Human chorionic gonadotropin, or hCG for short, is often referred to as a pregnancy hormone because it’s present in large quantities during pregnancy. It is the hormone that many at-home pregnancy tests are designed to detect.

Find out more about what hCG is, when it’s detectable by at-home pregnancy tests, and what the typical hCG levels are for each of the early weeks of pregnancy.

What Is hCG?

Human chorionic gonadotropin is known as a pregnancy hormone as it's produced in large amounts when you are pregnant.

Early on in your pregnancy, the embryo starts to make more hCG as well as other hormones like estrogen and progesterone. These hormones help build up the lining of the uterus and send signals to the ovaries to stop releasing eggs, stopping your period.

Home pregnancy tests often work by detecting hCG in your urine.

It's worth knowing that non-pregnant women and healthy men also have low levels of hCG. Normally, hCG levels would be less than 5 mIU/mL and less than 2 mIU/mL respectively for these groups.

Pregnancy Calendar

When Does Your Body Start Producing hCG?

Your hCG levels start to increase rapidly as soon as a fertilized egg implants in your uterus. This usually happens about 10 days after conception.

During these early weeks of pregnancy, you may not show any outward signs of being pregnant and you may not even suspect that you’re pregnant.

You may, however, experience implantation bleeding when the fertilized egg attaches to the lining of the uterus. This is normal and may resemble spotting or a light period.

When Can Pregnancy Tests Detect hCG?

All over-the-counter pregnancy tests work a little differently, so you should check the instructions in or on the box. Keep in mind that hCG levels increase over time, so pregnancy tests are more accurate as time goes on.

You might try taking a pregnancy test about three to four weeks after the first day of your period, as this is when the levels of hCG in your urine will have increased enough to be detected. You might like to wait until around the time you miss your first period, which may be when you first start to suspect that you may be pregnant anyway.

Taking the test too early may mean you get a false negative — that is, the result may be negative when you are actually pregnant. This may occur because very early on in your pregnancy, the levels of hCG may be so low that an at-home pregnancy test might not be sensitive enough to pick up on the hormone.

A blood test is the most accurate way to detect hCG levels, because more of the pregnancy hormone is present in the blood than in the urine. Blood tests can detect levels between 5 and 10 mIU/mL versus the 20 mIU/mL that most at-home pregnancy tests can detect.

If your home pregnancy test is positive, your healthcare provider may offer a blood test to check your hCG levels. The results can help your provider confirm your pregnancy and determine how far along you are.

A higher-than-normal level of hCG may indicate that you’re having twins or triplets.

RELATED PREGNANCY TOOL

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If you’ve just found out you’re pregnant, you can get an estimate of your due date with our Due Date Calculator above using either the date of conception or the date of the first day of your last menstrual period.

hCG Levels Chart

This chart will give you an idea of how your hCG levels may rise during the first trimester and then dip slightly during the second trimester. Keep in mind that, if you want your hCG blood test results explained in more detail, your healthcare provider is the best person to turn to.

Pregnancy week Range of hCG levels in milli-international units per milliliter (mIU/mL)
3 weeks 5–72 mIU/mL
4 weeks 10–708 mIU/mL
5 weeks 217–8,245 mIU/mL
6 weeks 152–32,177 mIU/mL
7 weeks 4,059–153,767 mIU/mL
8 weeks 31,366–149,094 mIU/mL
9 weeks 59,109–135,901 mIU/mL
10 weeks 44,186–170,409 mIU/mL
12 weeks 27,107–201,165 mIU/mL
14 weeks 24,302–93,646 mIU/mL
15 weeks 12,540–69,747 mIU/mL
16 weeks 8,904–55,332 mIU/mL
17 weeks 8,240–51,793 mIU/mL
18 weeks 9,649–55,271 mIU/mL

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

  • At 5 weeks pregnant, your hCG levels can range from about 217 to 8,245 mIU/mL.
  • For a non-pregnant woman, normal levels of hCG may be less than 5 mIU/mL.
  • Yes, your hCG levels can be high if you’re not pregnant due to certain conditions or illnesses. Your healthcare provider will be able to explain why your hCG levels might be higher than expected.
  • At 4 weeks pregnant, your hCG levels can range from about 10 to 708 mIU/mL.
  • At 3 weeks pregnant, your hCG levels can range from about 5 to 72 mIU/mL.
  • At 6 weeks pregnant, your hCG levels can range from about 152 to 32,177 mIU/mL.
  • At 7 weeks pregnant, your hCG levels can range from about 4,059 to 153,767 mIU/mL.

The hCG hormone plays an important role in your pregnancy, and the changing levels of this hormone in your body are just one of many transformations your body goes through as your baby develops.

Although hormonal changes can make you feel a little off from time to time during your pregnancy, try to take these as reassurance that your baby is growing, and you’re getting closer and closer to the day you finally get to meet him.