Should I Worry About a High hCG Level?

Find Out Whether It's Worth Losing Sleep Over a High hCG Level

Female doctor taking blood sample of a pregnant woman
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The hormone hCG stands for human chorionic gonadotropin, and it's produced during pregnancy. According to the American Pregnancy Association, your level of hCG hormone can first be detected by your doctor via a blood test roughly 11 days after conception and via a urine test approximately 12 to 14 days after conception. The level of this hormone usually builds to a climax between the second and third months of pregnancy and then drops.

What Is a High hCG Level?

Determining what, exactly, constitutes a "high" hCG level is a little fuzzy, because the normal range of hCG levels in early pregnancy is wide, and women's hCG levels can rise and fall at different rates. But there are general guidelines that doctors refer to, depending on how far along you are in your pregnancy.

What High Levels of hCG Can Mean

A high hCG level could indicate a few different things—most of which are not concerning, but one of which is. It might mean that the calculation of your pregnancy date is incorrect and that you're further along than you previously thought. It could signal that you're having more than one child, such as twins or triplets. It could be a result of a fertility drug that you're taking that contains hCG. It could mean nothing at all—some women have a high hCG level and continue on with a normal pregnancy and have a single, healthy baby.

Or it could be a sign of a molar pregnancy, which is serious.

About Molar Pregnancies

A molar pregnancy is an abnormality of the placenta that is, fortunately, pretty rare. It happens in 1 out of every 1,000 pregnancies. A molar pregnancy occurs when there is a genetic error that happens when the sperm and the egg come together at the fertilization stage and this causes a certain type of tissue—a noncancerous tumor—to grow inside the uterus.

Instead of a healthy embryo forming that will develop into a baby, a mass of grape-like cysts forms. As a result, there is no viable pregnancy.

Symptoms of a molar pregnancy include no fetal movement or heart tone, high blood pressure, intense nausea/vomiting, anemia, hyperthyroidism, fast uterine growth, preeclampsia, ovarian cysts, the passage of the tumor through the vagina, and vaginal spotting or bleeding that's dark brown or bright red. A sonogram and pelvic exam will confirm a diagnosis, and the tissue either comes out of your body naturally or has to be removed.

After a molar pregnancy, you may have to wait six months to a year to conceive again. Sometimes, after the molar tissue is removed, it can keep growing and cause complications, such as vaginal bleeding and even a rare form of cancer, so your doctor will likely monitor you. Chemotherapy and/or hysterectomy are sometimes used as treatments.

The Bottom Line About hCG

If you are experiencing any unusual symptoms during your pregnancy or if your doctor has any cause for concern about an elevated hCG level, your physician may re-check your hCG level in two or three days to see if it has changed. It is likely that your doctor will use several medical tools—such as a sonogram and a pelvic exam—in addition to monitoring your hCG level to get a broader picture of your pregnancy and your health.


American Pregnancy Association, “hCG levels.” July 2007.

Jick, MD, Bryan. "hCG Levels in Early Pregnancy." Pregnancy Corner (2015).

"Molar Pregnancy Definition." Mayo Clinic (2014).

"Molar Pregnancy: Symptoms, Risks and Treatment" American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (2015).

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