HCG Levels – Normal, Low, High
Normal HCG levels usually differ depending on the condition of the woman, whether during pregnancy, after a miscarriage and or normal conditions. HCG levels are significant values often associated with pregnancy and when these values go beyond the normal limits, it is a cause of concern. Abnormal HCG levels may signify pregnancy complications, though it may also point to multiple pregnancies. Whichever the case, it is extremely important to have HCG levels within the normal range.
The best way to determine whether a woman has normal HCG levels based on her current condition is through the HCG test. The test will not only reveal the good news about an established pregnancy, but it is also important in finding out possible pregnancy complications that may put the woman’s life at risk.
What is HCG?
HCG stands for Human Chorionic Gonadotropin, which is a type of hormone that is especially produced during pregnancy. It is formed when the embryo has attached to the uterine wall right after conception. When the embryo starts to grow into a fetus, the placenta will release the HCG hormone. HCG plays a vital role in keeping the levels of progesterone and corpus luteum in check for optimal pregnancy. The normal HCG levels during pregnancy seem to be slightly elevated, but a significant increase may indicate problems.
Why maintain normal HCG levels ?
Maintaining a normal HCG level is conducive for a healthy pregnancy. HCG works by ensuring that there is enough progesterone from the corpus luteum in the ovary. If there is an abnormal level of HCG hormone in the woman’s body, it can cause a number of pregnancy-related complications because the progesterone is not properly regulated. Aside from ensuring a healthy pregnancy, normal HCG levels are an excellent indicator a woman can look into if she wants to confirm pregnancy.
How much should the HCG level be?
It is worth noting that normal HCG levels differ from one woman to another and under different conditions. HCG levels are measured in milli-international units per milliliter.
- HCG levels during Pregnancy
The normal range of HCG level during pregnancy should fall anywhere between 5 mIU/mL to 426 mIU/mL.
- HCG levels for non-pregnant women
Females who are not expecting should have HCG levels at 5 mIU/mL or below.
- HCG levels following a miscarriage
There is no set value for HCG levels after a miscarriage. This is because the amount of HCG hormone depends as to how the termination of pregnancy occurred, pregnancy duration and levels of HCG when the miscarriage happened. However, HCG levels following a miscarriage will normalize within 4 to 6 weeks of its occurrence.
What does an abnormal HCG level indicate?
Abnormal HCG levels could be a warning signal of pregnancy complications. Abnormally low HCG levels indicate the risk of ectopic pregnancy and miscarriage; while unusually high levels of HCG may indicate multiple pregnancies, molar pregnancy or a fetus with Down Syndrome. An irregular HCG level may also mean a miscalculated conception date.
What causes normal HCG levels to become low or high ?
There are a number of factors that can cause normal levels of HCG to become irregular, and these are:
- Molar pregnancy
This occurs when a small mass that appears like a grapeinstead of a fetus grows inside the placenta as a result of multiple fertilization of the egg or if the egg has a missing genetic component. This may also be a caused by a nutrient-deficient diet or uterine problems. A woman may believe she is having a normal pregnancy; although a growing fetus may also exist along with the hydatidiform mole.
- Multiple pregnancy
Normal levels of HCG could become abnormal due to the presence of multiple fetuses, whether they are fraternal or identical fetuses.
Certain forms of cancer can give rise to abnormal HCG levels such as lung cancer, cancer of the pancreas, stomach cancer and cancer of the large intestine. But the most common form of cancer associated with anuncharacteristically elevated HCG level is choriocarcinoma, which is a form of cancer of the uterus.
- Certain medications
Drugs that contain HCG, which are often used in treating infertility problems, can give rise to temporary abnormal HCG levels.
What will happen to women with with low or high HCG levels?
Women with abnormal HCG levels may exhibit a variety of symptoms, and these depend upon the underlying cause. They may exhibit symptoms of pregnancy such as food aversions, frequent urination, dizziness, headaches, implantation bleeding, nausea and vomiting. They may also displaywarning signs of pregnancy complications such as brownish vaginal bleeding, abdominal pain and severe pain in the pelvic area.
How to get abnormal HCG levels back to normal ?
The HCG level will normalize during the 8th to 14th week of pregnancy. It will also naturally drop several weeks after childbirth or after stopping fertility medications.
Normal HCG levels are important for optimum pregnancy. Keeping them in check is also essential in ruling out possible complications that may arise due to abnormal HCG levels.