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HCG blood test - quantitative

A quantitative human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG) test measures the specific level of HCG in the blood. HCG is a hormone produced in the body during pregnancy.

Other HCG tests include:

How is the Test Performed?

A blood sample is needed. This is usually taken from a vein. The procedure is called a venipuncture.

Preparation for the Test

No special preparation is necessary.

When the needle is inserted to draw blood, some people feel moderate pain. Others feel only a prick or stinging sensation. Afterward, there may be some throbbing.

Why is the Test Performed?

HCG appears in the blood and urine of pregnant women as early as 10 days after conception. Quantitative HCG measurement helps determine the exact age of the fetus. It can also diagnose abnormal pregnancies, such as ectopic pregnancies, molar pregnancies, and possible miscarriages. It is also used as part of a screening test for Down syndrome.

This test is also done to diagnose abnormal conditions not related to pregnancy that can raise HCG level.

Normal Results for HCG blood test - quantitative

HCG level rises rapidly during the first trimester of pregnancy and then slightly declines.

What Abnormal Results Mean

Higher than normal level may indicate:

Lower than normal levels may indicate:

HCG blood test - quantitative Risks

There is very little risk in having your blood taken. Veins and arteries vary in size from one person to another and from one side of the body to the other. Taking blood from some people may be more difficult than from others.

Other risks of having blood drawn are slight but may include:

  • Excessive bleeding
  • Fainting or feeling light-headed
  • Blood accumulating under the skin (hematoma)
  • Infection (a slight risk any time the skin is broken)


Lee P, Pincus MR, McPherson RA. Diagnosis and management of cancer using serologic tumor markers. In: McPherson RA, Pincus MR, eds. Henry's Clinical Diagnosis and Management by Laboratory Methods. 22nd ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2011:chap 74.

Morrison LJ. General approach to the pregnant patient. In: Marx JA, Hockberger RS, Walls RM, et al, eds. Rosen's Emergency Medicine: Concepts and Clinical Practice. 7th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Mosby; 2009:chap 175.

Webster RA. Reproductive function and pregnancy. In: McPherson RA, Pincus MR, eds. Henry's Clinical Diagnosis and Management by Laboratory Methods. 22nd ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2011:chap 25.

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Review Date: 11/16/2014
Reviewed By: Cynthia D. White, MD, Fellow American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, Group Health Cooperative, Bellevue, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
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