What is hCG? Everything You Need to Know About the Pregnancy Hormone
February 18, 2021Human chorionic gonadotropin, or hCG, is commonly referred to as the pregnancy hormone. It’s the hormone detected by home pregnancy tests and blood tests administered by your doctor. Although hCG levels can vary dramatically from pregnancy to pregnancy, most women’s bodies will produce the highest amount of hCG between seven and 12 weeks after a missed menstrual period.
Below you’ll find out everything you should know about hCG and what to discuss with your doctor if you have any concerns.
Different Women Have Different Levels
When you’re pregnant, it’s quite natural to compare notes with other expecting moms. But when it comes to hCG levels, comparing your levels with those of other pregnant women can cause needless worry. It’s not uncommon for one expecting mom to have much lower hCG levels than another woman, even if they are at the same point in their pregnancies.1
Differences in hCG levels can be caused by a variety of different factors, including how long it takes for an egg to get fertilized, travel down to the uterus, and implant itself into the uterine wall. As Heidi Murkoff, author of What to Expect When You’re Expecting puts it, “some embryos are simply zippier than others.”1
What is hCG?
hCG is a hormone that is produced once a woman becomes pregnant. The cells that eventually become the placenta begin to pump out hCG a few days after the embryo implants itself into the uterine wall.2 HCG helps ensure the corpus luteum (a temporary endocrine gland a woman’s body develops after ovulation) continues to produce progesterone during the first trimester of pregnancy.3
Should I Have My hCG Level Checked Often? What’s the Normal Level?
There really isn’t one exact number that represents a healthy hCG level for expecting moms. Because hCG levels can vary so much, it is not recommended that expecting mothers have their levels checked regularly. Instead, hCG levels should only be monitored if there are signs of a problem, such as cramping, bleeding, or a history of miscarriage.2
The hCG hormone is measured in milli-international units per milliliter (mIU/mL.) An hCG level above 25 mIU/mL indicates a positive pregnancy test. Any hCG level that is less than 5 mIU/ML indicates a negative pregnancy test. Levels that fall between 6 and 24 are a gray area and usually require retesting to confirm the results.
What if My hCG is High?
A higher level of hCG is not necessarily cause for concern. If your levels fall well outside of the typical range, it could be due to a few different factors. Most likely, it’s simply caused by a miscalculated due date. However, if your hCG level is extremely high, your doctor may also check for signs of molar pregnancy or multiple pregnancies.2
What if My hCG is Low?
A lower level of hCG doesn’t necessarily mean you should be concerned. Low hCG is often caused by a miscalculated due date. However, if your levels are extremely low, your doctor may check for signs of ectopic pregnancy or early miscarriage.2
Speak with a Doctor for More Information
Part of maintaining a healthy pregnancy is communicating openly with your healthcare provider. Be sure to ask them any questions you may have and discuss any concerns.
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