Possible Meanings of a High hCG Level in Pregnancy

If your hCG level is high during pregnancy, this could be due to a variety of factors. During pregnancy, your body produces the hormone human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG). It can be detected via a blood or urine test approximately 12 to 15 days after conception. The hCG level usually reaches its peak between the second and third months of pregnancy and then drops.

There is a wide range of normal when it comes to hCG levels in healthy pregnancies, and abnormally high levels are not usually a concern. In fact, rather than exactly how much hCG is in your bloodstream, what's most important in early pregnancy is that your hCG levels are increasing rapidly. However, sometimes, high hCG levels can signal a problem with your pregnancy, such as a molar pregnancy. Learn more about high hCG levels.

What Causes hCG Levels to Increase

Determining what, exactly, constitutes a "high" hCG level can be difficult because the normal range of hCG levels in early pregnancy is wide, and hCG levels can rise and fall at different rates. Depending on how far along you are in your pregnancy, there are general guidelines that doctors use. 

A high hCG level could indicate a few different things, most of which are not concerning.

  • The calculation of your pregnancy date is incorrect and you're further along than you previously thought.
  • You're having more than one child, such as twins or triplets.
  • You are taking fertility drugs.

Molar Pregnancy

Less commonly, high hCG levels can indicate a significant complication with your pregnancy—namely a molar pregnancy. This rare abnormality occurs in one out of every 1,000 pregnancies. Molar pregnancies are believed to result from a genetic mistake in the fertilizing sperm or egg, which causes the cells that would typically develop into a fetus to grow into a non-cancerous mass instead. 

If you are having a molar pregnancy, your doctor will usually be able to determine that the pregnancy is not viable after 12 weeks when there is no fetal movement or heart tone. A sonogram and pelvic exam will confirm a diagnosis.

Signs and symptoms of a molar pregnancy can include high blood pressure, intense nausea or vomiting, anemia, hyperthyroidism, fast uterine growth, preeclampsia, ovarian cysts, the passage of the tumor through the vagina, and vaginal spotting or bleeding that's dark brown or bright red.

You may miscarry the molar pregnancy naturally or it may have to be removed through a surgical procedure known as a dilation and curettage (D&C). During a D&C, your doctor will dilate your cervix and scrape the abnormal cells from your uterus. 

After a molar pregnancy, you may have to wait 6 months to a year to conceive again. Sometimes, after the molar tissue is removed, it can keep growing and cause complications, such as vaginal bleeding and even a rare form of cancer.

If you have had a molar pregnancy, your doctor will continue to monitor you. They will test your hCG levels every couple of weeks until the levels go down to zero, and every couple of months thereafter. It is likely your doctor will want to pay careful attention to you during future pregnancies as well.

In about 20% of cases, hCG levels do not go down on their own and chemotherapy treatments are required. In very rare cases, a hysterectomy is performed if a patient is done having children and wishes to eliminate future complications.

A Word From Verywell

If you are experiencing any unusual symptoms during your pregnancy, or if your doctor is concerned about your hCG levels, they may re-check your hCG level in two or three days to see if it has changed. It is likely that your doctor will use several medical tools—such as a sonogram and a pelvic exam—in addition to monitoring your hCG level to get a broader picture of your pregnancy and your health.

9 Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  2. Barnhart KT, Guo W, Cary MS, et al. Differences in serum human chorionic gonadotropin rise in early pregnancy by race and value at presentation. Obstet Gynecol. 2016;128(3):504-511. doi:10.1097/AOG.0000000000001568

  3. Innsbruck Medical University. What serial hCG can tell you, and cannot tell you, about an early pregnancy.

  4. Han X, Yin B, Lin S, Wang Q, Su N, Zhang C. Increased maternal hCG concentrations in early in vitro pregnancy with elevated basal FSHPLoS One. 2018;13(9):e0203610. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0203610

  5. Bidus MA, Ries A, Magann EF, Martin JN. Markedly elevated beta-hCG levels in a normal singleton gestation with hyperreactio luteinalis. Obstet Gynecol. 2002;99(5 Pt 2):958-961. doi:10.1016/S0029-7844(02)01983-X

  6. U.S. National Library of Medicine. Hydatidiform mole.

  7. Al-Talib AA. Clinical presentation and treatment outcome of molar pregnancy: Ten years experience at a Tertiary Care Hospital in Dammam, Saudi ArabiaJ Family Community Med. 2016;23(3):161-165. doi:10.4103/2230-8229.189129

  8. March of Dimes. Molar pregnancy.

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By Krissi Danielsson
Krissi Danielsson, MD is a doctor of family medicine and an advocate for those who have experienced miscarriage.