If you’re trying to work out whether you’re pregnant, you’re probably going to run across the term “hCG hormone”. This is the chemical that a pregnancy test measures – but what exactly does it do? Let’s run through the basics of what hCG is, what the numbers mean, and the role it plays in your body during pregnancy and beyond.
What is hCG hormone?
hCG is short for human chorionic gonadotropin – one of the protein hormones the body released during pregnancy. Secretion of hCG kicks in when you become pregnant, and stimulates the release of the other pregnancy hormones — namely, estrogen and progesterone — that get your body ready to support a new life. A blood or urine test will be able to show elevated levels of hCG in your body, allowing you to confirm.
What are normal hCG hormone levels?
hCG levels begin to rise when a fertilized egg implants into the endometrium lining of the uterus. After implantation, the pregnancy progresses and the body continues to release more of the hCG hormone. In most normal pregnancies, the levels of hCG doubles every 48 to 72 hours until reaching a peak between Week 8 and Week 10.
At its peak, hCG reaches a concentration of about 100mIU/mL in the bloodstream. After this, hCG production drops off, and the level falls to around 20mIU/mL for the rest of the pregnancy. Since hCG is only produced during pregnancy, the baseline hCG for non-pregnant women is effectively zero.
Most commercial pregnancy tests are designed to register a positive result at a concentration of 20 to 50 mIU/mL in the urine. It can take some time for hCG to reach this level, which is why it’s best to wait until a week after your missed period until you test.
What if I don’t produce enough hCG hormone?
The hormone hCG is vital for supporting pregnancy, so you’re going to need a lot of it. When the body doesn’t produce enough hCG, it can be difficult for a pregnancy to continue. The hCG level may also fail to rise as expected if the embryo fails to implant in the womb correctly, as in an ectopic pregnancy. There are a number of possible causes for a low hCG level, so see a doctor to have it rechecked and evaluated.
What do my hCG hormone levels really mean?
A spike in your hCG is one of the first signs of early pregnancy. The level of hCG can indicate whether or not you’re pregnant as well as how the development is progressing, so it’s an important number to be aware of.
However, you shouldn’t let it overwhelm you, either: normal hCG levels can vary greatly depending the individual or on the stage of pregnancy, so checking the numbers over and over again could just leave you frazzled! Try to think of hCG testing as one more tool you have at your disposal in checking up on your body when you’re trying to conceive.