Human chorionic gonadotropin, also known as hCG, is actually the hormone which is measured by blood and urine tests during pregnancy. When a woman gets pregnant, hCG is produced by the tissue which eventually becomes the placenta. HCG production signals the corpus luteum-a remnant of the follicle that had grown in the ovary, to keep or continue producing progesterone. This hormone prepares the uterine walls or lining for embryo growth. Eventually, the placenta takes over the progesterone production at around the tenth week of pregnancy, after which hCG levels stabilize for the entire pregnancy. There is no action on your part that can change the hCG levels in your body.

What Does Slow Rising hCG Levels in Early Pregnancy Mean?

HCG is usually detectable in the blood serum, usually 8 days after conception, of approximately 5 percent of women who are pregnant. Virtually, the rest 95 % of the women will experience its detection at about 11 days after conception. HCG levels rises progressively immediately after conception. The levels double every 30.9 hours on average until they reach 6500 mIU/ml at around the 8th week after your last menstrual period (LMP). After this, the rate of increase is individualized and peaks between 60th and 70th day of last menstrual period. HCG eventually decreases slightly post LMP, between the twelfth and sixteenth week after which it remains constant until delivery. 

The normal level of hCG varies especially in early pregnancy, as it’s produced by the placenta immediately after implantation takes place and rise progressively. Most of the women will wonder if they have a normal hCG or not. Here are some of the hCG levels figures which might be very useful:

  • HCG level below 5 mIU/ml is considered "not pregnant.”
  • A level above 25mIU/ml is usually considered "pregnant."
  • Between 5-25mIU/ml needs a follow-up test to confirm it.
  • Levels below 1,200mIU/ml in early pregnancy. The hCG doubles every 48-72 hours and it should increase normally by at least 60% every 2 days. 
  • Between 1,200 and 6,000 mIU/ml. The hCG takes 72-96 hours to increase and double.
  • Levels above 6,000mIU/ml. The hCG will take over four or more days to double and increase.
  • After about 9-10 weeks of your pregnancy, the hCG levels start decreasing gradually.

The hCG levels above 6,000 mIU/ml usually makes little sense to follow, since the levels increase normally at a lower rate and do not show how well the pregnancy is progressing. However, the hCG levels will reduce even further after 2 to 3 months. Note that there is no single “normal” hCG level especially in early pregnancy and hCG levels vary greatly as the pregnancy progresses.

There is a possibility that you can have slow rising hCG levels in early pregnancy and eventually go along to have a normal pregnancy. However, it’s important to know that these hCG levels are just relative approximates and varies with each pregnancy. Those actual numbers are not indicators; that is, if you don’t show similar numbers, then you are in for pregnancy complications. They just provide a probable hint towards a direction where you are going. For instance, a dropping hCG level indicate a problem, and the numbers that go very high for an estimated gestation period also indicate a problem (molar pregnancy).

Possible Symptoms of Slow Rising hCG Levels in Early Pregnancy

There are usually several possibilities with your slow rising hCG levels in early pregnancy than what is expected, and here are some of the possibilities:

  • You could be having a “slow to rise” hCG levels. You might find that your first test indicates a lower hCG level, but when you come for the subsequent test, it’s found to be normal. In this case, you can go on to have a normal pregnancy.
  • An ectopic pregnancy could be another worrisome possibility in this case. A pregnancy that is growing in the fallopian tube increases the risk of ectopic pregnancy.
  • Most commonly, when you have a lower rising hCG numbers, it could be an indication of failing pregnancy such as miscarriage or a “blighted ovum.”

Most of the doctors will use the hCG values for reference purposes. Other testing methods such as abdominal or trans-vaginal ultrasound are also used to determine pregnancy progress depending on the estimated gestational age.

More Commonly Asked Questions

1. Can Anything Affect My hCG Levels?

There is probably nothing that can interfere with your hCG levels except the medications which contain the hCG. Such medications are often used in fertility treatments, and your doctor can give you more information regarding how they can affect your test. Other medications such as painkillers, antibiotics, contraceptives should not have any effect on an hCG test.

2. Do I Need to Check My hCG Level Routinely?

Checking your hCG may not be such a common routine, but it can be performed when you show some signs of a possible problem. Your medical care giver may have to recheck your hCG levels if you experience severe cramping, bleeding as well as if you have a history of miscarriage.

Tips on Your hCG Levels in Early Pregnancy

Here are some tips about your hCG levels:

  • You should not get too worked up about your hCG levels because there is little you can do about them. Agonizing about your level will just give you undue stress.
  • You can have a blood test if you want to definitively know your hCG levels since the levels vary at different times. However, one hCG test will tell you no more than the levels of that day or that point in time.
  • What you are supposed to do is to ensure that you stay healthy and keep fit. You should be confident about yourself and let your body do the functioning since hCG level control is not under your power.