What Are Normal HCG Levels in Early Pregnancy?

Expectant mothers will usually undergo blood tests.
Abnormally low levels of HCG in the blood may indicate an increased risk of miscarriage.
HCG levels in early pregnancy can vary, but a minimum of about 5 mIU/ml is required.
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  • Written By: Autumn Rivers
  • Edited By: Andrew Jones
  • Last Modified Date: 23 October 2014
  • Copyright Protected:
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    Conjecture Corporation
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Most home pregnancy tests screen for the amount of human chorionic gonadotropin, or hCG, in the urine, as this is the major indicator of pregnancy. While the minimum amount of hCG required for any pregnancy is about 5 mIU/ml, hCG levels in early pregnancy vary greatly. A pregnancy that is detected very early, about four weeks after the last menstrual period, should have between 5 and 426 mIU/ml. In most pregnancies, this number should double about every 48 to 72 hours to indicate viability.

The majority of home pregnancy tests can detect a level of about 20 mIU/ml, which means that it may be too early to test positive on the day of the first missed period, as levels may still be under 20 at that point. For this reason, many women do not test positive prior to six weeks gestation, at which point their hCG level should be between 1,080 and 56,500. Around this point, it should be possible to see a heartbeat on an ultrasound, as this usually requires at least 2,000 mIU/ml to be accurate. It should be known that the hCG levels in early pregnancy are often lower in urine than blood, so blood tests are likely to be more accurate, and thus good for detecting pregnancy less than four weeks after the last menstrual period.

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It is clear that there is a wide range of acceptable hCG levels in early pregnancy, which is why the real indicator of viability is typically whether the levels double as they should. No matter what the starting number is, it should double every two to three days, though some pregnancies increase levels at a slightly slower or faster rate for no particular reason. To find out whether levels are steadily increasing, a woman usually must go to the doctor to have her blood tested, and then return two to three days later to test it again.

Having decreasing hCG levels in early pregnancy usually indicates a miscarriage. On the other hand, levels that increase at an extremely fast rate could indicate a molar pregnancy, which is when either a placenta forms without a fetus, or a fetus forms incorrectly and does not survive long inside the womb. Women who have hCG levels in early pregnancy that start low and increase very slowly may be experiencing an ectopic pregnancy, which is when the fetus implants outside of the womb, and cannot properly grow. This type of pregnancy usually ends on its own, or needs to be ended medically in order to prevent harm to the mother, such as internal bleeding. Clearly, keeping up with hCG levels, especially prior to six weeks, can tell a lot about how a pregnancy will likely progress.

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Discuss this Article

Glasis
Post 3

There are a lot of home pregnancy tests on the market now that promise accurate results within days of missing your period. Sounds like that might be a false claim, after all.

@TurtleeyMC - It sounds like you are right, the best thing to do might be to sweat it out a little longer and wait a couple of extra weeks before doing a home test or going to a doctor.

TurtleeyMC
Post 2

@Slitherine - It seems like a doctor would tell you up front if they weren't sure if the results were conclusive, or, hopefully, avoid the cost and worry associated with a blood test by telling you straight out to wait until a few weeks after you've missed your period to take the test at all.

If you aren't completely sure what to do, and/or don't think you can afford or your insurance will pay for more than one pregnancy-related blood test, it's probably in your best interest to wait.

Slitherine
Post 1

So, it is possible, even after a doctor-prescribed blood test shows a high enough HCG level, that you might not be pregnant? It's no secret that a home pregnancy test could show a false positive, but it seems like a test run and read by professionals should be pretty accurate.

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