Human Chorionic Gonadotropin, or HCG, is also called the pregnancy hormone. It is the hormone that blood and urine pregnancy tests look for. To get a positive reading on a pregnancy test, your body must be producing HCG. This hormone starts being produced by a rudimentary placenta when the fertilized egg implants into the uterus. Implantation occurs about six to twelve days after conception, which is when these levels can be detected.
As an expecting mother or someone trying to get pregnant, there are many things you may want to know about HCG levels.
What does the number on HCG blood tests mean? Many people are confused by the numbers a blood test can give you when measuring HCG levels. Basically, the numbers tell you whether or not you're pregnant. Here are the normal levels found in pregnant women.
- An HCG level of 5 miu/ml or less means you are not pregnant.
- An HCG level of between 5 miu/ml and 25 miu/ml means you may be pregnant. Your care provider will use the term 'equivocal'. This level requires a retest in a few days.
- If your HCG level is over 25 miu/ml, you are pregnant! Your HCG level will continue to rise throughout your pregnancy.
Why measure HCG levels? In an ultrasound, a viable, beating heartbeat cannot be seen until around week six. So if there are any questions about a miscarriage or an ectopic pregnancy, a test may be used to see if the pregnancy is still viable.
The HCG number will double every 48 hours in most normal pregnancies. Therefore it can be a vital measure in the health of your pregnancy. A low level can point to a miscarriage or other issue with the fetus. A level that is too high, on the other hand, can be a factor of other issues such as a molar pregnancy. That is why it is very important to consult a physician as soon as pregnancy is detected.
What about an ectopic pregnancy? One big indication of an ectopic pregnancy is an HCG level increasing more slowly than normal. An ectopic pregnancy is a severe complication. It occurs when the fertilized egg implants into an organ other than the uterus. An ectopic pregnancy may also be called a tubal pregnancy if the fertilized egg implants into the fallopian tubes. Symptoms include spotting and cramping. An ectopic pregnancy can be a life-threatening complication.
Is HCG a 100% reliable means of detecting pregnancy? The tricky thing about predicting these levels is that you may be pregnant, but if implantation has not happened, HCG is not produced. In addition, home pregnancy tests may not be able to measure your levels in your urine until HCG has a chance to build up in your body. This can take a couple of days to a week. This is why some 'early' pregnancy tests have a high false negative rate.
Should I take a home pregnancy test or go to my doctor? The blood test you can get in your care provider's office is more sensitive than home urine pregnancy tests. In addition, blood tests can give you a number and can tell you exactly how much HCG you have in your bloodstream. Home pregnancy tests can only tell you whether or not you're pregnant.
If you find out that you are pregnant, remember to seek pregnancy advice and professional help. Once you are sure that you are pregnant, the information in their guides can help you stay healthy throughout the course of your pregnancy.