Human chorionic gonadotrophin (hCG for short) is the unique pregnancy hormone that is produced by the cells of the placenta. hCG is needed to maintain the pregnancy and it also aids with fetal development. Experts theorize that this special hormone also plays a role in suppressing a pregnant woman’s immune system (so that her body doesn’t reject the developing baby as an “intruder.”)
Over-the-counter home pregnancy tests work by checking for the presence of hCG in a woman’s urine. If there’s any hCG in a woman’s body, she is indeed pregnant. Although hCG has been building up since conception, a urine pregnancy test won’t be able to pick up any hCG levels until 12 to 14 days after conception – around the time of a woman’s missed period.
Blood tests can also check for hCG to confirm pregnancy. In 5 percent of all pregnant women, levels of hCG can be detected in the blood at 8 days after conception – before the woman misses her period. For the other 95 percent of expectant mothers, a blood test can detect hCG levels by 11 days after she’s conceived.
Why is hCG Detected in the Blood First?
To answer this question, you have to understand some basics of conception.
During conception, your egg is fertilized by your partner’s sperm in the fallopian tube. Afterwards, your future baby (which is just a ball of cells right now) moves down the fallopian tubes and enters your uterus, where it attaches to the uterine wall. This is called implantation. After implantation, the developing placenta releases hCG into your bloodstream. Some hCG is also passed in your urine.
hCG Levels in Early Pregnancy
The initial level of hCG in your pregnant body will be low, but will progressively increase. In roughly 85 percent of healthy pregnancies, the levels of hCG will double every 30-72 hours. Between 7 and 12 weeks of pregnancy, hCG will start to peak, then decrease slightly. After 16 weeks pregnant, the level will remain relatively constant until you have your baby.
Try not to focus too much on hCG levels. They can vary widely between pregnancy to pregnancy, person to person. For example, some pregnant women have no measurable level of hCG on the day of their missed periods, while others have readings of 400 mIU/ml.
Overview of hCG Levels in Pregnancy
Below is a guide of normal hCG levels at different stages of pregnancy.
These numbers give a normal range. If your hCG readings fall outside of this guideline, try not to worry. It’s possible that your due date is off; you’re carrying twins or multiples; or that this pregnancy is just special.
If you’re worried, talk to your doctor about your hCG results. He or she should be able to reassure you that your baby is perfectly healthy.
- 3 Weeks (From Last Menstrual Period) – 0 to 50 mIU/ml
- 4 Weeks (From Last Menstrual Period) – 5 to 426 mIU/ml
- 5 Weeks (From Last Menstrual Period) – 18 to 7,340 mIU/ml
- 6 Weeks (From Last Menstrual Period) – 1080 to 56,500 mIU/ml
- 7-8 Weeks (From Last Menstrual Period) – 7,650 to 229,000 mIU/ml
- 9-12 Weeks (From Last Menstrual Period) – 25,700 to 288,000 mIU/ml
- 13-16 Weeks (From Last Menstrual Period) –13,300 to 253,000 mIU/ml
- Second Trimester – 4060 to 65,400 mIU/ml
- Third Trimester – 3640 to 117,000 mIU/ml
* hCG levels are measured using milli-international units per milliliter (mIU/ml).
Low hCG Levels in Pregnancy – Should You Be Worried?
If you have low hCG levels, you are naturally worried. There are a number of reasons why your hCG results are low, so you should discuss your worries with your doctor.
- Inaccurate Dates – Low hCG levels could mean that your due date was miscalculated. You’re not as far along as you originally thought.
- Ectopic Pregnancy – Unfortunately, low hCG levels may be a sign that you are having an ectopic pregnancy. When your fertilized egg implants outside of the uterus, like in the fallopian tube, less hCG is released.
- Miscarriage or Blighted Ovum – Sometimes, having low hCG levels may mean that your pregnancy isn’t healthy, and you could end up miscarrying.
- Your baby has died – hCG levels that continue to decline can mean that your baby has already passed away in the womb.
Keep in mind that many healthy pregnancies have low hCG levels, so low hCG results may not mean anything is wrong with your pregnancy.
If you get a low result, your doctor can recheck your hCG levels with a simple blood test within 2-3 days. If you’re ever worried about anything, please have a frank and open conversation with your healthcare provider about your concerns.
High hCG Levels and Pregnancy
On the other hand, if you get a high hCG level during pregnancy, it could mean any of the following:
- Multiple Pregnancy – Higher levels of hCG may mean that you’re having twins, triplets, or multiples.
- Molar Pregnancy – hCG levels that are high can be a sign that you have a molar pregnancy. So instead of having a growing baby inside of your womb, there’s a rare mass or growth that is growing instead.
- Choriocarcinoma – This is a fast-growing cancer that grows in a woman’s uterus. It occurs when cancerous cells start growing in the tissue that would have become the placenta. High hCG levels can be an indication that you don’t have a normal pregnancy.
If you get a high hCG result, your doctor will want to recheck your levels in a few days to evaluate any changes. If your healthcare provider believes that something is wrong, he or she will let you know.
sedi Raps says
Am very concern and worried my hCG went from 7 to 36 in 3 days close to 2 pregnancy tests says negative and my Dr says if i am pregnant the baby won’t survive they took a sonar and all they saw was cyst am I pregnant or not.. still waiting on my other blood results
I have missed my period for 13 days and I did blood work and my hcg levels are 5, So can someone explain to me why I missed my period if I’m not pregnant?
Hi Iam 21 years my lmp was 25 April 2017 I had urine test and beta hcg test last week on 27 June 2017 my result Was 819 miu/ml and again I had beta hcg test today on 03 July 2017 today my result is 0.100 am I pregnant or not please Help Me.
Chelsie Blaker says
Hey haven’t had a period since December. It is March plenty of pregnancy symptoms but all tests say negative. What is going on with me?
Vijayalakshmi Kumar says
I had my regular periods on October. Then in Nov had almost all symptoms of pregnancy like sore breast, tiredness, kinda heart beat in my stomach which I have never felt before. I got late period but only for 2 days (like regular) and all symptoms disappeared once after that 2 days period .now in December I am not getting my periods it’s 11 days late. I took a home pregnancy test and came out negative. Can anyone please help me . Thank you very much.
Vijayalakshmi Kumar says
I had my regular periods on October. Then in Nov had almost all symptoms of pregnancy like sore breast, tiredness, kinda heart beat in my stomach which I have never felt before. I got late period but only for 2 days.now in December I am not getting my periods it’s 11 days late. I took a home pregnancy test and came out negative. Can anyone please help me . Thank you very much.
sherry ellison says
I went to the er because I was hurting in my left side so they did a urine pregnancy test it came back with 2 lines but the lines was light so the did the blood test and it came back that I was pregnant so they did a ultrasound and they said that they couldn’t see anything could you tell me what does that mean
shree lakshmi says
Actually I’m not getting my period still yet,now two weeks completed today morning I checked home pregnancy test but it shows negative can u plz tell me wt was the actual reason for dis.really I’m upsetting too much,the result shows I’m not pregnant.
Deandra Ashley says
I am 4 days late of my period. Are my hcg levels high enough to take a home pregnancy test
hi there.i have missed my periods since 12 days now..did three pregnancy urine tests at home.out of which ,the one I did on 9 th day gave me one dark line and the other faint line,but again when I did on 11th day.gave me only one single line. Thereafter,my doctor suggested to go for beta hcg test,which resulted to be 3.9. Am very scared now,am I pregnant or not
I went to the doctors and they done 3 tests and they all went from being positive to negitive what does this mean…feel stressed out
I’ve recently found out I’m pregnant had HCG done they were 130 then dropped to 94. I’ve currently been bleeding like a normal period with quite bad cramps so I’m presuming I’m m/c. The nurse on the phone said before she’s never seen anyone’s HCG levels stay the same. Is there a reason for this? I’m so confused
My hcg levels were about 3,200 now they are about 5200 after 38 hours, I had an ultrasound and saw the yolk sac, is my pregnancy viable? Scared had one miscarriage already
I am having an unusual thing happening and I can’t seem to get any answers. I haven’t had a period since 4/22 and I have taken several pregnancy tests that have all come back negative. I have two children so I remember what pregnancy feels like and I feel very pregnant. Boobs are sore, tired, and am having cramps but no period is coming. I took an HCG test but the level only came back as 1 which means I am not pregnant. I have had an Ectopic pregnancy before and I am worried I might be having another one. I’m hoping the doctors want to do further testing but I have Kaiser and the only thing they suggested was going to emergency if I have pain. I don’t want to go unless I absolutely should have to, I wish they were willing to check me at the doctor’s office. So confused as to what is going on with my body!
I had a very faint positive test this morning. I have been really sleepy and irritable and I recently last week got off my period that lasted six days pretty heavy and I’m wondering if I might be pregnant. My breast are sore and tingly and itchy also have been going weight. Not sure what to think?????
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My HCG level has remained the almost same for a week.. 112, 109, 111 and now 114 I don’t understand what this means as it should be going down if I’m having a failed pregnancy.
I was in your shoes a few month ago twice! Once in September and again in November. I had a uterine septum and 3 polyps that from what my doctor told me that didn’t allow my baby to implant where it should in my uterus. A normal pregnancy will have hcg levels that double every 48-72 hours. My doctor thought I could be having an ectopic with numbers like yours. Please call your doctor if you have not already. Best of luck to you!!
I’ve seen the chart above listed and reposted many places however mathematically it does not make sense. If someone has an Hcg reading of 18 at 21DPO or 5weeks pregnant, even if that number doubles every 30 hours, it won’t reach 1080 by 28dpo or 6 weeks. The max, if you just go by the math, would only be: 921 (18×2, 5 times, then that number multiplied by 1.6); that is from the hours in one week divided by 30, assuming a fast 30 hour doubling time. Using the low ramge end of 18, At a 48 hour doubling time the number would only be: 216.
The American pregnancy association lists this chart too an I’m afraid it gives false hope to women.
So if your doubling just the number t won’t read as that… If you double the numbers … then take the answer from doubling the first numbers and double that.. then take that answer and double that.. keep going and you’ll get it right
I am 26 years old and a mother of two children, which both I have conceived unknowingly. To be more precise, I was pregnant with my son, and I took numerous of pregnancy test which all came back negative. I missed my period one month, bleed the next, and the second month is when I found out I was preggos with my son. After finding out I was 6-7 weeks, preggo, I started to bleed, but was told I had a miscarriage, because my HCG levels had dropped to zero. My son just turned four a couple days ago. My daughter, the same exact thing, I missed my menstrual, bleed, and then found out I was 6-8 weeks preggos. I was also threatening to have a miscarriage with her, but she will be two in May. So now, it’s the same exact think, all the blood work is coming back negative and also my pregnancy test is coming back negative. I missed my menstrual in September, bleed lightly in October, which is unusual, and now I literally have to wait until the 26 of this month to find out what is going on. Could I be pregnant, I feel pregnant and I’m having all the symptoms. According to my history what would you say?
Can u tell me if you were bleeding during your both pregnancies in your menustral cycles.
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Lisa p. says
My hcg levels were at 67000 six days ago nd today they are at 48000. Could this mean still that my levels dropped but that i may continue to go on nd have a healthy pregnancy?????
Your levels can vary up and down a bit, often this indicates an empty sac, fibroid, or impeding miscarriage. They will need to measure one more time it looks like to get a better idea of direction.
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