hCG Levels during Pregnancy – Levels, Fluctuations and When to Consult a Doc?

Hcg levels during pregnancy

Pregnancy is a journey of transformation for the mother, where her body prepares itself for creating the perfect home for the growing baby. Changes are vast, as it gets accustomed to the new tenant. The body responds by producing proteins, hormones etc. which ensures that all the needs of the fetus are met. One such crucial hormone produced during pregnancy is called Human Chorionic Gonadotropin or hCG.

In this article, we shall see in detail about hCG, and address every query one may have about it.

CONTENTS

  1. What is hCG?
  2. What are the functions of hCG in pregnancy?
  3. What are the effects of hCG in the body?
  4. What are the normal levels of hCG during pregnancy?
  5. What causes fluctuation in hCG levels?
  6. What are the causes of a low hCG level?
  7. What are the causes of a high hCG level?
  8. When is it necessary to seek medical help?

What Is hCG?

Human Chorionic Gonadotropin, also known as hCG is a pregnancy hormone, synthesised by the “syncytiotrophoblast cells” of the placenta, even before implantation.

It is a glycoprotein with the highest carbohydrate content of any hormone in the human body. It consists of 2 subunits, namely, the Alpha and Beta. 

hCG is the hormone that is detected in the urine, by a Home Pregnancy Test, thereby confirming pregnancy. hCG levels can sometimes also predict birth defects and minor illnesses of the baby.

What are the functions of hCG in pregnancy?

hCG is one of the most important hormones of pregnancy, and it has the following functions:

  1. It is mainly “luteotrophic”, and helps in maintaining the corpus luteum of pregnancy till about the 68th day, after which the placenta takes over. The corpus luteum secretes progesterone which helps in the maintenance of pregnancy.
  2. It stimulates fetal testosterone secretion to promote male sexual differentiation in male babies.
  3. It stimulates the maternal thyroid gland.

What are the effects of hCG in the body?

hCG is believed to cause Morning Sickness in the first trimester of pregnancy. It may also be associated with a heightened sense of smell, which may aggravate the nausea.

What are the normal levels of hCG during pregnancy?

The hCG levels during pregnancy have a wavering course, and the levels by week of pregnancy is as follows:

WEEK OF PREGNANCYhCG LEVELS IN mIU/ml
3 weeks5-50 mIU/cc
4 weeks4-426 mIU/cc
5 weeks19-7,340 mIU/cc
6 weeks1,080-56,500 mIU/cc
7 – 8 weeks7,650-229,000 mIU/cc
9 – 12 weeks25,700-288,000 mIU/cc
13 – 16 weeks13,300-254,000 mIU/cc
17 – 24 weeks4,060-165,400 mIU/cc
25 – 40 weeks3,640-117,000 mIU/cc

What causes fluctuation in hCG levels?

No two people are the same, hence even hormone levels can vary from day to day, person to person or even pregnancy to pregnancy. The range of normality is huge for hCG. Its levels begin to escalate rapidly, from the time of implantation, increasing by almost 60 percent approximately every 48 hours. This rapid increase peaks somewhere between 7 and 12 weeks after the last period, and then starts to fall.

What are the causes of a low hCG level?

hCG levels have a wide range for being considered normal, therefore the levels of hCG as such is usually not disconcerting. More than the level of hCG, the pattern of rise and fall of hCG during the course of  pregnancy is more significant.

Some of the causes for a lower hCG level are:

  • Ectopic Pregnancy
  • Threatened Abortion
  • Miscarriage

What are the causes of a high hCG level?

Sometimes, hCG levels may be higher in the following situations:

  • Multiple pregnancy eg. twins, triplets etc.
  • Hydatidiform mole
  • Choriocarcinoma
  • Down’s Syndrome of the fetus
  • Inaccurate measurement of gestational age.

When is it necessary to seek medical help?

The levels of hCG alone are not necessarily a reason to be anxious about. It is influenced by many factors, and the normal range varies hugely between individual women. In case of concerns, the doctor can monitor the hCG levels. 

In case of a low hCG levels due to a pregnancy loss, it doesn’t mean that pregnancy is not possible in the future.

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