When it turns out a woman has a missed period she starts thinking about a possible pregnancy. She looks for different symptoms which should prove her right. But the most credible way to detect pregnancy even before a missed period is an hCG blood test. It helps to diagnose pregnancy before the usual express-tests.
What is hCG?
HCG blood test is an analysis of a blood sample for human chorionic gonadotropin level. This hormone considerably increases inside of a female body after the process of implantation into the uterine cavity has successfully ended. Common pregnancy tests are based on the same principle but they show the hCG level in urine. In comparison with blood the concentration of the hormone there is far less. That’s why a blood test detects pregnancy much earlier.
Besides, hCG blood test makes it possible to detect not only pregnancy but also different diseases which may cause the increase in this hormone. During pregnancy hCG normally increases twice every day. The repeated blood test can reveal ectopic pregnancy or miscarriage. Such complications become evident by a halt in the production of hCG or its shortage in blood.
How soon can a blood test detect pregnancy?
There are situations when women need to know they’re pregnant even before a missed period. They should include cases when pregnancy is unwanted or its normal course is maintained with the help of progesterone medications.
The point is when a woman lacks progesterone she is taking these medications immediately after the ovulation. It is necessary for the correct implantation of the embryo into the uterine cavity. 10-12 days after the ovulation the woman should pass an hCG blood test. If she is not pregnant the progesterone medications are canceled; this usually causes a menstruation. If the woman is pregnant and stops taking her medications she won’t be able to keep the baby. There will be an early miscarriage. That’s why a lot of women prefer this method to detect pregnancy.
You can be provided with clear results of an hCG blood test after only 2-3 days since the implantation. As a rule, the implantation process happens about 7 days before a missed period. However, if there are no specific indications health professionals recommend passing a blood test after a missed period.
When is the best time to pass a blood test?
A blood test for human chorionic gonadotropin not only helps to detect pregnancy but also shows its approximate term. You only have to know the exact date of implantation. After that day hCG level begins to increase twice per day. If on the first day its level reaches 4 units of measure the next day it’ll become 8 units. On the third day – 16. A woman is officially pregnant if her hCG level has reached 5 units.
Thus, you can pass an hCG blood test in the earliest terms of pregnancy. However, medical experts advise to pass a blood test after a missed period if there are no indications for the procedure and to repeat it a few times later. It’s necessary for tracing the dynamics of hCG level growth.
How to prepare for a blood test?
Any medical examination has its requirements. The observation of such rules helps to provide the most accurate results. First of all, it’s necessary to discuss a possible intake of hormonal medications with your physician. You should remember if there has been an hCG injection a few days before going through a blood test because it can have a great influence on the results of the test.
Besides, you should consider the following rules:
- You should pass a blood test on an empty stomach in the morning;
- If you don’t pass the test in the morning, then there should have passed more than 6 hours from your last meal;
- You shouldn’t do exercise the day before the blood test;
- You hardly can interpret the results of the blood test correctly – it’s better to turn to your doctor for a professional opinion.
The blood test is performed by a medical specialist trained in this specific area of expertise in a clinic. As a rule, the lab is situated on its territory. In rare cases the biomaterial is sent to the closest diagnostics institution. An expert takes blood from the vein on your arm after applying a tourniquet. While the blood sample is taken you may experience some short-term discomfort and sting from the needle.
After the sample is taken your arm should keep in bent position for some time for the bleeding to stop. After a few minutes the unpleasant sensations and bleeding will cease completely.
Possible complications after the blood sample is taken
The possibility of complications after an hCG blood test is very small. The most wide-spread are bruises in the place of the puncture. It can happen because of a medic’s incompetence or if the patient flinched. Phlebitis is a rarer complication. You’ll be able to recognize it by uncomfortable swelling of the vein. You can apply warm compresses to get rid of phlebitis.
There is also a possibility of bleeding if you have low coagulability of the blood. If it’s your situation you should warn the health professional before the procedure. Even if you blood coagulability is normal you can face the same problems after taking anticoagulants. If you’ve been taking such medications recently, tell the medics about it as well.
What if your hCG level isn’t normal?
There is a normal level of hCG on every stage of pregnancy. If there are deviations there should be some reason for them. Raised hCG doesn’t necessarily mean you have a pathology. It can also identify that the term of pregnancy hasn’t been ascertained correctly or you have multiple pregnancy. In exceptional cases your baby may have Down syndrome. For a more exact diagnosis, in this case, other tests may be scheduled.
If a woman is pregnant with twins her hCG level will be twice as more as during normal pregnancy, triplets cause this hormone level to raise even higher. Low hCG level is a sign of danger. But in this case, it’s necessary to trace the dynamics of its increase and then draw any conclusions.
The reason for low hCG can be an underdeveloped or a stillborn baby. Sometimes low hCG is a symptom of ectopic pregnancy.
To verify the diagnosis your doctor should perform a pelvic ultrasound.
What is a triple test?
An hCG blood test can be prescribed not only to detect pregnancy. There is a test that’s called “triple test”. It shows a possibility of abnormal fetal development. Besides the Down syndrome, there are other diseases which such a test can detect. For example, neural tube pathologies, various systems of organs defects, or Turner syndrome. However, the test result can be incorrect. So, even if the result of this test is positive, don’t fall into despair.
The triple test also detects the levels of estriol (its role is keeping pregnancy) and AFP (it’s a protein produced by the fetus’ liver which is emitted into the mother’s blood flow). The levels of all these substances become a base on which the conclusions about possible pathologies are drawn.
If your doctor suspects any anomaly in fetal development they will perform an ultrasound, take an amniotic fluid sample and do a blood test. In this case, the course of treatment is usually prescribed by an expert in genetics.
You shouldn’t make out a diagnosis yourself or try any self-treatment. This test quite often has a false-positive result. It can be caused by a wrong identification of the term of pregnancy of the future mother’s diabetes.
When will I know the results of an hCG blood test?
You can usually find out your hCG blood test results on the very next day after the procedure. It’s usually posted on the clinic’s website, or you can ask your doctor about it.
HCG blood test – expectant mothers’ reviews
The hCG blood test is very popular among women who are trying to conceive. The effectiveness of this test is worth its cost. There are usually no doubts about its results. That’s why some women don’t buy express pregnancy tests and prefer an hCG blood test as a more accurate method of detecting pregnancy. It also makes sense to pass an hCG blood test if the results provided by an express-test are questionable.