The Pregnancy Hormone or hCG Levels During Pregnancy

The Pregnancy Hormone or hCG Levels During Pregnancy :-

HCG or Human chorionic gonadotropin or the ‘pregnancy hormone’ is a hormone produced by the placenta after the successful implantation of the uterus. hCG is produced by the placenta to signal the mother’s body to produce progesterone in order to prevent menstruation in the pursuit of pregnancy.

hCG is also the hormone detected by pregnancy tests or the pee-sticks to determine if a woman is pregnant. It is only if your body has produced hCG that you can be pregnant and that is what the pee stick looks for.

What are the ideal hCG levels ?

Well, there are no standardized or ideal levels of hCG as the number greatly varies from woman to woman. The variation exists since the hCG levels in a woman’s pregnancy varies on how each individual body responds to the pregnancy and how many embryos a woman is carrying.

However, the table below can be used as a guideline to the average or the supposedly normal range of hCG levels in each week of pregnancy. It should be noted that hCG levels are measured in milli-international units of hCG hormone per milliliter of blood (mIU/mL). The accurate and exact levels of hCG can only be determined via a blood test.

Standard hCG Levels in Each Week of Pregnancy

Pregnancy weekStandard hCG Levels
3 weeks5–50 mIU/mL
4 weeks5–426 mIU/mL
5 weeks18–7,340 mIU/mL
6 weeks1,080–56,500 mIU/mL
7–8 weeks7,650–229,000 mIU/mL
9–12 weeks25,700–288,000 mIU/mL
13–16 weeks13,300–254,000 mIU/mL
17–24 weeks4,060–165,400 mIU/mL
25–40 weeks3,640–117,000 mIU/mL

As evident, the hCG levels tend to consistently rise up until the 10th-12th week of pregnancy, only to eventually plateau and to decrease post that. This is also why the pregnancy symptoms tend to fizzle out after the 10th-12th week of pregnancy, or the first trimester of pregnancy in most women.

Are high hCG levels a bad sign?

High levels of hCG do not always indicate a problem or a worry to be taken care of. While some women just have high hCG levels for no apparent reasons, high hCG levels can also mean multiple pregnancies, that is, the conception of twins or triplets. However, it should also be noted that in some cases, high or above-average levels of hCG might have chances of a molar pregnancy or Down syndrome.

What Causes hCG Levels to Increase?

As mentioned, determining or associating a number to ‘high’; hCG level might not be viable as the normal range of hCG levels in early pregnancies is wide. What can be a ‘high’ hCG level is determined by the doctor on the basis of one’s individual health conditions/point in pregnancy.

A high hCG level could occur due to:

  • The calculation of your pregnancy date is incorrect and you’re further along than you thought
  • Multiple babies (twins/ triplets etc)
  • If you have been taking fertility medication, the hCG levels could be heightened
  • Molar Pregnancy

Are low hCG levels a bad sign?

As is the case with high hCG levels, low hCG levels do not also necessarily indicate something is wrong. For women who exhibit low hCG levels in their initial few blood tests after conception might be recommended to take regular blood tests, that is every two-three days, in order to make sure that the levels are on the rise as they should be. 

Also, for an accurate determination of levels, doctors often recommend a series of hCG blood tests that need to be taken a couple of days apart. The readings are then compared to come to a conclusion.

What Causes hCG Levels to Increase?

Just as with high hCG, low hCG levels are also highly and normally variable.

At times, low hCG levels can be caused due to-

  • Miscalculated Gestational Age

The gestational age of a baby is calculated from the date of your last menstruation and can be very easily miscalculated, especially in women who do not get their menses regularly or on exact dates. 

Hence, you might have been led to believe that your pregnancy is far along when it could not be so far in reality, resulting in low hCG levels as per actuals. An ultrasound can calculate the gestational age accurately and correctly.

  • Miscarriage

A threatened miscarriage or an already occurred miscarriage in pregnancy might also result in low hCG levels. A miscarriage happens when a fertilized and attached egg to the wall of your womb fails to develop into a baby. 

However, prior to the failure to develop, since the gestational sac develops, hCG hormone is released but does not rise since the egg doesn’t develop and hence the low hCG levels.

  • Ectopic Pregnancy

An ectopic pregnancy is referred to a pregnancy wherein the fertilized egg remains and develops in the fallopian tube (or in any other location) instead of the inner lining of the uterus where it is actually supposed to grow and develop. 

Low hCG levels might also indicate an ectopic pregnancy. Ectopic pregnancy is dangerous and can be life-threatening as it may cause the fallopian tube to rupture and bleed.

Final Takeaway: How to treat low or high hCG levels?

There really is nothing that can be done to treat low or high hCG levels and in most cases, the supposed high or low might not even mean a thing, and the woman might go on to deliver a healthy baby.

However, if you do happen to fall in the supposed high or low range of hCG, your doctor would probably take tests to ensure that there exists no underlying cause of the fluctuated or expected levels and then treat you for the same. 

For example, if your levels are at 4,540-178,900 mIU/mL during the 7-8th week as opposed to the 7,650–229,000 mIU/mL as it should be, your doctor might test you for a miscarriage or an ectopic pregnancy to rule out all possibilities and to make sure you and your baby are safe and healthy.

FAQs: The Pregnancy Hormone: hCG Levels During Pregnancy

1. Do hCG levels depend on the gender of the fetus?

Yes, studies have reported in the past that hCG levels tend to be higher in girl pregnancies or when the mother is carrying a female fetus and vice versa.

2. How are hCG levels measured?

A blood test is the most reliable way of measuring hCG levels during pregnancy. This is so because though hCG is also present in urine (hence, the home pregnancy tests that sample urine to determine pregnancy), the density of the hormone in the blood is much higher than that of urine. Blood tests can detect levels between 5 and 10 mIU/mL versus the 20 mIU/mL that at-home pregnancy tests can detect.

3. How long does it take for hCG to show up in urine after conception?

hCG levels can usually be detected in the urine only after about 10 days of conception day.

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