Human Chorionic Gonadotropin (hCG) Levels Explained
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.
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.
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.
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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
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.
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