a pregnancy.

  • Measurement of hCG hormones is carried out in mlU/ml (milli-international units per milliliter).

Once human chorionic gonadotropin hormone levels are between 1000 and 2000 U/ml a transvaginal ultrasound can be carried out to show the gestational sac. hCG levels can change and the date of conception may be incorrect. When the hCG levels have reached a minimum of 2000 only then would the information from the ultrasound be considered in making a diagnosis.

To make sure that you receive an accurate diagnosis, lots of hCG tests would be carried out over a period of days. By doing the tests a few days apart any questions about the pregnancy will be answered more accurately. Levels of the hCG hormone levels are not used to provide any dates for pregnancy because the numbers are so varied. The two types of human chorionic gonadotropin testings are:

  • Qualitative testing finds any hCG levels which show in the blood.

  • Quantitative hCG testing measures amounts of the hCG hormone levels that are showing in the blood. This test is also known as beta hCG.

Below you will see hCG level guidelines during pregnancy, but remember the level of the hCG hormone can increase in different ways human chorionic gonadotropin levels at no. of weeks from gestational age (LMP)

LMP

mlU/ml

3 weeks

5 – 50

4 weeks

5 – 426

5 weeks

18 – 7,340

6 weeks

1,080 – 56,500

7 – 8 weeks

7,650 – 229,000

9 – 12 weeks

25,700 – 288,000

13-16 weeks

13,300 – 254,000

17 – 24 weeks

4,060 – 165,000

25 – 40 weeks

3,640 – 117,00

Non pregnant females

Post menopausal females

What does a low level of the hCG hormone mean?

A showing of a low level of hCG could indicate an ectopic pregnancy, a miscalculation of your pregnancy dates or a possible blighted ovum or miscarriage.

A low level of hCG could be related to many things so it is best to have the levels checked again within a period of between 48 and 72 hours. This allows for any change in levels to be seen.

Should I have my hCG levels routinely checked?

Doctors would not normally check hCG hormone levels unless they think there are any problems with the pregnancy. The hCG levels will be checked again if you have had a miscarriage(s), suffering from severe cramping or you are bleeding.

If I have suffered a pregnancy loss, what should my levels of hCG be?

The hCG levels can vary depending on how the pregnancy loss happened. Most medical professionals will keep testing the levels of hCg after a woman has experienced the loss to make sure the levels return to less than 5.0. The hCG levels of women who have suffered a pregnancy loss should expect the hCG hormone levels to go back to what they were prior to pregnancy. This normally takes between 4 and 6 weeks.

Are there any medications which can interfere with levels of hCG?

The only thing which would interfere with the human chorionic gonadotropin levels are medications which contain hCG. The medications which do contain hCG are used quite often in fertility treatment. But your doctor would be able to offer advice on how these medications may affect any testing of hCG levels. There is no effect on any tests which measure levels of hCG if you are taking antibiotics, hormone medicines, pain relief tablets, contraceptive pills.

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