Last Updated on July 28, 2022 by Dr. Neeraj Gujar
An hCG blood test is the best way to confirm pregnancy. This test is also known as a beta-hCG blood test. Beta refers to the beta protein in the hCG hormone. The blood test measures the hormone’s circulating levels. If hCG levels exceed 5.0 mlU/ml, a result is considered positive.
Human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG), a blood test, measures the amount of hCG hormone in your blood.
hCG is made during pregnancy. The hCG blood test may be called something else by your doctor, such as:
- Beta-hCG blood test
- Quantitative hCG blood test
- Quantitative blood pregnancy test
- Repeat quantitative beta-hCG test
- Quantitative serial beta-hCG testing
There are some important differences between the hCG blood test and the hCG urine test you can buy over-the-counter.
Urine tests can be affected by dehydration or the time of day you test. Whereas an hCG blood test can provide conclusive results in cases where hCG levels may not be high enough.
Also Read: Double Marker Test: Introduction To The Basics and How It Works
What is human chorionic Gonadotropin (hCG) test?
hCG is made by cells in the placenta during pregnancy. After fertilization, the placenta attaches and nourishes the egg.
A blood sample can detect hCG for the first time around 11 days after conception. The levels of hCG increase by approximately 2 to 3 times every 48 to 72 hours. The peak is between 8 and 11 weeks after conception.
The hCG levels will then drop and level off but remain steady throughout the pregnancy.
Why Test Is Done?
The hCG blood test is performed to:
- Confirm pregnancy
- Diagnose a potential miscarriage
- Diagnose an abnormal pregnancy, such as an ectopic pregnancy
- Determine the approximate age of the fetus
- Screen for Down syndrome
Sometimes, the hCG blood test is used to screen for pregnancy before taking x-rays or similar treatments that can harm the development of a baby. Healthcare professionals can help ensure the safety of pregnant women if they have an hCG test.
Is There a Reason for hCG Testing Other Than Pregnancy?
Beta hCG can be considered a cancer marker. This means that it’s an ingredient that’s excreted in some types of tumors. In some cases, the hCG blood tests may be used to assess and manage certain types of cancer.
Several types of cancers can increase hCG levels beyond normal.
- Lung cancer
- Cancer of the uterus or choriocarcinoma
- Ovarian cancer
- Breast Cancer
Higher levels of hCG can also be caused by non-cancerous conditions like cirrhosis and ulcers.
This test may be ordered by your doctor as part of a series to determine the cause of some symptoms.
While hCG is most commonly associated with women who are pregnant, it can also be found in men. A blood test for hCG can be used to determine if a man has testicular carcinoma.
A test can be performed to determine if there is hCG in a man’s testicles. Further testing is required to determine the cause if hCG is found i n a man’s body.
Also Read: The Complete Guide to PSA Test & How It Can Diagnose Prostate Cancer
How To Get Tested?
The quantitative test measures the amount of hCG hormone found in blood samples.
No particular preparation is required for the hCG blood test.
During the Test
These steps are how a healthcare professional will take a sample of blood:
- To stop blood flow and make your veins more visible, an elastic band is placed around your upper arm. This is to make it easier for the needle to be inserted.
- The vein is identified and treated with alcohol.
- To collect blood, the needle is inserted into a vein. A tube is attached at the end of this needle.
- Once enough blood has been collected, the elastic band can be removed from your arm.
- After the needle has been removed, cotton or gauze is placed on the puncture site.
- Apply pressure to the cotton/gauze and secure it with a bandage.
You may feel a slight stinging or pinching sensation while the needle is being inserted. Or you might not feel any at all.
You may feel some discomfort or stinging when the needle is in your vein. You may feel mild throbbing at the puncture site.
The results of the test are sent to your doctor after your blood samples have been collected. The doctor may ask for an appointment to discuss the results.
After The Test
There are very few risks associated with blood sampling.
There might be some bruising around the area where the needle was inserted. You can reduce this by pressing down on the area for several minutes once the needle has been removed.
The following could happen in very rare instances:
- Excessive bleeding
- Hematoma is a condition in which blood accumulates beneath your skin
- Swollen veins
- Infection at the site of the needle
Your doctor will inform you of your hCG levels after your lab test results are back. These levels are expressed in milli-international units (mIU/mL) of the hCG hormone.
This table displays the average hCG levels in pregnancy for each week starting with your last period. The normal results are:
|Weeks from the last menstrual period||Normal hCG levels (mIU/mL)|
Normal hCG levels in nonpregnant women are less than 10.0 mIU/mL.
It could indicate several things if your levels of hCG are higher than the normal range. The results will be explained by your doctor.
Levels of hCG lower than normal could indicate:
- A miscalculation in the pregnancy date
- An ectopic pregnancy
- A possible miscarriage, or blighted ovum
Higher levels of hCG than usual could indicate:
- A miscalculation in pregnancy dating
- Multiple pregnancies are twins and triplets
- A molar pregnancy is an abnormal mass that forms in the uterus after fertilization. It’s not a normal embryo.
What To Do in Case of High Levels?
If your numbers are not exactly at the normal levels, don’t panic. These numbers are only estimates. You can have hCG levels lower than normal but still, have a healthy baby.
You can get an ultrasound report after six weeks. This is much more accurate than the hCG numbers.
Multiple hCG readings will be taken if there are concerns about your pregnancy. There are many variables, so make sure to talk to your doctor about your pregnancy. If there is a problem, your doctor will test your hCG levels.
Ask questions if there are any concerns and let them know if you have any problems.
- hCG levels. (2017).
- Human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG or b-HCG). (n.d.).
- Mayo Clinic Staff. (2015). Home pregnancy tests: Can you trust the results?
- Tumor markers. (2015).