Human chorionic gonadotropin or HCG is a naturally occurring hormone found in men and women. However, these are at a high rate during pregnancy. Note that the levels of HCG in your blood do not provide any diagnosis. However, extremely low or high should need medical attention.
HCG level is high during pregnancy and higher levels indicate that you are carrying multiple babies. If you are experiencing any unusual symptoms during your pregnancy, re-check the level in two or three days to see if it has changed. It is likely that your doctor will use a sonogram and a pelvic exam in addition to monitoring your hormones to get a broader picture of your pregnancy and your health.
Hormone levels will rise during early pregnancy as your embryo develops. While most hormones increase at the beginning of pregnancy and continue to rise throughout the 40-week journey, this hormone does not follow that pattern. Instead, it usually doubles in concentration every 29-53 hours during the first several weeks of pregnancy. After about 8-10 weeks, its levels begin to fall, and they eventually stop progressing.
Most experts believe that the reason for changes in its levels is that, at a certain point in the pregnancy, the placenta takes over making the hormones estrogen and progesterone. This means that it is no longer needed to stimulate the ovary to make hormones. High or low levels could still indicate a normal pregnancy. Anything significantly higher or lower should be checked by your OB-GYN.
A high level could indicate a few different things, most of which are not concerning. It could be a mistaken calculation of your pregnancy date and you are further along than you previously thought. High levels also is a sign of having two or more children or you are taking fertility medications.
Some cases may indicate molar pregnancy. Molar pregnancies are believed to result from a genetic mistake in the fertilizing sperm or egg, which causes the cells that would typically develop into a fetus to grow into a non-cancerous mass instead.
If your hormone levels fall below the normal range, it’s not necessarily a cause for concern. Many women have gone on to have healthy pregnancies and babies with low levels. However, it could also be a cause of several problems such as:
1. Miscalculated gestational age. When low levels are detected, it’s often because a pregnancy that was thought to be between 6 and 12 weeks is actually not that far along. An ultrasound and further tests can be used to calculate the gestational age correctly. This is usually the first step when low levels are detected.
2. Miscarriage. It can occur before 20 weeks of gestation. Sometimes low levels can indicate that you have had or will have a miscarriage. If the pregnancy fails to develop a placenta, then the levels may be normal initially but fail to rise. Common signs include bleeding, abdominal cramps, cessation, and pink or white discharge.
3. Blighted ovum. This is when an egg is fertilized and attaches to the wall of your womb, but does not continue to develop. This occurs very early in pregnancy. Most women won’t even know that it’s taken place. Usually, you’ll experience your normal menstruation symptoms and assume it’s your usual period.
4. Ectopic pregnancy. An ectopic pregnancy is when the fertilized egg remains in the fallopian tube and continues to develop. It’s a dangerous and life-threatening condition, as it may cause the fallopian tube to rupture and bleed excessively. First, the symptoms of an ectopic pregnancy can be similar to those of a normal pregnancy, but as it progresses you can experience abdominal or pelvic pain, heavy bleeding, dizziness, and or fainting.