At our Houston fertility center, we understand the anxiety and questions that tend to arise with the prospect of becoming pregnant. We therefore make a concerted effort to keep potential mothers informed about the process of in vitro fertilization (IVF), from the beginning of the procedure through the ensuing pregnancy. Thankfully, our state-of-the-art technology eliminates the need for guesswork, allowing us to report directly on the status of an embryo and its development.
The hCG hormone play an important role in the initiation and monitoring of an IVF procedure. If you plan on receiving IVF, take a moment to learn what these levels mean and how they are used throughout fertility treatment.
What Is hCG?
Human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) is a hormone that is naturally produced during pregnancy. HCG levels continue to rise in relation to the presence of the placenta, which supports and nourishes the growing egg. In this way, the amount of hCG present at a given time can be a good indicator of an embryo’s condition and progress. The hCG levels can also be used via injection to stimulate ovulation and fertility prior to IVF.
HCG Injection Prior to IVF
In order for IVF to take place, great care must be taken to ensure that healthy, mature eggs are used for fertilization. By injecting a woman with hCG, ovulation will be induced and multiple ovarian follicles should be ready for retrieval within 36 hours. Depending on the observed condition of the follicles, such as their size and quantity, a specific time will be set for them to be retrieved.
HCG Levels to Determine Pregnancy
After IVF, a qualitative test will be used to determine whether or not a woman is pregnant. This measures whether there is any detectable level of hCG in the bloodstream, which would positively indicate pregnancy. The same method is used for over-the-counter pregnancy tests, which measure these levels via a urine sample; however, a professional test is far more accurate. After IVF, it’s best to wait a couple of weeks before testing for pregnancy, as the initial hormone injections may provide a false positive.
HCG Levels throughout Pregnancy
As an embryo develops, hCG levels will continue to rise within the body. Through a quantitative analysis, the level can be measured more accurately to give you and your doctor a better idea of your progress. Generally, the hCG level will double every two to three days, resulting in a certain range per week. In the third week, for instance, there may be anywhere from five to 50 mIU/mL of hCG. By the sixth week, this number is expected to be between 1,080 and 56,500 mIU/mL. Due to the tremendous variance in individual measurements, the best way to evaluate the results of hCG levels is by comparing them with one another throughout a single pregnancy.
What Do hCG Levels Mean?
If an hCG level appears higher or lower than expected, it can mean multiple things:
- High hCG levels: Higher-than-expected hCG may indicate a pregnancy that is further along than initially estimated. It can also be evidence of more than one embryo/fetus developing at once. In some cases, high hCG is indicative of a molar pregnancy, which is a genetic error in fertilization that results in the early termination of an empty egg.
- Low hCG levels: Lower-than-expected hCG may indicate a pregnancy that is in an earlier stage than initially estimated. It may also indicate a miscarriage, a failed embryo due to a blighted ovum, or an ectopic pregnancy.
For any seemingly abnormal levels, follow-up diagnostics and tests can be administered, such as ultrasound imaging.
Learn More about IVF
If you are considering IVF as a way to become pregnant, or you have a question about a recent IVF procedure, we will gladly address any of your questions and concerns.Our fertility center offers a variety of services for mothers- and fathers-to-be, including treatments for infertility and holistic services. Contact our office to schedule an appointment with us.