What are normal HCG levels in early pregnancy?

Most home pregnancy tests detect the amount of human chorionic gonadotropin, or hCG, in the urine, as this is the main indicator of pregnancy. While the minimum amount of hCG required for any pregnancy is about 5 mIU/mL, hCG levels in early pregnancy vary widely. A pregnancy that is detected very early, about four weeks after the last menstrual period, should have between 5 and 426 mIU/ml. In most pregnancies, this number should double approximately every 48 to 72 hours to indicate viability.

Most home pregnancy tests can detect a level of about 20 mIU/ml, which means it may be too early to test positive on the day of the first missed period, as levels can still be below 20 at that point. For this reason, many women do not test positive before six weeks of gestation, at which point their hCG level should be between 1,080 and 56,500. Around this point, it should be possible to see a heartbeat on an ultrasound, as this usually requires at least 2,000 mIU/mL to be accurate. It should be noted that hCG levels in early pregnancy are often lower in urine than in blood, so blood tests are likely to be more accurate and therefore good at detecting pregnancy less than four weeks after the last menstrual period.

It's clear that there is a wide range of acceptable hCG levels in early pregnancy, so the real indicator of viability is typically whether levels double as they should. No matter what the starting number is, it should double every two to three days, although some pregnancies increase levels at a slightly slower or faster rate for no particular reason. To find out if levels are steadily rising, a woman usually needs to go to the doctor for a blood test and then come back two or three days later for another blood test.

Having hCG levels early in pregnancy that do not rise, but instead begin to decline, usually indicates a miscarriage. On the other hand, levels that rise at an extremely rapid rate could indicate a molar pregnancy, which is when a placenta forms without a fetus or a fetus forms incorrectly and doesn't survive long inside the uterus. Women who have hCG levels early in pregnancy that start low and rise very slowly may be experiencing an ectopic pregnancy, which is when the fetus implants outside the uterus and is unable to grow properly. This type of pregnancy usually ends on its own or must be medically terminated to prevent harm to the mother, such as internal bleeding. Clearly, keeping up with hCG levels, especially before six weeks, can tell a lot about how likely a pregnancy will progress.

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