Thursday, September 22, 2011

Making sense of the hCG blood test

The HCG blood test is one of the easiest medical tests to interpret . This is because it is a very special molecule, which is produced only by the placenta during pregnancy , for all practical purposes . ( Very rarely , it can be produced by certain tumors , but these are so uncommon that we can safely ignore them). What this means is that the presence of hCG in the blood ( or in the urine ) means that the patient is pregnant . Of course , it doesn't tell us anything about the health of the pregnancy , or its location.

The major problem with interpreting the hCG result is that most people think negative means zero . They conclude that if the level is 7, this means that it is positive and they are pregnant. Unfortunately, this is not true , and a negative hCG is any level of less than 10 mIU/ml. This means that if the level is less than 10 mIU/ml, we can conclude that the patient is not pregnant .

However, a lot of women get confused by their results ( and sometimes doctors and the labs as well) add to this confusion by saying – Hey, look, your level is 11 , which means it’s a positive result and you are pregnant ! If you are confused, remember that hCG levels should not be seen in isolation . While one figure does give valuable information , serial HCG levels are far more useful, because the levels will keep on rising and doubling every 48 to 72 hours in a healthy pregnancy.

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