Human chorionic gonadotropin or HCG test for pregnancy
Human chorionic gonadotropin, also known as HCG, is a hormone that is produced by the cells that are found around the growing human embryo. These cells eventually form the placenta.
The HCG test is conducted to check for the HCG hormone in the blood or urine of a person. There are two types of checkups. One helps in determining the presence of the HCG hormone in the blood or urine, whereas the other helps in measuring the exact amount of the hormone present. These tests help in determining if a woman is pregnant and are also a part of the screening test for birth defects.
The HCG hormone can also be present in the body due to tumors that come from an egg or sperm. It is important to test the level of HCG hormone in women who have abnormal tissues growing in their uterus, a molar pregnancy, or cancer in the uterus. There are many HCG tests that need to be done after a woman has a miscarriage to confirm there is no molar pregnancy.
- HCG and pregnancy
The HCG hormone can be confirmed in the urine from 7 to 9 days post-fertilization. This is mainly because the embryo attaches and implants in the womb. After the fertilized egg implants in the womb, the developing placenta starts discharging HCG into the blood. There are chances that some of the HCG gets passed into the urine, too.
HCG is responsible for maintaining the pregnancy. It affects the development of the fetus to a great extent and disappears from the blood soon after the delivery. Once a woman has missed her first menstrual period, a blood test can easily confirm if she is pregnant. An HCG test can confirm pregnancy within a week after implantation.
In case of multiple pregnancies, more HCG is released into the bloodstream or urine. So, if a woman has twins or triplets in her womb, the HCG level in her blood will be more as compared to the woman who has a single pregnancy. Less HCG in the blood indicates an ectopic pregnancy. An ectopic pregnancy occurs when the fertilized egg implants in the fallopian tube instead of the uterus.
- HCG blood and urine test
An HCG blood test can determine the presence of HCG hormone and also measure its exact amount. It can also be used to check pregnancy, abnormalities, or HCG-related cancers.
An HCG urine test is usually done for routine pregnancy. It only confirms pregnancy and does not measure the amount of HCG present.
- The main reasons for performing HCG tests are:
- To check if a woman is pregnant
- To find an ectopic pregnancy
- To figure out the right treatment of a molar pregnancy
- To check for birth defects in the child
- To check for cancer of the ovaries or testicles
It is believed that a blood test for HCG is more accurate as compared to the urine test. A urine test for pregnancy can show negative results even if the woman is pregnant. Hence, for more accurate results, it is advisable to opt for a blood test.
In case of a pregnant woman, a very high amount of HCG indicates multiple pregnancies like twins or triplets, molar pregnancy, or Down syndrome. Whereas, in case of a man or non-pregnant woman, a high level of HCG indicates a tumor. This tumor can either be cancerous or noncancerous. High levels of HCG in non-pregnant ladies or men can indicate stomach cancer, pancreas cancer, large intestine cancer, or liver cancer.
Low levels of HCG in pregnant women indicate ectopic pregnancy or the death of the baby. If the level of HCG decreases abnormally, then this may lead to a miscarriage.
- Things that affect the accuracy of the test
- An HCG test after a miscarriage or therapeutic abortion shows positive results for up to 4 weeks even in the absence of pregnancy.
- Getting a urine test done in an early pregnancy phase
- Giving a urine sample for testing that has been taken in the middle of the day
- Urine sample that contains blood can affect the accuracy of measuring HCG level
- If the container in which the sample is collected has soap in it, the HCG results may be inaccurate.
- Getting an HCG test done when on medications like Ambien, prochlorperazine, and promethazine can affect the accuracy of the test.
The levels of HCG in the urine and blood form the basis of the over-the-counter and hospital pregnancy tests. You can buy these over-the-counter pregnancy test kits online to check if HCG is present in your body. To check the exact amount of human chorionic gonadotropin, you will have to visit the hospital. There are many pregnancy test kits that are sold by various brands online that you can buy to check the presence of Human Chorionic Gonadotropin in your urine.