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What is hCG?

By O. Wallace
Updated May 17, 2024
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Human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) is a glycoprotein hormone that is normally produced first by the cells that make up the placenta, then later by the placenta during pregnancy. Its primary function is to support the pregnancy by encouraging the production of progesterone. This supports and promotes the further development of the placenta early in pregnancy. This hormone causes a rapid progesterone increase early in pregnancy, but tapers off slowly as the placenta grows enough to produce enough progesterone to support the pregnancy on its own. The glycoprotein also serves in aiding in the development of gonads in the fetus and the production of androgens by the testes of a male fetus.

Levels of hCG can first be detected approximately 11 days following conception, in a blood test. One to three days later, it can be detected with a urine test. Some highly sensitive tests can detect the hormone as early as a week following ovulation. Normal home pregnancy tests are not able to detect hCG in the blood until at least 12 to 14 days after ovulation.

A typical pregnancy should have levels of hCG doubling every 48 to 72 hours up to the eighth to 11th week, at which time they start to stabilize and remain constant for the duration of the pregnancy. This occurs in about 85 percent of pregnancies. When these levels become high, they will start to double every 96 hours.

Pregnant women, especially those who have experienced fertility issues, place a lot of importance on hCG levels. Due to vast ranges of what can be normal, doctors advise women to not take them too seriously. Some women have low growth hormone levels and go on to have a healthy, normal baby.

Levels of the hormone in the blood are measured in milli-international units per millimeter (mIU/ml). Anything under 5mIU/ml registers as negative on a pregnancy test, while a level over 25mIU/ml is positive. Ultrasounds have proven much more accurate in diagnosing and predicting the viability of a pregnancy than hCG levels. The hormone levels can be tested in two ways: qualitative tests determine whether it exists in the blood or urine, while quantitative tests measure how much is in the bloodstream.

The gestational sac usually completes its formation once hCG levels reach 1,200 mIU/ml. If the hormone reading is low or falling, it could signal a more recent pregnancy than previously thought, a mother who has had or is experiencing a miscarriage or blighted ovum, or an ectopic pregnancy. Higher levels than what is considered normal for the age of the pregnancy can mean the pregnancy is farther along than estimated, that there is a molar pregnancy present, or that a multiple pregnancy or ovarian cancer exists.

After a miscarriage, hCG levels fall back to the pre-pregnancy range, which is less than 5.0 mIU/ml, about four to six weeks later. In some fertility treatment regimens, women may receive injections of the hormone to encourage ovulation or to extend the luteal phase of the cycle. When the hormone is given during pregnancy, its purpose is to stimulate progesterone to further support the pregnancy. The effectiveness of this practice, however, is controversial at this time.

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Discussion Comments
By anon348232 — On Sep 14, 2013

I have not started in 2 1/2 months. I usually very regular. I have taken two home pregnancy tests and all were negative. I am thinking I'm in menopause, but have had other symptoms. I am 41 and had my tubes tied 11 years ago. Could I be pregnant?

By anon345466 — On Aug 19, 2013

I don't know if anyone will reply to this. My period missed its date for five days. On day five, I took the hCG blood test and it was positive, but that night, a brownish thing came out. I thought it was my period, but then it stopped. The next day it happened again. It wasn't much, but I had that brownish discharge again and more blood. I went to the doctor after two days from that test when my period came heavily. She asked me to do the quantitative hCG blood test and it was 7.

I think that when woman has a period hCG should be 0 or less than 5, as there is no pregnancy.

So what is happening to me exactly? I have been married for three months now and I am dying to have a baby.

By anon204407 — On Aug 09, 2011

Don't any of you have doctors that do ultrasounds? That is the only way to be sure the sac has formed in you. All this worrying and panicking isn't good for you, so just get one. Also there is another explanation, so read this.

I am way past my usual luteal phase length, but pregnancy tests keep coming back negative. Could I be pregnant?

There are at least three possibilities, all requiring the attention of your doctor:

The first possibility, if your chart does not show a clear ovulation pattern, is that you did not actually ovulate when you believed you did. You may have ovulated later or not at all, which would mean that you are not really "late" and that would explain why you are not getting positive results on your pregnancy test.

If you consistently do not get a clear ovulation pattern on your chart, you should talk to your doctor and bring your charts along so that he or she can help you determine what might be going on with your cycle.

You might be getting false negative results on your home pregnancy tests. Ask your doctor for a blood test to determine whether or not you are pregnant.

There might be something besides pregnancy that is keeping your period away. Your doctor can help you see if this could be the case.

By anon180597 — On May 26, 2011

To anon79803: Thank you for your comment. I just read it, and am now happy. I am having the same thing that happened to you. And my husband is also in the military so I have to go to a military clinic. I've missed my period in march april and may, and all of the tests have come back negative. Numerous hpt's and two blood tests all came back negative.

But I have a big belly, my boobs got bigger and I have weird sensations in my stomach that aren't normal for me. I've worried that it's all in my head, or it's something else. So thank you for giving me a little hope and ease.

By anon164610 — On Apr 01, 2011

I missed my period but then i did two home pregnancy tests and both of them came out positive. i was very happy and then i went to see my doctor and he did a urine test and it came out negative and i was experiencing breast tenderness, nipple pain, heart burn, headache, tired (sleepy) and frequent urination.

So four days after my doctor did the pregnancy test I had the worst abdominal cramps and i thought it was my period and felt like my period, but i had very short and very light bleeding using one pad a day, and it lasted for three days. My periods usually lasts four or five days and i get really heavy bleeding, using five or six pads a day. so I went to my dr. and told him about it and he took a blood sample and they just told me that i am not pregnant because my hcg level is under 3.

I am so confused. The fact that i had two positive results and i am kind of experiencing the symptoms. Any one please help, if you have or had the same problems as me. Thank you and god bless.

By anon160690 — On Mar 16, 2011

my period is overdue almost 10 days. i have regular periods. i did a blood test and urine test but it says negative. my doctor said my hcg level is less than 1. but still i feel I'm pregnant.

By babypuff — On Mar 15, 2011

O.K. I have a major problem. I recently was pregnant but I miscarried when i was nine weeks and one day. Before i miscarried my last normal period was in October.

Now my fiance and i had unprotected sex after with hopes of conceiving again. Just for the record (i lost my baby fat, and my symptoms were gone) my fiance passed in mid-January. The last times we had sex were in early January.

Now i have started spitting a lot. i put on weight like crazy, my cup size has really increased a lot and my breasts are extremely tender and the water from my shower even makes me squirm. i have to put pillows under them to sleep and that still doesn't do it.

I have taken six pregnancy tests in the past three months. All were negative and I got my period last month. It lasted five days, which was weird because i don't bleed for that long normally. I also got my period again this month. It's lighter with hardly bleeding. Today I took a blood test and it was also negative! What? This baby would be all that i can hold on to and I'm so looking forward to it. Sigh! what is wrong with me?

My mom says it's my mind playing with me because i really want a baby, but I don't know. My body is changing and I don't know what else can explain my physical changes! help! Is there a doctor in the house?

By anon149832 — On Feb 05, 2011

I am currently on day 44 of my "cycle." My periods are always regular, however they don't work like clockwork. I always know when I am about to start my period, and I have not felt that way yet. I took four pregnancy tests and all of them were negative. I have not had a blood test yet because I can't really afford it right now.

I want to believe the test results but I feel there is no other reason to have missed my period. I have not been stressed at all in the past two months, I haven't changed my habits, nor have I lost or gained a lot of weight. I have not skipped a period in about two years.

I have not really had any symptoms of pregnancy, so I feel like I am not pregnant, but I don't know what to do. I am acting as if I am pregnant in case I am, but I am wondering if I am like many others on here that have not produced hcg until the first few months of their pregnancy.

It's driving me nuts not knowing if I am or not. I am just scared if I am not pregnant than what could be wrong with me? I don't want to stress about it and then further delay my period haha.

By anon146945 — On Jan 27, 2011

i missed my period for two months, and took a home test and it came out negative, so i went to the doctor and he took blood samples from me and the result came back negative, so i assumed i was not pregnant.

I thought i was gaining weight because i ate too many sweets, so i started to take dexatrim diet pills and two weeks after i was sitting in my couch and noticed this terrible pain and felt something coming down so i ran to the bathroom and pull off my under wear and there it went on the floor. it looked like a fetus, oh my!

i put it in a plastic small box and took it with me to the hospital and i was told i aborted a baby. i was seven weeks pregnant. The doctor told me it could be the pills i was taking to lose the weight. So my question is why did it come out negative? i was tested through blood work.

By anon142390 — On Jan 13, 2011

Question for everyone: I was raped in April of 2010 and I had a baby born at 29 weeks and she is black. I'm married with five kids and never cheated on my husband. Is it possible that my daughter could be 1 and 1/2 months behind when I was pregnant with her? After I was raped I stopped eating for a long time.

By jkwisuri — On Dec 01, 2010

It is now December and I haven't had my period since October. I do have abnormal periods, but if it was in mid October, I should get it at the end of November. well it never came.

Also one week before that Nov 15th I was feeling very pregnant (as I put it). Boobs are sensitive, stomach has really grown, very emotional, dizzy at times, a lot of odorless thick white discharge. I have taken one hpt and of course it was negative like it always is. But I really am feeling this might be positive.

I don't currently have insurance. is there a way I can double check on my own? Or could I be? I hope I am! Or could I just be imagining all of this cause I want to be pregnant.

By anon129857 — On Nov 25, 2010

my last menstruation ended on October 15th or 16th and i still have not had it. i have had two home test pregnancies all showing negative. I went to see my doctor today and told me to take the pregnancy blood test which i did this morning. but it was negative and was told that my HCG is less than 10mIU/ml.

I'm so confused now because my breast size has increased in size and now painful. I've gotten lots of spots on my face and pimples and also gained weight.

Please help me with some answers. Am I truly pregnant or should I hope to have my period. I however do not experience any morning sickness except a bit of dizziness at times during the day.

By anon128999 — On Nov 21, 2010

I would like to write out my experience here. I've been trying to conceive since october and i missed both oct and Nov's periods that were due on the 13th of both the months.

i get three blood tests done and three of them gave the result negative saying the HCG is 10 MiU/ml.. my tummy has grown out of its normal size but otherwise i don't feel any other pregnancy symptoms.

my relatives say that in some ladies the hcg is not detected until three months.

I'm really worried as to what could be the cause. does 10 miu/ml at all the three times (with considerable gap between the tests) mean that I'm not pregnant?

Please help ladies?

By anon119275 — On Oct 17, 2010

I went to Th doctor and my hcg level is 2. They say that I'm not pregnant because you have to be over level 5. But what i don't understand is that the only time a woman has hcg is when she pregnant, right? So how can they say that? I am confused. Has anybody ever been through this and did your hcg level rise?

By amypollick — On Sep 28, 2010

@anon114288: I don't think how much blood you pass during menstruation has anything to do with whether you can get pregnant, or whether you can safely carry a pregnancy to term.

You need to consult your family doctor or gynecologist about this issue to get a definite answer.

By anon114288 — On Sep 28, 2010

I am married and i would like to be a mother soon. But my problem is i get only 15ml of blood flow during my periods every month. Do you think i can still get pregnant? I am very sad about this! Please tell me. Do i have chance for pregnancy even though just 15ml blood during my menses.

By anon112767 — On Sep 21, 2010

I have had two pregnancies, both normal. The pregnancy tests all came out negative and I did have my period during both pregnancies. Everybody is different. Both of my children are now healthy teens.

By anon110041 — On Sep 10, 2010

@Beanz: I am very interested about your explanation about your family pregnancy. I miscarried last May 2010 and after had sex with my hubby a few times two weeks after that.

I already started to feel that i was pregnant again, but the problem is i got my period every month, and my pregnancy tests all the time came back negative. Now it's being eight months already, but i can strongly feel a very strong heart beat of the baby and even now sometimes i can feel the movement of the baby.

My husband, my family and my friends are laughing at me. They say that i am just dreaming. My tummy becomes bigger day by day and i had my morning sickness for three months. I am really confused.

So Beanz can you post back? i want to know details about this matter. thank you.

By anon108235 — On Sep 02, 2010

I am, like you all, concerned about a pregnancy that isn't detected by the six at home pregnancy tests that I've taken.

I am currently 19 days late and this is unusual for me, seeing as i am normally regular. I was curious to see if it's possible that all six tests that i have taken currently could be wrong and I could be pregnant.

There are no signs of a period coming anytime soon and i have experienced several symptoms of what could be a pregnancy. Am i just worrying about nothing? what should I be doing?

i am very concerned there is something wrong with my body if i am not actually pregnant. Please help!

By anon103026 — On Aug 10, 2010

I'm 18 and I've been going through a lot I have sex a lot --well, I did from the first of may. I've been having unprotected sex with my boyfriend an he doesn't ever pull out. I thought I was pregnant so I went to the doctor and took hpt and everything was negative. I've been feeling sick. I still get my period. I have been pregnant before so I know what it feels like. I feel just like my first time. please someone help me. I really need it. ugh.

By anon92772 — On Jun 30, 2010

I had my last lmp in april and did three pregnancy tests and all are negative. what can the problem be.

By anon79803 — On Apr 24, 2010

Just as a heads up to the ladies asking: Yes, You can have neg tests and still be pregnant. It's pretty obvious that every pregnancy will be different for each woman.

Keep in mind that the "norm" is based on the majority of women who experience very similar things during pregnancy. I personally just became pregnant within the last two to three weeks.

I can feel it. I knew that early with my first two pregnancies. This being my third pregnancy, I have a pretty good idea what to look for in my own body.

I have received a negative blood and urine test, but I was not surprised. I did not get a positive test with either until I was three months pregnant with my first child and approximately 2 and a half months pregnant with my second. When I explained this to the doctor (I have to have a new one due to moving around with the military) they requested that I come in every week for a blood test until we get a positive test so that I can start seeing the OB/GYN.

Their only guess as to why this happens is that my body does not produce the HCG hormone at the same rate as most pregnant women.

There is no real explanation to my knowledge. It just happens to some women. And just to verify fears, I had two very healthy pregnancies that resulted in two healthy babies.

Unfortunately, my body does not dilate during labor either, so I did have to have two c-sections after 37 and 46 hours of labor. I was also nearly three weeks past my due date with both pregnancies.

However, I am sure this can happen during any random pregnancy even if you have had normal pregnancies before. Keep in mind that your body's chemical make up changes with age and with each pregnancy. Also, remember there are many medical mysteries that have no know explanation.

Doctors do not like to look stupid or wrong. However, every so often you will meet a doctor who will own up to the fact that we as humans have not figured everything out medically or scientifically yet. Otherwise, we wouldn't still be doing so much research to find answers.

I hope this helps!

By cyndiiwho — On Mar 30, 2010

Is it possible to be pregnant with a neg hcg in urine on a hpt? and will having an irregular menstrual cycle effect hcg in urine?

By anon73932 — On Mar 30, 2010

This is my situation. I had my tubes tied six 1/2 years ago. I have had normal cycles ever since up until Oct 09 and in Nov it skipped and now I have a cycle every other month.I have started feeling fluttering and movement in my tummy just as in previous pregnancies and hpt have been neg so what is the possibility that I am pregnant?

By anon72681 — On Mar 24, 2010

As my last period was on Feb 08, and i had done an hcg test in mid-March, it came out positive but after 10 days again i did the test but it came negative. please help me.

By anon64947 — On Feb 10, 2010

my last period was late December. today it hasn't come yet. I have had three pregnancy tests and they were negative. I have also been having a white odorless discharge. could I still be pregnant?

By anon31599 — On May 08, 2009

I think the ideal thing is to have an ultrasound or listen for a heartbeat. You better take action and in the meantime behave as if you were pregnant...say watch out for what you eat, do not lift any heavy objects etc. But do have an u/s as soon as possible as you also need to take vitamins if you are pregnant and also prepare for the new baby... prepare hospital bag for yourself and the baby etc. Many best wishes for all that is best for you at this time in your life!

By beanz — On Mar 26, 2009

A couple of months back I had a blocked duct, so my doctor assumed I may be pregnant. I took a test and it was negative but in the last few weeks my breasts have become swollen and soar and my belly is just getting bigger. I have taken a test, but yet again it is negative. However it does lie in my family for the hormones not to change. My sister did not find out she was pregnant until she was 6-7 months even though she kept using pregnancy tests. Also my mother, grandmother and great-grandmother have also had this.

I am still having my period as normal, but my mother has just told me that my grandmother had her period throughout her pregnancy. I'm not sure what to do or what to think. It is not normal for my breast and stomach to change like that. And if I was pregnant I would be 5 months. My stomach is big enough for this. What could I do to find out? And can it happen that my hormones won't change till later? Thank you

By anon21411 — On Nov 16, 2008

I previously posted some questions as Anon 20967. My questions have all been answered by a third pregnancy test...I am pregnant! The thing is we are unsure about how many weeks I have since after my first missed period in October I had two negative HPTs. The positive pregnancy test came out on 10th November that is after the second missed period. Now my doc sent me for an ultrasound in two weeks time to verify in which week I am. Until then, I should be in my eleventh week now.

By anon20967 — On Nov 08, 2008

The 1st day of my last period was 5th September. In october I had no period. Today 8th November still no sign of it. I have never had irregular periods until now. My husband and I are trying to conceive since mid September but now it is becoming more difficult to detect fertility days because of irregularity in my menstruation cycle. After I missed the period in October I did two pregnancy tests which resulted negative. Now I'm waiting until next week to do another test to be more sure this time. Since last week I've had breast tenderness like I've never had before and I'm urinating more often. My doctor says we will have to wait until a third missed period to make certain checks should I not be pregnant. I am unsure about this. Should I make further checks immediately if the test proves negative next week or shall I wait like the doctor said? And in the meantime should we stop trying to conceive?

By anon18209 — On Sep 17, 2008

hi my bloodwork came back today and it showed hcg is present but the count was 1...can i still be pregnant? im 11 days late and experience all the symptoms of pregnancy..Pls Tell me if i should retest and when?

By anon17156 — On Aug 23, 2008

I have taken hpt tests and they have come back neg, I went to the doctor and had bldwk done which came back pos. I am not sure which one to trust. When I was pregnant with my daughter a hpt wasn't pos until I was 11wks, which seems to be happening again. What are the chances that I am actually pregnant?

By anon2670 — On Jul 20, 2007

I had a question. I have always had irregular periods since i started getting them. My Dr put me on birth control to try to help it to regulate and it only ended up with stopping it. I finally after a couple of years decided to come off of it and towards the end i did start to get my cycle and they were regular (nuroplant) I ended up getting pregnant back in 02 and i had a stillborn when i was 8mo. I have been trying since then to get pregnant again. with no such luck it hasn't happened as yet. I have been back on this track with not getting my periods when i am suppose to every month sometimes it will be as if it is regular for a bit then i won't get it. and i will think i am pregnant because of this. last mo my husband and i tried artificial insemination and i did clomid. it still didn't work. and i did get my cycle when i have been for the past couple of months. this month however, i have not. i took a pregnancy test i am only 3 days late. it came up neg again. is it possible that i could still be pregnant? i have had tons of test done and nothing is wrong with me or my husband. he does have low sperm count but we have been told we could still get pregnant. could you please help me and tell me what i can do to up my chances to get pregnant. also, i was told my HCG was like a little low would this make my test come out neg ?... thank you..

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