Test Detail
Interpreting Results

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Dr. Shreya Gupta
BDS, MDS - Oral and Maxillofacial Pathology
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MBBS, MD (Pharmacology)
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HCG Beta Total, Maternal

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What is BHCG?

b-hCG is known as Beta Human Chorionic Gonadotropin. b- hCG test is also known as Pregnancy test or Total hCG test. b- hCG test measures the levels of b-hCG in the blood. b-hCG is normally produced by the cells of the developing placenta, during pregnancy. However, high levels of b-hCG are also seen in certain tumors (cancers). 

Why is BHCG done?

  • To confirm pregnancy

  • To diagnose pregnancy in the location other than the normal (Ectopic pregnancy)   

  • For first trimester screening of genetic diseases like Down’s syndrome and Trisomy 18

  • To diagnose the presence of Gestational Trophoblastic Disease (GTD)

  • To diagnose any suspected tumors like Teratomas, Testicular tumors, Ovarian germ cell tumors

What does BHCG Measure?

b-hCG test measures the levels of b-hCG in blood. b-hCG is a hormone which is normally produced by the cells in the developing placenta, during pregnancy. b-hCG levels increase during the initial period of the pregnancy. The role of b-hCG in early pregnancy is to maintain the corpus luteum (the hormone-secreting structure that develops in an ovary). During the first three weeks, production of b-hCG increases reaching to peak levels at 10th week (from the last menstrual cycle). After that, the levels of b-hCG start falling to negligible levels within a few weeks after delivery.

In men and women, b-hCG is normally found in small amounts. b-hCG is composed of two big molecules known as alpha and beta subunit. The structure of the alpha subunit is similar to the structure of Follicle-stimulating hormone and Luteinizing hormone. The beta subunit is different and is found only in b-hCG. That is why b-hCG test is done to decrease the risk of cross-reaction.

Interpreting BHCG results


Low b-hCG levels are seen in the following conditions:

  • Error in calculation of pregnancy date

  • Miscarriage

  • The blighted ovum (Pregnancy without embryo)

  • Ectopic pregnancy (Pregnancy other than normal location or outside of the uterus)

High b-hCG levels are seen in the following conditions:

  • Error in calculation of pregnancy date

  • Molar pregnancy (an abnormal pregnancy where the baby does not develop)

  • More than one pregnancy (Twins or Triplets)

Answers to Patient Concerns & Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about BHCG

Frequently Asked Questions about HCG Beta Total, Maternal

Q. Is there any risk associated with this test?
There is no risk associated with the test. However, since this test involves a needle prick to withdraw the blood sample, in very rare cases, a patient may experience increased bleeding, hematoma formation (blood collection under the skin), bruising or infection at the site of needle prick.
Q. Are beta hCG levels positive in ectopic pregnancy as well?
Yes, b-hCG levels are positive in ectopic pregnancy (pregnancy other than its normal location) but the levels increase slowly as compared to normal pregnancy.
Q. Can beta hCG levels be found positive in men also?
Yes, b-hCG levels can be found positive in men in case of testicular cancer.
Q. Is the beta hCG test always 100 % accurate?
No, it can give false positive and false negative results for pregnancy. In case of any doubt, the test is redone to ensure pregnancy is there or not. Secondly, patients on medicines containing b-hCG can disrupt the levels of b-hCG in the test such as fertility drugs.
Q. Can beta hCG levels be detected positive in neonates?
Yes, b-hCG levels can be detected positive in neonates because b-hCG is produced by the cells in the placenta which passes the placental barrier and thus found in neonates.
Q. Is the beta hCG test only used for pregnancy?
No, b-hCG is considered to be a tumor marker as it is also secreted by some of the tumors which show high levels of b-hCG for e.g. the cancer of the uterus, ovarian cancer, lung cancer and breast cancer. There are also some non-cancerous conditions which show increased levels of b-hCG such as Cirrhosis and inflammatory bowel diseases.
Q. When are the results False-negative in beta hCG test?
False-negative results mean that the test result is indicating negative wrongly. Generally, false-negative b-hCG results mean that the patient is not pregnant. But, if the tests have been performed very early during the pregnancy, the results would be negative. The b-hCG levels change quickly with the duration of pregnancy.
Q. When are the results False-positive in beta hCG test?
False-positive results mean that the test result is indicating positive wrongly. Patients on certain medications containing b-hCG can show a false-positive test. People who smoke marijuana also show a false-positive test.
Q. Are there any other tests required with the beta hCG test for confirmation of pregnancy?
If your doctor confirms pregnancy, he will advise you PAPP-A test for prenatal screening in the first trimester or Dual marker test can be advised.
Q. Should beta hCG levels be checked in routine?
This test is not done routinely. This test is advised in case of bleeding, severe cramps or if the patient has any history of miscarriage.
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