Pregnancy hormone levels refer to the levels of human chorionic gonadotropin, also known by the abbreviation HCG which are measured by urine or blood tests to confirm pregnancy and to monitor the progress of early pregnancy. The hormone is produced during pregnancy by the placenta to support the developing embryo but small amounts of this hormone are also released by the pituitary gland in non-pregnant women as well as men. Pregnancy hormone levels begin to increase almost immediately after conception and can be used to confirm pregnancy with a sensitive urine test about two weeks after conception, while blood tests can detect elevated levels of the hormone even earlier. After the implantation of the fertilized egg into the uterine wall, the levels of pregnancy hormone will double every 48 to 72 hours until reaching the value of about 1,200 mIU/ml (milli-international units per milliliter) which usually happens during the 6th or 7th week of pregnancy. Afterwards, the values will double every 96 hours until about 14th week of pregnancy when they will begin to drop.
Pregnancy is confirmed when a urine or blood test detects 25 mIU/ml or more pregnancy hormone. Levels below 5 mIU/ml are considered negative but if your values are between 5 and 25 mIU/ml, you are “only“ maybe pregnant. In this case, the pregnancy test needs to be repeated because elevated levels of pregnancy hormone can also indicate a medical problem. Either way, you should visit your doctor if your menstrual period is late even if a home pregnancy test was negative because you cannot see the levels of pregnancy hormone but only a positive or negative sign. Home pregnancy tests are highly accurate, however, they can give you a false negative result if you take one too early.
In addition to confirming pregnancy, the levels of pregnancy hormone are also used to monitor the progress of pregnancy as already mentioned earlier. Your doctor will compare your values with a chart of normal HCG ranges in pregnant women which, along with some other tests, will help him or her determine if your pregnancy is progressing normally because both too high and too low levels of the hormone can be a sign of a problem. If your levels of pregnancy hormone are too low, they can be a sign of a miscarriage or ectopic pregnancy (extrauterine pregnancy which cannot proceed normally) but they can also be a result of miscalculation of pregnancy dating. And the same counts for abnormally high levels of pregnancy hormone although it sometimes indicates molar pregnancy (growth of an abnormal tissue inside the uterus instead of an embryo) and multiple pregnancy.
Pregnancy hormone levels are not unimportant, however, the values alone do not reveal anything because they tend to vary greatly from one pregnant woman to another. In addition, pregnancy complications which can cause abnormally high or low levels of the hormone are usually accompanied by a variety of other signs which reveal that there may be a problem. So avoid interpreting your pregnancy hormone readings by yourself because you would probably only putting yourself under unnecessary stress which, by the way, is not good for you or your baby.