What Are Normal hCG Levels in Early Pregnancy?

The Trend Is More Important Than Any Single Number

pregnant woman getting blood drawn
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Human chorionic gonadotropin, or hCG, is a hormone produced during pregnancy in the cells of the placenta. Especially in early pregnancy, the amount of hCG present in the mother's body rises rapidly. In fact, it is the hormone detected in the urine by at-home pregnancy tests.

It is also found in blood as early as 11 days after conception, and when a physician wants to confirm a woman's pregnancy, he or she will often order one or more quantitative hCG blood tests.

 The test identifies the amount of hCG in the mother's blood, expressed as an amount by milli-international units of hCG hormone per milliliter of blood (mIU/ml). 

How Physicians Interpret hCG Results

It is important to note that any single hCG test in early pregnancy does not tell much about the health of a pregnancy or fetus because individual women have wide variation in hCG​ levels, and even one woman may experience wide variation in hCG numbers from one pregnancy to the next.

Rather, physicians look at the trend in the number among two or more tests. The hCG doubling time, over two separate blood tests spread over a period of days, usually provides more useful information than a single hCG level when evaluating a pregnancy. In most cases, the number will double over a period of 48 to 72 hours. 

Typical hCG Results

That being said, the American Pregnancy Association cites the following chart as ranges of hCG typical of most pregnancies, based on the number of weeks from the woman’s last menstrual period:

  • 3 weeks: 5 - 50 mIU/ml
  • 4 weeks: 5 - 426 mIU/ml
  • 5 weeks: 18 - 7,340 mIU/ml
  • 6 weeks: 1,080 - 56,500 mIU/ml
  • 7 - 8 weeks: 7, 650 - 229,000 mIU/ml
  • 9 - 12 weeks: 25,700 - 288,000 mIU/ml
  • 13 - 16 weeks: 13,300 - 254,000 mIU/ml
  • 17 - 24 weeks: 4,060 - 165,400 mIU/ml
  • 25 - 40 weeks: 3,640 - 117,000 mIU/ml
  • Non-pregnant women: <5.0 mIU/ml
  • Postmenopausal women: <9.5 mIU/ml

Remember that these ranges are based on the length of the pregnancy dated from the last menstrual period and any woman with abnormal cycles may see variation in these ranges. For example, a woman with six-week menstrual cycles at eight weeks after her last menstrual period should fall roughly in the same range as a woman with four-week menstrual cycles would at four weeks after her last menstrual period.

When hCG Results Can Signal a Problem

In instances where a first hCG measurement is lower than expected, or when there is cause to worry about miscarriage due to previous loss or other symptoms, a second test will most likely be ordered. When there is a decline in the level of hCG from the first test to the second test, this often means a miscarriage may take place, also known as impending miscarriage.

If you are concerned about your hCG levels, you should direct your questions to your physician and try not to read too much into any single measurement.

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Sources:

American Pregnancy Association, "Human Chorionic Gonadotropin (hCG): The Pregnancy Hormone." July 2007. Accessed 17 Jan 2008.

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