The hCG blood test detects the presence of the substance mentioned in the test’s name. It is routinely ordered for women who are suspected to be pregnant. It can be used in a doctor’s office, hospital laboratory, or through the use of a home kit. It doesn’t have to be a blood test to determine if hCG is present as it can be also found in urine.
An hCG blood test can also be ordered to determine the exact quantity that may exist within the blood. This may also be ordered to determine the presence of a pregnancy, but it is more frequently ordered to screen out the possibility of an ectopic pregnancy instead. If the pregnancy is at-risk, this blood test may also be ordered to monitor its status.
For screening purposes, this blood test is ordered just once. For quantitative testing, however, several blood draws may be required over the course of a few days to determine the extent of a medical condition. This is especially true for an ectopic pregnancy.
When To Ask About Having an hCG Blood Test
Most women will discuss the hCG blood test to confirm the results of a home pregnancy test. It will also be ordered when a medical provider suspects that there is an ectopic pregnancy which needs to be addressed. An ectopic pregnancy will cause lower back pain, cramping in the lower abdomen, severe pain sometimes on one side of the pelvis, and abnormal bleeding.
An ectopic pregnancy’s symptoms will continue to progress if it is not treated. This can lead to abnormally low blood pressure, dizziness, fainting, weakness, and pain in the shoulders. There may also be non-specific cold or influenza-like symptoms present. It is important to have an ectopic pregnancy treated because the area around it may rupture and lead to prolonged internal bleeding that may eventually result in a heart attack.
What Do My Test Results Mean?
A vast majority of hCG blood tests will come back with either one of three specific results: positive, negative, or inconclusive. Most inconclusive tests are because of an error in the blood draw or testing methods use and can generally be corrected with a second test.
If the hCG blood test comes back as negative, then this generally means that a woman is not pregnant. A false negative can occur if the testing occurs too early in the pregnancy, so a follow-up test in a week or two may be recommended if there is a possibility that a woman could be pregnant.
If the hCG blood test is positive, then this typically indicates that a pregnancy has occurred. It will also provide a strong indication that there is an ectopic pregnancy present if this medical condition is suspected. Ectopic pregnancies see hCG levels rise more slowly when compared to a normal pregnancy. If hCG levels do not disappear after an ectopic pregnancy is confirmed, the tissues producing the concentrations will need to be removed.
Here’s What You Need to Know
The hCG blood test is recommended even after a positive home pregnancy test because of the chance that blood or protein in the urine could cause a false positive. Urine tests can also provide false results if the urine is too diluted to be useful or the test is conducted too soon in the pregnancy.
There are several drugs that women commonly take that can also provide a false negative result. The most common drug class are diuretics, which means women who consume caffeine regularly may not receive accurate hCG results, especially with an at-home test. Certain allergy medications may also cause a false negative, while sleep aids and certain prescription medications for the treatment of convulsions may create false positive results.
Some women may also develop antibodies against hCG. If these antibodies are present or if there are molecule fragments that are still floating around in the blood, then this may create a false result on every test. In this circumstance, alternative blood tests may need to be ordered to screen for a pregnancy or test for suspected medical conditions.
It may take up to 35 days for hCG levels to be eliminated after a miscarriage occurs. The average amount of time is about 20 days, so medical procedures to check for removal of the tissues creating hCG may be recommended 2-3 weeks after a miscarriage is known to have occurred. For many women, the hCG blood test provides them with essential and accurate information.
If you have specific questions about your hCG blood test results, be sure to speak with your medical provider about what they mean in regards to your medical history.