Also known as:

  • Qualitative urine pregnancy test.
  • hCG urine test.
  • beta-hCG test (β-hCG).
  • Quanlitative urine beta-HCG test.
  • Pregnancy test.

What is The Human Chorionic Gonadotropin Test?

hCG is a hormone secreted in the initial stages of pregnancy by the trophoblasts of the fertilized ovum that supports the corpus luteum to secrete estrogen and progesterone. The human chorionic gonadotropin test determines hCG hormone levels in the urine during pregnancy. It is produced by the cells present in your placenta that nourish the egg after fertilization and connect to the uterine wall. 

It is possible to detect hCG in a urine sample about 15 days after conception. The hCG levels keep increasing two folds every 48 to 72 hours. It is usual for hCG levels to reach their peak around 7-10 weeks, then decrease and level off, remaining consistent for the rest of the pregnancy.

The hCG levels can be detected either in blood or urine to confirm the pregnancy. However, the urine test can only show whether the sample is positive or negative for hCG; hence, it is qualitative. On the other hand, the beta hCG is a quantitative test, which helps determine the exact amount of hCG present in your blood sample. 

What is the Test Used For?

Your doctor may suggest an hCG test to confirm pregnancy at the initial prenatal visits after a positive at-home test or urine test. However, an hCG quantitative test is not necessary for routine pregnancies. Most practitioners prefer going for a transvaginal ultrasound for visible evidence that everything is smooth in your pregnancy. 

A beta-hCG test is also used in complicated, high-risk pregnancies or miscarriages. In such circumstances, your doctor might advise you to repeat the test every two days to assess how rapidly hCG levels are rising.

Why and when do you need a beta-hCG test?

Other than pregnancy confirmation, your doctor may advise this test if you are undergoing fertility treatments right before your menstruation date to see if your efforts are bringing positive changes. Healthcare teams caring for those women who take hCG shots to increase their chances of getting pregnant need to accurately time a beta-hCG test to ensure that the medicine has entirely left the body and will not alter test results. 

This test is also needed in some other cases such as: 

  • Determining the age of a fetus 

While a beta-hCG test cannot always tell you precisely about the gestational age, your results and the date of your last period can give your doctor a general idea, as hCG ranges change every week in the first trimester.

  • Fetal screening 

A beta hCG is also a part of the screening tests done between the second and third trimester of pregnancy to evaluate fetal health problem markers, including Down syndrome.

Outside of pregnancy, Beta hCG has been deemed a tumor marker, meaning it is a hormone excreted in some types of cancers. That's why doctors recommend an hCG blood test to diagnose and manage certain cancers. That includes lung cancer, breast cancer, and the cancer of the uterus. 

Do you need to prepare for the test?

No specific preparation is needed for the hCG urine test.  

Is the hCG urine test always correct?

No, the hCG urine test is not 100 percent precise every time. 

You may get both false-negative results and false-positive results from an hCG test for pregnancy. Your doctor will advise you to repeat the test in case of any doubt. 

False-negative test results:

A negative beta-hCG test means you are not pregnant. However, if the test is performed too early in pregnancy, the levels are not high enough to get detected. A false-negative test result shows that a woman isn't pregnant, when in fact, she is. It happens because hCG levels change rapidly during early pregnancy. Repeating the hCG tests within 48 to 72 hours is recommended to avoid getting false-negative results. 

False-positive results:

On the other hand, it is possible to detect hCG in some non-pregnant conditions, causing a false-positive hCG pregnancy test. A False-positive result shows you are pregnant when you are not. You may get a false-positive result if your body produces specific types of antibodies that have traces of the hCG molecule, or sometimes a lab error might give you false results.

Related Tests: Serum Progesterone test, Estrogen,  Non-Invasive Prenatal Screening (NIPS), First Trimester Screening, Maternal Serum Screening Second Trimester, HCG tumor marker

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