Welcome To HCG Levels In Early Pregnancy
If you've recently become pregnant, you're probably trying to figure out ways you can monitor your own pregnancy to make sure that everything is proceeding normally. One hormone which you can keep track of is human chorionic gonadotropin, usually abbreviated HCG. HCG can be detected with a blood test a week to a week and a half past the date of ovulation (during any menstrual cycle). HCG is responsible for maintaining the corpus luteum—that's what remains of the follicle following ovulation. The follicle, in case you don't know, is the little bundle of cells surrounding the egg. During ovulation the egg is released, and the follicle becomes the corpus luteum. That's why the second half of your menstrual cycle is called the luteal phase.
The purpose of the corpus luteum is to produce progesterone—that's one of those hormones that wreak havoc on your body during PMS and your period! Progesterone is important for thickening the lining of the uterus in the case of a fertilized egg. The corpus luteum continues to produce progesterone until the placenta is developed enough to take over the job—which occurs about ten weeks following fertilization. If you're not pregnant, your corpus luteum disintegrates after 12-14 days and your progesterone levels drop once again. If however you're pregnant, the developing embryo will produce HCG, which in turn maintains the corpus luteum for proper progesterone production. This in turn keeps the lining of the uterus nice and thick for the embryo.
There is a wide range for "normal" HCG levels during pregnancy. In the majority of healthy pregnancies, HCG levels will double every two to three days. Since the range of "normal" HCG levels during any particular time period is so wide, it doesn't really indicate anything if your levels are on the upper or lower side of the range. Some women think that high HCG levels indicate twins—but it's not necessarily the cause of high HCG levels. Sometimes levels may read high or low simply because the date of conception was miscalculated. While low levels may imply a miscarriage or ectopic pregnancy, they also may be meaningless.
The main thing which you should be concerned with is whether your HCG levels are doubling every two to three days as they should. If they aren't at this point in your pregnancy, it could be indicative of a problem. You'll notice that after 9-12 weeks, your levels will start to drop again—this is normal. Your doctor will be able to provide you with more information about HCG levels and help you to figure out if you're on the right track or not. Just remember that high or low HCG levels on their own indicate nothing—results must be checked with extra tests to determine whether they are significant. So if your levels are high, don't start purchasing twin sets of baby supplies yet, and if your levels are low, don't panic. Talk to your physician first for advice. If your physician thinks there is a cause for concern, more tests will be ordered and you'll find out for sure.