Low HCG Levels in Early Pregnancy

Human chorionic gonadotropin, or HCG, is a hormone which is produced by your body when you are pregnant. Its purpose is to assist your growing fetus in receiving the nutrition which it needs to develop. HCG levels can shed some light on what might be occurring in your uterus, but it’s important to remember that HCG levels are highly individual and vary with every woman. Low HCG levels don’t necessarily indicate something specific.

HCG levels are first distinguishable approximately two weeks after conception. When you take a urine pregnancy test, it’s HCG which the test is measuring for. All HCG measurements are in milli-international units per milliliter (mIU/ml).

Even as far as average HCG levels go during various stages of pregnancy there is a huge range! In the first three weeks, the average is 5-50 mIU/ml, and in the first four weeks, 5-426. In week five, the average is 18-7,340, and in week 6, 1,080-56,500. In a non-pregnant woman of breeding age, the average is less than 5.0 mIU/ml. HCG levels are expected to double every two to three days. The doubling is more relevant than the actual amount which is present.

What this means is that low levels of HCG in the early stages of pregnancy doesn’t necessarily indicate anything on their own! Again there is a huge range for “average,” and falling outside of that range still may not be particularly relevant, as long as your levels are doubling every few days. If your levels aren’t doubling, then there could be a problem. Sometimes this indicates that a miscarriage is possible, or that you have a blighted ovum or an ectopic pregnancy. An ectopic pregnancy is when the embryo is growing in the fallopian tube instead of in your uterus. A blighted ovum is an egg which has been fertilized, but remains undeveloped. Even that’s not necessarily guaranteed though. You may simply have some kind of an error in your date calculations which is throwing off your interpretation of what you see.

Low HCG levels in early pregnancy aren’t on their own a cause for alarm. “Normal” for your body may not be the same as “normal” for another woman’s body. If your levels aren’t doubling every few days it isn’t a cause to panic, but you should definitely go to the doctor’s office and get it checked out, just to make sure that there isn’t a problem. If by chance you do have an ectopic pregnancy, your life is in danger and you will have to have the developing tissue extracted before you experience a rupture.

What do you do if your HCG levels go up, and then drop? This is another indication you may have a blighted ovum. If you have a blighted ovum you usually can have the miscarriage naturally without any problems.

Monitor your HCG levels, but remember not to take them at face value. They can be a helpful indicator, but in themselves they reveal nothing objective. Hypotheses you create based on HCG levels need to be confirmed by further and more concrete evidence before you can draw any positive conclusions about your pregnancy.

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