Whether this is your first pregnancy or your second one, you may have already heard about “HCG”. Majority of women out there who are either trying their best to conceive or have already conceived don’t actually know what this term truly means.
HCG, in the medical world, is an acronym for the word Human Chorionic Gonadotropin. A hormone, it is produced in the placenta when a woman is in her pregnancy days. Sometimes you may hear your doctor refer to it with the term “quantitative serial beta HCG test”.
Table of Contents
- 1. How Soon Can Doctors Detect HCG Levels?
- 2. What’s the Link between HCG and Twins?
- 3. What’s the Role of HCG in Twin Pregnancy?
- 4. Why is the HCG Quantitative Test Performed?
- 5. Is The HCG Levels Test Painful?
- 6. What Are Normal Beta HCG Levels?
- 7. What Can Interfere With HCG Levels?
- 8. Do High HCG Levels Mean 100% Chances of Having Twins?
1. How Soon Can Doctors Detect HCG Levels?
HCG is easy to detect in the blood after 11 days of conception. Every 72 hours, the HCG levels continuously double up. However, peak levels arise when they reach the 11th week of conception. In between your pregnancy, the levels can either increase and decline, but for most of the pregnancy stage they remain steady.
If you ever faced issues like infertility in the past years, or had miscarriages, then your doctor will routinely call you in for blood tests to check the levels in the early days of your pregnancy. The main reason for this is because they must detect the rate at which the levels double. A sign of viable and progressing pregnancy is the doubling numbers; however, if doctors detect no signs of it doubling, then chances are greater that your pregnancy may not cross the first trimester.
2. What’s the Link between HCG and Twins?
You should know that your body doesn’t produce HCG on normal days; it only comes from the baby that develops in your womb. As such, if you are pregnant with twins, then each child at its development stage will secrete normal HCG levels, which results in higher levels of HCG as compared to the levels in a single pregnancy.
This simply means that though HCG levels may vary between every woman, typically, they are much higher in women who are pregnant with twins.
3. What’s the Role of HCG in Twin Pregnancy?
The main job of HCG in twin pregnancy is to communicate to the corpus luteum (a structure that secretes hormones and develops in the ovary only after an ovum has discharged, however, it degenerates days after pregnancy begins) that you are pregnant. It helps to maintain the corpus luteum and ensures that it keeps secreting hormones.
The ultimate result it offers is the maintenance of the lining in the uterus, which gives the embryo that is in its development stage a place to implant. Uterine lining plays a vital role in pregnancy, as it provides the embryo with the essential nutrients and oxygen until the formation of the placenta.
4. Why is the HCG Quantitative Test Performed?
The main reason why doctors perform the test is to:
- Confirm that you are pregnant
- Determine the precise age of the fetus
- Diagnose any risks of miscarriage
- Diagnose any risks of abnormal pregnancy (ectopic pregnancy)
- Screen for problems like Down’s syndrome in the fetus.
In rare cases, the HCG levels test is necessary to screen for pregnancy before women undergo medical treatments that may have the potential risks of harming the development of the baby. The need for blood test here serves as a standard precaution before women undergo any procedures to check whether they are pregnant or not.
5. Is The HCG Levels Test Painful?
You should be rest assured that this quantitative test is just like any other regular blood test. All it does is measure the actual levels of the HCG hormone present in the blood. Your doctor will simply tie an elastic band around your arm (the upper arm) to stop the easy flow of blood. This makes the veins more visible for the use of a needle to extract the blood.
The only time you may feel a little sting is when the needle enters through your skin – but that’s only a pinch-like sensation. Sometimes, if your doctor has a soft hand, you might not even feel the pinch at all. When the needle is in the vein, you may feel minor discomfort or stinging. Afterwards, you may feel some mild throbbing at the puncture site. Once the test is over, the blood sample will reveal the levels of HCG and your doctor may call you in to discuss any results related to the test.
6. What Are Normal Beta HCG Levels?
In HCG levels, there is a “normal” range that indicates whether your pregnancy is healthy or not. Normally, HCG levels double every three days and that’s when doctors need to check the beta levels a few times to see their levels. If the beta level shows low values, then it could indicate miscalculated conceptions dates, possibility of a miscarriage, ectopic pregnancy, and a few other problems. Higher levels on the other hand may indicate miscalculated conception dates, or the tendency of twins.
7. What Can Interfere With HCG Levels?
In some cases, the use of fertility drugs that contain some amounts of HCG could affect the actual levels. Apart from those, the use of other medications like oral contraceptives, antibiotics, don’t have any effects on HCG levels. In case you are taking fertility medications, then you need to consult your doctor first because those could affect the levels.
8. Do High HCG Levels Mean 100% Chances of Having Twins?
This is not necessarily true. There could be many other reasons for higher levels. High HCG levels however, are not necessary to estimate the chances of you having twins or not, sometimes women have higher HCG levels with one baby. If there is any doubt, then doctors may have to carry out further tests to confirm the chances of you having twins or a single pregnancy.
HCG hormone in women helps to sustain the pregnancy until the stage when the placenta takes over and functions properly. It also helps to secrete estrogen, create the testes, and helps the development of the placenta.
With FAQ’s such as the ones mentioned above, you can now have a much better and clearer idea on everything there is to know about HCG levels in pregnancy.