Supports Pregnancy, Birth Testing, and Fertility Therapy
chorionic gonadotropin, or hCG, is a hormone produced during
pregnancy that nourishes the egg after fertilization and once it has
attached itself to the uterine wall. The hormone is also used to
conduct birth-related testing and to provide fertility therapy for
women and reproductive hormone therapy for men.
For example, pregnancy tests look for the presence of hCG to determine
whether a woman is pregnant. Some levels can be detected by a urine
test as early as 11 days after conception. Generally, the levels double
every 72 hours and peak in the first eight to 11 weeks of pregnancy. It
then gradually declines until it levels off for the rest of the
pregnancy. An hCG level of less than 5 mIU/ml is considered to be
negative for pregnancy and 25 mlU/ml and above is considered positive.
After a woman gives birth, the hormone will no longer be present.
Two common types of hCG test are the qualitative hCG test and the
quantitative hCG test. The qualitative test determines if the hormone
is present in the blood. The quantitative test measures the actual
amount of the hormone present. The hormone increases the number of eggs
that are released monthly into the womb.
A side effect of certain tumors, primarily those related to egg or
sperm, may abnormally produce hCG. In women with abnormal uterine
tissue growth, molar pregnancy, or cancer of the uterus, hCG levels are
tested. Sometimes a test for the hormone is done after a woman
experiences a miscarriage, just to be sure that a molar pregnancy is
not happening. In men, hCG can be measured to determine the presence of
Measuring hCG can also determine the presence of birth defects in a
fetus. Two ways to determine if hCG is present are through blood
testing and urine testing. The maternal serum triple or quadruple
screening tests are part of prenatal care and can determine if there
are any birth defects present by the level of hCG in the blood.
Usually, this test is done between 15 and 20 weeks into the pregnancy
and looks at the levels of three or four substances in the woman's
For women who choose to use fertility drugs, the two most popular are
clomiphene and human menopausal gonadotropin, or hMG. Typically, hMG is
used with hCG. HMG can also be used to treat men with primary
hypogonadotropic hypogonadism, which is a pituitary gland deficiency
that prevents the production of sperm. Receiving hCG can also benefit
women who are experiencing an ovulation or irregular menstruation.
However, common side effects of hCG include discomfort in the abdomen,
fatigue, headaches, irritability, tenderness of the breasts, and water
retention. The hormone is typically administered through an injection a
few days before ovulation begins.
For men who need reproductive hormone therapy, clomiphene is taken
daily in a pill form and encourages the pituitary gland to make
luteinizing hormone and follicle-stimulating hormone, which stimulates
the testicles to produce testosterone and sperm. In the case of men who
require hCG or a combination of hCG and hMG, injections are given two
or three times a week.
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