High HCG Levels

The range for normal HCG levels during pregnancy is very broad; HCG stands for human chorionic gonadotropin, a hormone which is essential to the development of the fetus. During the early stages of pregnancy, you can expect your HCG to double every two to three days. You shouldn't necessarily expect your HCG levels to fall around the median of the allowable range. Even if you are at the upper or lower end, you could be having a completely normal, healthy pregnancy. Occasionally, however, high HCG levels can indicate something else, particularly if they are above the expected range.

Occasionally, high HCG levels may indicate that you are pregnant with twins or multiples. HCG testing alone cannot confirm whether you have more than one bundle of joy on the way, however; eventually you'll nee to confirm the presence of additional fetuses with an ultrasound reading. Ultrasound doesn't provide a clear enough image during the initial weeks of pregnancy, though, so you'll need to wait to confirm whether more than one baby is on the way.

Rarely, high HCG levels may indicate that you have an abnormal pregnancy. High HCG levels can result from a condition called a molar pregnancy. During a molar pregnancy, the tissue which is supposed to become a fetus instead becomes a tumor. You experience the symptoms of pregnancy since your body thinks you're pregnant, but you aren't really pregnant—you have a mass of tissue which needs to be removed immediately. Molar pregnancies only affect 1 in 1000 women who have pregnancy symptoms. Additional symptoms which may point toward a molar pregnancy include vaginal bleeding, a uterus which is enlarged, severe nausea and vomiting, hyperthyroidism, discomfort in the pelvis, and vaginal discharge of grape-shaped tissue. Molar pregnancies can be confirmed using a pelvic exam or an ultrasound. Molar pregnancies are treated using vacuum aspiration or surgery.

Since 999 out of 1000 women with pregnancy symptoms really are pregnant and don't have a molar pregnancy, in all likelihood your high levels point toward something innocuous. You could have twins or multiples or, more likely, you miscalculated the date of your conception and the mathematical error is making your HCG levels appear higher than they should be (since you're actually further along than you think). With a mathematical error like this, there is nothing physiological to account for your symptoms. This is far more common than twins or multiples or molar pregnancies.

Also keep in mind that the median of the range for HCG levels doesn't by any means indicate that the majority of women fall within it. Many women have HCG levels which are higher or lower than the median, and many women who appear to be outliers are perfectly healthy and will have normal, healthy pregnancies. In the absence of other symptoms, this is the most likely explanation. Your doctor will conduct further tests if your levels are concerning or if you do have other symptoms. Your high HCG levels by themselves don't confirm anything—they can only point you in the right direction.