A blood sample is needed. This is most often taken from a vein. The procedure is called a venipuncture.
How to Prepare for the Test
No special preparation is needed.
How the Test will Feel
When the needle is inserted to draw blood, some people feel moderate pain. Others feel only a prick or stinging sensation. Afterward, there may be some throbbing.
Why the Test is Performed
HCG appears in the blood and urine of pregnant women as early as 10 days after conception. Quantitative HCG measurement helps determine the exact age of the fetus. It can also assist in the diagnosis of abnormal pregnancies, such as ectopic pregnancies, molar pregnancies, and possible miscarriages. It is also used as part of a screening test for Down syndrome.
This test is also done to diagnose abnormal conditions not related to pregnancy that can raise HCG level.
Results are given in milli-international units per milliliter (mUI/mL).
Normal levels are found in:
Non-pregnant women: less than 5 mIU/mL
Healthy men: less than 2 mIU/mL
In pregnancy, HCG level rises rapidly during the first trimester and then declines slightly. The expected HCG ranges in pregnant women are based on the length of the pregnancy.
3 weeks: 5 - 72 mIU/mL
4 weeks: 10 -708 mIU/mL
5 weeks: 217 - 8,245 mIU/mL
6 weeks: 152 - 32,177 mIU/mL
7 weeks: 4,059 - 153,767 mIU/mL
8 weeks: 31,366 - 149,094 mIU/mL
9 weeks: 59,109 - 135,901 mIU/mL
10 weeks: 44,186 - 170,409 mIU/mL
12 weeks: 27,107 - 201,165 mIU/mL
14 weeks: 24,302 - 93,646 mIU/mL
15 weeks: 12,540 - 69,747 mIU/mL
16 weeks: 8,904 - 55,332 mIU/mL
17 weeks: 8,240 - 51,793 mIU/mL
18 weeks: 9,649 - 55,271 mIU/mL
Normal value ranges may vary slightly among different laboratories. Talk to your provider about the meaning of your specific test result.
What Abnormal Results Mean
Higher than normal level may indicate:
More than one fetus, for example, twins or triplets
Jain S, Pincus MR, Bluth MH, McPherson RA, Bowne WB, Lee P. Diagnosis and management of cancer using serological and other body fluid markers. In: McPherson RA, Pincus MR, eds. Henry's Clinical Diagnosis and Management by Laboratory Methods. 23rd ed. St Louis, MO: Elsevier; 2017:chap 74.
Jeelani R, Bluth MH. Reproductive function and pregnancy. In: McPherson RA, Pincus MR, eds. Henry's Clinical Diagnosis and Management by Laboratory Methods. 23rd ed. St Louis, MO: Elsevier; 2017:chap 25.
LaQuita Martinez, MD, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Emory Johns Creek Hospital, Alpharetta, GA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.