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HCG Blood Test: How It Works and What It Means To Get a Positive Test Result

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The human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG) blood test detects HCG in a woman’s body through a blood sample. HCG is typically produced when a woman is pregnant – making it a perfect biomarker for pregnancy. However, at-home test kits may still fail to detect the chemical, especially when it’s still released in lesser amounts. 

In this article, we explore how HCG levels blood tests work and the accuracy of the results. 

What Is an HCG Blood Test?

HCG blood test identifies and measures the HCG produced by a pregnant woman depending on whether you get the qualitative or quantitative type. 

Six days after a fertilized egg attaches to the uterus wall, HCG is produced through the placenta and increases twice every two to three days. 

Women also vary in hCG production, which is why some test positive early on using a pregnancy test kit while others take a long time getting a plus sign. 

For those getting false negative tests, doctors usually request an HCG pregnancy blood test to detect the hormone in the blood instead of the urine. Since HCG appears more abundantly in the blood, the HCG levels blood test is often deemed more accurate.  

But aside from confirming pregnancy, an HCG blood test also detects complications like ectopic pregnancy. Typically, a woman is suspected of having this type of pregnancy when the hCG levels are fluctuating – rising and falling instead of steadily increasing. 

Types of hCG Blood Test: Quantitative and Qualitative 

An HCG blood test can be quantitative or qualitative based on its purpose. A qualitative HCG blood test detects the presence of HCG, while the quantitative HCG test measures the amount of the hormone. 

Learn more about their differences and implications when reading quantitative vs. qualitative HCG blood tests

How Is an HCG Blood Test Done?

Unlike at-home test kits, you must undergo blood extraction for an HCG blood test. For this procedure, you’ll need to have the blood collected by a phlebotomist or medical technician as it involves venipuncture. This process requires inserting a needle into a vein in the upper arm for blood to be drawn out. 

After this stage, the sample will be analyzed in a laboratory for an accurate blood test result. No special preparation is required before the blood sample collection. Therefore, you can schedule it anytime. 

What Does an HCG-Positive Result Mean?

A positive HCG blood test result suggests pregnancy in the same way as a urine test. That is, if the test is a qualitative pregnancy blood test.   

However, if you get the quantitative pregnancy blood test, you will get additional information, specifically, how much HCG you produce. This means it will help your obstetrician determine the age of the fetus and how far along you are in the pregnancy.  

Furthermore, a quantitative HCG test also provides insights into abnormal pregnancies and possible miscarriages. For example, if the amount of HCG does not increase at the rate expected weeks after the implantation, there’s a chance that the pregnancy will terminate. 

Can You Have HCG in Your Blood Even If You’re Not Pregnant?

It is possible to produce HCG outside pregnancy – but it’s not exactly good news. 

An HCG blood test is also used to diagnose specific cancers and disorders. The overproduction of HCG can be abnormally triggered by different cancers such as breast, ovarian, and lung cancers. It also elevates through ulcers, cirrhosis, and irritable bowel syndrome. 

As a result, HCG becomes a biomarker for these health conditions. 

Furthermore, men can also have HCG in their blood. Thus, doctors often order an HCG blood test as part of their diagnostic procedure for testicular cancer. 

When Is the Best Time To Take an HCG Blood Test?

The best time to take a pregnancy test for a more accurate result is to wait until the first day of a missed period. However, HCG pregnancy blood tests can spot HCG hormones right before missing your period. 

Nonetheless, this timeframe is ideal for testing since implantation, or the process where the embryo attaches to the uterus occurs around this period. 

Where To Get an HCG Pregnancy Blood Test?

Unlike a typical urine pregnancy test, you can’t buy an HCG blood test in drug stores or general shops. But you can order it online at Personalabs. 

Simply place an order for either a qualitative pregnancy blood test or a quantitative HCG test, and select from one of the partner patient centers near you to book a schedule. 

After taking the test, your results will be forwarded to your account, which you can print or save. Then, show the results to your gynecologist or schedule a telehealth consultation. 

Bottom Line 

HCG blood tests can provide you with more accurate pregnancy results than HCG urine tests. If you’re getting inconsistent results from at-home pregnancy test kits, consider getting a blood test to finally confirm pregnancy. This way, you’ll save yourself from the emotional strains of mentally guessing whether you’re expecting or not.   

Medically Approved By Dr. Edward Salko, MD

Dr. Edward Salko is the board-certified physician who reviews lab tests provided by PERSONALABS™. He earned his Bachelor of Science in chemistry and pre-med from the University of Florida in Gainesville and his Doctor of Osteopathy Medicine in 1980 from Kansas City University School of Medicine.

Dr. Salko’s career has specialized in family and emergency medicine. His passion is to provide clients with the tools they need in the most convenient way possible to allow them to take charge of their own healthcare. He has held a variety of positions in Kansas, Florida and Washington. Currently, in addition to his duties as Medical Director for Personalabs, he is a practicing emergency physician in Kennewick, Washington.

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