What is hCG? How is hCG linked with pregnancy? What do hCG injections do for and/or during pregnancy? When to take hCG and when not to? Does it have any side effects? What if even HCG injections do not work out?
This comprehensive article discusses them all. This article contains every information about HCG that you might want to know.
What is hCG?
HCG is an abbreviation for human chorionic gonadotropin, a natural hormone that is majorly produced in the placenta during pregnancy. However, livers, colons, and the pituitary gland also produce minor amounts of hCG. The primary work of the hCG hormone is to stimulate the ovaries for regularly producing progesterone (the pregnancy hormone) throughout pregnancy.
HCG and Pregnancy
HCG and pregnancy are closely correlated. As a woman conceives, hCG starts to appear in her blood and urine in less than 2 weeks. A healthy pregnant woman has a HCG level higher than 25 mlU/mL which continues to rise week by week, trimester by trimester, as the fetus develops. HCG level anything lower than 2 mlU/mL indicates a negative pregnancy.
Other than just testing pregnancy, hCG hormone levels in women during their pregnancy also indicate fetus’ age, an abnormal pregnancy, and risk of miscarriage.
Talking more about HCG and pregnancy, hCG injections are also considered by doctors as a fertility treatment. HCG injections are often used in combination with fertility drugs such as FSH (follicle stimulating hormone) to stimulate the eggs production in the ovaries, as well as, to help them grow and release on maturity.
Well, since hCG injection is used as a pregnancy treatment, should you really be considering it for or during pregnancy?
When to Take hCG?
HCG stimulates more progesterone production, which can obviously help in initiating and maintaining a healthy pregnancy. Maybe you also want to consider taking HCG injections to become pregnant or minimize your pregnancy risks. But, are you an ideal candidate?
HCG Injection for Pregnancy
Doctors have been using HCG along with certain fertility drugs like FSH as a treatment for pregnancy. HCG and FSH used in combination helps produce more mature eggs and maintain a healthy pregnancy by stimulating progesterone hormone. If you are a person who has a good ovarian reserve and healthy ovulation function, but has a very low HCG level, you can consider taking HCG injections to induce a healthy pregnancy.
HCG Injection During Pregnancy
The reason why many fertility specialists suggest HCG injections during pregnancy to women who have low HCG levels is because progesterone is an essential hormone that a woman needs to sustain a pregnancy. Plentiful progesterone (pregnancy hormone) ensures that the fetus continues to develop healthily. A woman can become pregnant even if she has low HCG level, but it comes with a high risk of miscarriages or abnormal pregnancy.
Fertility doctors often recommend HCG injections during pregnancy when a woman has a low HCG level and its amount is not increasing as it normally should week by week. If you are pregnant and diagnosed with low HCG, you can consider taking HCG injections during your early pregnancy (period when the fetus is at a high risk of being miscarried or developing abnormalities).
When not to Take hCG?
HCG injections can definitely escalate a woman’s pregnancy chances and help sustain it healthily. But, every woman encountering some fertility problem does not need its administration. HCG injections are ideal for women with a history of miscarriages due to low HCG or women whose body is incapable of producing enough HCG naturally throughout pregnancy.
Other than that, when combined with other fertility drugs, HCG can have an adverse effect if you have certain pre-existing health conditions. These conditions include:
- Heart diseases
- Kidney function issues
- Asthma, or
HCG injections are intended to help you attain and sustain a healthy pregnancy. But, since it can have some adverse effects too, a woman must only use it under a doctor’s prescription and administration.
HCG Injection Side Effects
Just like any drug, injecting HCG (human gonadotropin hormone) can also provoke some common and uncommon side effects. These include:
Common HCG side effects are:
- Stomach pain
- Rashes, and
These side effects are most common in women under HCG administration. Though, these side effects are not usually severe and may not need any medical help. They disappear eventually in 1 to 2 weeks on their own.
But, there are also some uncommon HCG side effects that are severe and may require medical attention. These side effects include:
- Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome (OHS): OHS is a condition when a woman’s ovarian function responds excessively to the injected fertility drugs. It usually causes the ovaries to become swollen and cause severe pain. If a woman encounters any OHS symptoms, she must immediately seek medical help, because if left untreated, OHS can be life-threatening as well.
- Severe stomach and pelvic pain
- Severe bloating
- Breathe shortness
- Swollen hands and legs
- Urinating less frequently than normal
- Indigestion, and
- Severe vomiting and diarrhea
Early Signs of Pregnancy after hCG Injection
Pregnancy takes place when a sperm fertilizes a mature egg, the fertilized egg takes about a week to implant around the uterine lining. And, in 3 to 4 weeks, you can expect pregnancy.
Talking about early signs of pregnancy after HCG injection, the signs or symptoms are common as if a natural pregnancy. The woman may experience a missed menstrual cycle, breast tenderness, fatigue, more frequent urination, and nausea. But, even if you experience these early pregnancy signs after HCG injections, this does not guarantee you pregnancy.
HCG is the pregnancy hormone and it is obvious that its symptoms will be similar to the early symptoms of pregnancy. To confirm pregnancy after HCG injections, you cannot rely on the symptoms or even a HCG blood test as it may show a false positive. You will need to go for an ultrasound pregnancy test to verify your pregnancy.
Reasons for not Becoming Pregnant after hCG Injection
There can be multiple reasons why you could not become pregnant even after HCG administration. Some common reasons include:
- High androgen levels: HCG can definitely help you ovulate and ensure you ovulate a healthy mature egg during your ovulatory cycle. But, if you also have a high amount of androgen (male hormone) in your body, it is possible that the implantation does not take place successfully and result in a negative pregnancy.
- Improper HCG administration: When you are under HCG administration, you require at least 5,000 to 10,000 units of HCG to sufficiently increase the progesterone levels and help you become pregnant. But, if you are injected with lesser HCG units, it is possible that you fail to conceive.
- Other undefined fertility issues: Low HCG is not the only reason that affects pregnancy. Oftentimes, women with low HCG can even become pregnant without any medical intervention. But, if you also have other undefined fertility issues such as low ovarian reserve, blocked fallopian tubes, PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome), or endometriosis, it is likely that the HCG administration will turn out to be ineffective. In such a case, diagnosing and seeking treatment for the particular fertility disorder is foremost.
Other Treatments for Pregnancy
Even if you are not able to achieve pregnancy with HCG injections, there are effective assisted reproductive technologies (ARTs) that can help. Low HCG is not the sole factor responsible for lower pregnancy chances, there are multiple other reasons as well.
These common reasons affecting your pregnancy chances include:
- Having blocked or damaged fallopian tubes
- Low ovarian reserve
- Having pre-existing reproductive conditions such as endometriosis, PCOS, or POF (premature ovarian failure).
- Genetic chromosomal abnormalities
- Poor egg quality
- Poor semen quality
In the above mentioned cases, you may primarily require an ideal and suitable fertility treatment instead of getting HCG shots.
Most common and effective ARTs that help you become pregnant while having such conditions include:
Intrauterine Insemination (IUI)
Intrauterine Insemination or IUI treatment is one of the effective ARTs typically preferred in cases of male-factor infertility. In such cases, a female has an absolutely healthy reproductive function. But, due to poor sperm quality, the sperm fails to fertilize the egg and induce conception. How IUI helps in such cases is, IUI procedure involves inseminating washed and concentrated sperms directly into the uterus for fertilization, eventually escalating the chances of conception.
In-vitro Fertilization (IVF)
In-vitro Fertilization or IVF treatment is another ART which is usually recommended to patients with blocked or damaged fallopian tubes, low ovarian reserve, PCOS, chromosomal abnormality, poor egg quality, and poor sperm health. Most doctors administer HCG injections with IVF only. In IVF, the fertilization takes place completely outside the woman’s body, in a facility. IVF bypasses the fallopian tube involvement as the fertilized egg (a healthy blastocyst) is directly implanted into the uterine lining.
The Bottom Line
In many infertility cases, HCG administration has been found to improve chances of pregnancy. But, do you really need it is the question. If you are a woman trying to become pregnant or maintain your pregnancy and minimize miscarriage risk, HCG injections can be helpful. However, HCG is not the alone determining factor for pregnancy. Having other infertility issues can also lead to failed conception or miscarriages. So, before you decide to undergo HCG determination, it is foremost that you first diagnose your fertility conditions and seek a fertility specialist’s help for pregnancy assistance. It is likely that you might have never needed it, but took it ignorantly, and developed some adverse side effects. So, always discuss with your fertility doctor before taking HCG or any other fertility drug.