Pregnancy is a time in which women’s bodies go through massive hormonal changes. One of the hormones that is secreted when a woman falls pregnant is HCG. This is the abbreviation of human chorionic gonadotropin.
This hormone is essential during pregnancy during the initial process of fertilization, as well as the maintenance and support of the fetus. Pregnancy tests look for the presence of this hormone in the blood to confirm whether or not a female is pregnant. Moreover, HCG levels act as more than just a confirmation.
Since HCG is so important for the health of a pregnant woman and her fetus, knowing where you stand regarding your HCG levels is crucial. A quantitative HCG blood test measures the concentration of this hormone in your bloodstream.
Why is HCG Needed?
As mentioned, HCG has a number of critical roles. This hormone is not exclusive to pregnant women but is actually present in all humans. HCG is essential for the process of creating testosterone in men. It is also crucial for the production of sperm. Hence, men with abnormally low testosterone levels are often prescribed injections of HCG. HCG is also helpful for reversing the negative side effects of using anabolic steroids. Overall, HCG is a go-to line of defense for doctors when they see a male patient experiencing fertility issues.
For women, HCG plays a much more crucial role during pregnancy. HCG is produced primarily in the placenta. This hormone is needed to thicken up the lining of the uterus. This is needed for the maintenance and safety of the embryo.
When the uterine lining is too thin, the body is not able to support a growing fetus. HCG, along with estrogen and progesterone, prevents menstruation. During the first trimester of pregnancy, the levels of HCG present will rise exponentially. This hormone can also be to blame for dreaded morning sickness and nausea during the first trimester.
How are HCG Levels Tested?
There are two separate types of HCG tests, qualitative and quantitative. Both of these types test for different situations, so it is key to know what purpose each test fulfills.
Qualitative HCG Test
A qualitative HCG test simply checks whether or not HCG is present in the urine or blood. This will simply confirm whether or not a person is pregnant. A negative qualitative HCG test will mean that the person is not currently pregnant.
Conversely, a positive qualitative HCG test will likely mean that the person is pregnant. Keep in mind you are unlikely to get a false positive for this type of HCG test, whereas a false negative is more probable.
Quantitative HCG test
This type of HCG test will measure the specific level of HCG present in your bloodstream, as opposed to simply checking whether or not it is present. This test has far wider applications as compared to a qualitative HCG test, which is simply a pregnancy test.
The HCG levels can tell you the age of the fetus. Moreover, by checking to see if HCG levels are higher than average for that gestational period, you can also get a hint to see if there is more than 1 fetus.
Quantitative HCG test abnormalities can also point toward issues such as miscarriages or the death of the fetus. Besides pregnancy-related diagnostics, HCG levels can also hint at various cancers such as lung cancer, ovarian cancer, and breast cancer.
How is the Test Performed?
An HCG test is very simple and quick. Just sit back while blood is drawn from your arm. All in all, this process will take less than 5 minutes. You will experience some discomfort during this time. If you’re not a fan of needles, you always have the option of doing a urine test too. For a blood test, here’s what to expect
Firstly, your trusted healthcare professional will locate a vein on your upper arm to stop the blood flow. After a vein is located, they will then sanitize the point of injection with alcohol. They will then inject a needle to draw a blood sample. Once an appropriate blood sample has been gathered, you’re good to go!
What do my HCG Test Results Mean
Your HCG test results (quantitative) will show you what the HCG concentration in your blood is per milliliter. For pregnant women, the healthy concentration of HCG varies from week to week, so it’s important to keep a close eye on your HCG levels while tallying them against published data on what normal HCG levels are.
If your HCG levels are lower than normal, it can mean you have miscalculated the age of the fetus. It can also point toward a miscarriage or an ectopic pregnancy.
Similarly, a higher-than-normal HCG level can also mean there has been a miscalculation of pregnancy dating. It also usually indicates that you might have twins or triplets (or more!)
What to do if my HCG Levels are off
HCG levels can vary naturally from person to person, and having low or high HCG doesn’t necessarily mean anything concrete. It’s important to not panic and get in touch with your healthcare provider, who will then give you a course of action. Usually, women with very low HCG levels are given injections to bring levels to a more normal one. This comes with side effects, however, such as severe pelvic pain as well as rapid weight gain.
HCG is an extremely important hormone needed for a successful to-term pregnancy. Hence, having an eye on what your HCG levels are and knowing what options you have to correct any issues is key. Diagnostic tests can take a toll on your wallet, so it’s always a good idea to look for a bargain. Luckily, Cura4U offers whopping discounts on all diagnostic tests through Cura Labs, so head on over and take the first step toward a healthier pregnancy by booking an online consultation with a doctor today!