We’re all aware that home pregnancy tests are a means of finding out whether you’re with child or not. But what we don’t know is how these tests work. What a urine pregnancy test detects is the levels of HCG in our urine. HCG or human chorionic gonadotropin is a term you will hear about a lot during pregnancy. It is the primary pregnancy hormone. When the implantation or attaching of the embryo on to the uterus occurs, our body starts producing higher levels of HCG, indicating that we are pregnant.
The rise in this hormone sends a signal to our corpus luteum, to tell it to keep producing progesterone which stops our uterine lining from shedding (as it normally would during periods.) So basically, this is the hormone that’s responsible for creating the structure of your womb!
Here are some facts to know about HCG in case you have just entered your first trimester of pregnancy:
- HCG is typically considered to be the pregnancy hormone, but every woman, pregnant or not, has a low level of HCG present in their body (less than 5 IU/mL).
- When your beta HCG (Bhcg) report levels go further than 25 IU/Ml, then there is a high chance that you are pregnant.
- One way to detect miscarriages are by testing out HCG levels in the blood. Your doctor may recommend a bHCG report to be done every few days to check how fast HCG is being producing in the first trimester of pregnancy.
- Your HCG should double every 48-72 hours when you are in the very beginning of pregnancy.
- Home pregnancy tests can detect that there is HCG in your urine, but they cannot tell you how much of it is present. This is why a visit to your OBGYN after getting a positive on a urine pregnancy test is of utmost importance to confirm pregnancy.
When it comes to confirming pregnancy at home, you must always wait for around 2 weeks before taking a home pregnancy test. After implantation of the embryo to the uterus, our bodies take some time before the HCG levels can really rise significantly. So, it will end up taking at least 2 weeks for HCG levels to be high enough to be detected through a urine pregnancy test! Many a times the excitement of pregnancy and the anticipation can make us impatient. If you do the test on the first day of your missed period and it’s negative, don’t lose heart. Check again in another week or so. Mostly, a positive on a baby prediction test is a pretty good indicator that you are pregnant. A negative however, not so much. There’s still always a question mark when it comes to that, so visit your doctor to be 100% sure.
Once you know that you are pregnant, here is a guideline to normal HCG levels during the first trimester of pregnancy for your reference:
- positive pregnancy test - more than 25 U/L
- about 4 weeks after the last menstrual period (average 1 week before first missed period) - 0 to 750 U/L
- about 5 weeks after the last period (week after first missed period) - 200 to 7,340 U/L
- about 6 weeks after the last period - 200 to 32,000 U/L
- about 7th weeks after the last period - 3,000 to 160,000 U/L
Generally, HCG levels are at the highest during the end of your first trimester of pregnancy and then they gradually taper down during the rest of your pregnancy.
Our hormones are the messengers of the body, telling it to carry out certain processes. When any hormone falls below the needed amount or goes higher than the needed amount, problems tend to occur. Here are some common problems for you to be aware of that women face when HCG levels are not at normal:
- Miscarriage: When there is a decline in the bHCG reports from the first test to the second test, it is indicative of a problem. Normally your HCG should be doubling up during the initial week of the first trimester of pregnancy. If the levels are falling, this means that there is a change of miscarriage, or that there are been a miscarriage. A miscarriage is a pregnancy loss. It will mostly occur before the 20-week mark of the pregnancy. If the HCG levels don’t rise enough then your doctor will take frequent bHCG tests to monitor the levels.
- Blighted Ovum: When a fertilized egg does not turn into an embryo and does not implant itself onto the uterus, then this type of miscarriage is called a blighted ovum. It fails to develop any further and your period continues as normal. Your HCG levels tend to be normal or stay low should this problem occur.
There are a few remedies or things to keep in mind to treat levels of HCG.
- Always take prenatal vitamins and make sure you get enough folic acid supplements while trying to get pregnant, and throughout the pregnancy. A healthy body is the foundation to treat any problem.
- If the HCG levels remain low, then your doctor will prescribe medication to increase the levels of the hormone in your body. This should be followed to the T because hormonal processes are very delicate and can be disruptive if not done correctly.
- Don’t buy into any fads or products that claim to raise HCG levels. They can do serious damage if taken without a physician’s prescription!
It’s important to remember that while there are guidelines as to what your HCG levels should look like every week, each body is different. You may have a slower build up to your HCG levels as compared to the average. It’s hard to not get carried away by the numbers, but it will be so much better for your peace of mind! As always, consult your doctor if you have any further doubts.