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Human Chorionic Gonadotropin (HCG)

In some cases a combination of screening tests is done in the first trimester to look for Down syndrome. This screening test uses an ultrasound measurement of the thickness of the skin at the back of the fetus's neck (nuchal translucency), plus a blood test of the levels of the pregnancy hormone hCG and a protein called pregnancy-associated plasma protein A (PAPP-A). This test is about as accurate as the second-trimester maternal serum quad screening.1

HCG urine tests

HCG urine tests are usually used for routine pregnancy testing. The test does not measure the exact amount of hCG, but it shows if hCG is present. Home pregnancy tests that show hCG in urine are also widely available.

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Why It Is Done

A test for human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) is done to:

  • See whether you are pregnant.
  • Find an ectopic pregnancy.
  • Find and check the treatment of a molar pregnancy.
  • See whether there is an increased chance of birth defects such as Down syndrome. The test is used in combination with other screening tests.
  • Find and check the treatment of a cancer that develops from an egg or sperm (germ cell cancer), such as cancer of the ovaries or testicles. In such cases, a test for alpha-fetoprotein may be done along with a test for hCG.

How To Prepare

If a blood sample is collected, you do not need to do anything before you have this test.

If a urine test is done, the first urine of the day is generally the best to use because it has the highest level of hCG. A urine sample collected at least 4 hours after the last urination will also have high amounts of hCG.

How It Is Done

Human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) may be measured in a sample of blood or urine.

Blood sample collection

The health professional drawing blood will:

  • Wrap an elastic band around your upper arm to stop the flow of blood. This makes the veins below the band larger so it is easier to put a needle into the vein.
  • Clean the needle site with alcohol.
  • Put the needle into the vein. If the needle is not placed correctly or if the vein collapses, more than one needle stick may be needed.
  • Attach a tube to the needle to fill it with blood.
  • Remove the band from your arm when enough blood is collected.
  • Put a gauze pad or cotton ball over the needle site as the needle is removed.
  • Put pressure to the site and then a bandage.

Urine collection

If possible, collect a sample from the first urine of the day (this urine generally has the highest level of hCG). A urine sample collected at least 4 hours after the last urination will also have high amounts of hCG.

  • Place the collection container into the stream of urine, and collect about 4 Tbsp (60 mL) of urine.
  • Do not touch the rim of the container to your genital area, and do not get toilet paper, pubic hair, stool (feces), blood, or other foreign matter in the urine sample.
  • Finish urinating into the toilet or urinal.
  • Carefully replace the lid on the container, and return it to the lab. If you are collecting the urine at home and cannot get it to the lab in an hour, refrigerate it.

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: April 04, 2012
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.

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