Pregnancy hormones that increase rapidly throughout the first month can be bewildering sometimes. Here’s what a lot of that means.
1. What is the Significance of hCG Levels?
Human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) is the pregnancy hormone that enables doctors to make a conclusive determination about whether or not a woman is pregnant. In most cases, hCG levels will become high enough to be detected by a pregnancy test within 11 days. Home tests look for early indicators of these pregnancy hormones, but the only way to know for certain if conception has occurred is to visit your doctor. If you are pregnant, your hCG level should be above 25mlU/ml, although it is possible for them to be as low as 5mlU/ml for the first four weeks.
2. Important Things to Know About Your hCG Pregnancy Hormones Levels
Your hCG levels will continue to rise throughout the first 8 to 11 weeks of your pregnancy. In most cases, these levels will double every three days until they reach their peak. However, this only applies to approximately 85 percent of pregnant women, so trust your physician’s experience and recommendations if your levels do not progress in this manner. In order to understand your hCG levels, it is important to be aware that Milli-international Units per Milliliter (mlU/ml) is the measurement that is used to track these pregnancy hormones.
3. What Can a Low hCG Level Indicate?
Please exercise caution before allowing yourself to become unduly upset about a low hCG level. Everyone is different, and your body’s natural levels may be lower than the norm. With this in mind, though, you should also be aware that a low level may be indicative of a miscalculated conception date, ectopic pregnancy, a blighted ovum or another type of miscarriage.
Due to these potential factors, low hCG levels are commonly tracked with new testing every two to three days until they reach the normal range. An ultrasound, which can be done after five to six weeks, will provide a much more accurate assessment of the baby’s health than hCG levels.
4. What Can a High hCG Level Indicate?
Just like with a low hCG level, you should allow your physician enough time to run other tests and an ultrasound before you become concerned about a high hCG level. Keep in mind that hCG levels can vary greatly. The normal range is an astounding 5-50 mlU/ml at the three week mark, and this shoots up to 18-7,340 mlU/ml by week five.
If your levels are higher than normal, it is possible that you are carrying twins, experiencing a molar pregnancy or do not have a correct conception date. A molar pregnancy is a rare event that only affects 1 out of every 1,000 pregnancies, so this is the least likely explanation. Again, if your levels are considered to be too high or low, your physician will probably want to recheck them every 48 to 72 hours to ensure that everything is going smoothly with your pregnancy.
5. Can Anything Alter Your hCG Levels?
An hCG level of 25 mlU/ml is almost always indicative of a pregnancy, and this makes false positives a rare occurrence. You could conceivably have enough hCG in your body to chemically appear pregnant without actually being so, if you have already suffered from an early miscarriage or are battling certain types of cancer. There are also some antibodies that can occasionally alter your hCG levels enough to provide false results.
Many people are worried that taking any form of medication might interfere with an accurate hCG reading, but this is not a viable concern. The only form of prescription drugs that has been determined to interfere with the results of a pregnancy test are those that are most commonly used for fertility purposes. If you are taking fertility medication, your doctor will help you make the distinction between a false positive and actually being pregnant.
6. Additional hCG Facts
In the tragic event of a miscarriage, your hCG levels should return to normal within six weeks. It is normal for doctors to monitor your hCG during this time period. On the contrary, it is not typical for physicians to regularly monitor hCG levels throughout a healthy pregnancy unless there are certain warning signs, including levels that are too high or low, a history of miscarriage, severe cramping or bleeding.
It is not reliable to use hCG levels to date your pregnancy. Most pregnancy related conditions are also not confirmable with merely one hCG test. In order to get the most accurate results for any related diagnosis, an ultrasound should be conducted after your hCG levels reach 2,000 mlU/ml.
Now that you have a better understanding of pregnancy hormones and how they impact your body during the first month, it is a good idea to take some time to brush up on tips for getting through the experience of giving birth and soothing a cranky baby. After all, nine months will fly by much faster than you think, and you will want to be fully prepared for everything that happens long after your hCG levels are no longer relevant.
Featured photo credit: Esparta Palma via flickr.com