What Is a Positive Beta hCG Level?

Medically Reviewed on 3/4/2022

How do you know if your hCG is positive?

A positive beta hCG levels means that you are pregnant. The hCG level depends on how far along a woman is in her pregnancy.
A positive beta hCG level means that you are pregnant. The hCG level depends on how far along a woman is in her pregnancy.

A positive beta-human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) level usually means that you are pregnant. Pregnancy tests detect the hCG hormone in the blood and urine.

The beta hCG levels are also measured using a test known as quantitative hCG testing. This test measures the quantity of hCG in your urine in terms of mIU/mL or IU/L.

The following beta hCG values will be used to detect whether you are pregnant

  • Negative: less than 5 IU/L
  • Indeterminate: 5 to 25 IU/L
  • Positive: greater than 25 IU/L

The indeterminate value represents the grey area. The beta hCG levels will be tested multiple times during the pregnancy to confirm a healthy pregnancy. High beta hCG levels may be observed in twin pregnancies or in a type of cancer called choriocarcinoma.

The beta hCG levels are matched against the chart given below.

The chart shows the guideline for hCG levels found at a particular week of pregnancy.
Weeks from the last menstrual period (LMP) Approximate amount of hCG (in mIU/mL or IU/L)
3 weeks 5-50
4 weeks 5-426
5 weeks 19-7,340
6 weeks 1,080-56,500
7-8 weeks 7,650-229,000
9-12 weeks 25,700-288,000
13-16 weeks 3,300-253,000
17-24 weeks (second trimester) 4,060-165,400
25 weeks to term (third trimester) 3,640-117,000
After several days (up to 2 weeks) postpartum <5

Note: These numbers are just a guideline - every women's hCG level rise differently.

What is hCG? 2 Types of hCG testing

Human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) hormone, often called the pregnancy hormone, is initially made by the lining cells of the embryo and later by the cells of the placenta. Its function is to nourish the egg after it has been fertilized.

The hCG level reaches its peak anywhere between 9 and 12 weeks of pregnancy. It then goes on declining until it remains steady for the rest of the pregnancy.

Two types of beta hCG testing are usually used

  1. Qualitative testing: Also known as the urine pregnancy test, the qualitative beta hCG test is the over-the-counter pregnancy test that only indicates whether you are pregnant.
  2. Quantitative testing: It measures the amount of the hormone present in the blood. A blood sample will be collected from your vein and sent to the laboratory to check the blood levels of beta hCG. It is also known as
    • hCG blood pregnancy test
    • Serum hCG

A doctor usually orders a beta hCG blood test to confirm pregnancy after a positive urine pregnancy test. It is important to note that an ectopic pregnancy may also cause the test to be positive. This is a dangerous condition requiring urgent medical intervention.

Sometimes, your doctor may not be very much concerned about your hCG level. This is because you may have a perfectly healthy baby irrespective of low hCG levels. An ultrasound done at 5 to 6 weeks is more reliable than the beta hCG blood test.

The doctor will probably ask you to undergo beta Hcg level testing not once but multiple times during the pregnancy.

The hCG level is not a completely accurate way to date a pregnancy because these numbers can vary so widely.

Why is the beta hCG blood test performed?

Your doctor can ask for a beta hCG blood test to

  • Confirm pregnancy
  • Determine the approximate age of the fetus (baby)
  • Check if there is an ectopic pregnancy (an abnormal pregnancy)
  • Diagnose miscarriage
  • Screen if the baby has Down’s syndrome

The beta hCG blood test can also be performed to check for the status of certain types of cancer. The levels are used to determine whether a particular cancer treatment is working.

Increased hCG levels are found in cancers of the

  • Uterus
  • Lung
  • Breast
  • Ovary

Sometimes, the beta hCG levels are used in the management of other conditions such as


16 Early Signs & Symptoms of Pregnancy: Could You Be Pregnant? See Slideshow

15 Early signs that you may be pregnant

Symptoms might vary from woman to woman.
Symptoms might vary from woman to woman.

Symptoms might vary from woman to woman. Not all women experience the same symptoms during pregnancy. Fifteen early signs of pregnancy include the following:

  • Spotting and cramping: When the fertilized egg attaches to the uterus, it causes spotting and cramping. It occurs 6-12 days after the fertilization of the egg. Cramping can be similar to menstrual cramps. Some women may even see staining and a small amount of blood over the underpants.
  • Missed period: The characteristic symptom of early pregnancy is the missed period. Women may notice this symptom in the fourth week. Once the implantation is completed, the body produces a hormone known as human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG). This helps in maintaining the pregnancy. With the help of a pregnancy kit, one can confirm the pregnancy at this stage.
  • Vaginal discharge: Due to the thickening of the vaginal walls after conception, a woman may notice white, milky discharge from the vagina. This may be seen throughout the pregnancy, which is normal. However, if there’s a foul smell from the discharge or a burning and itching sensation around the vagina, there may be chances of a bacterial or yeast infection.
  • Fatigue: Pregnant women may complain of fatigue and tiredness around the fourth to the fifth week of pregnancy. High progesterone levels make one drowsy. Perhaps, there may be other contributory factors too, when considering fatigue as a symptom.
  • Frequent urination: During pregnancy, hormonal changes cause water to retain in the body. The kidney is forced to filter extra fluids resulting in frequent urination. This starts around the sixth or eighth week after conception.
  • Breast changes: Most women may experience breast changes such as soreness, heaviness, tenderness, fullness, or tingling between the fourth and sixth week. It may generally decrease after several weeks. The area around the nipple also tends to get darker.
  • Morning sickness, nausea, or vomiting: Morning sickness is the most common symptom of pregnancy. Nausea develops around the fourth to sixth week and may occur at any time of the day. Morning sickness is due to hormonal changes. Some women may never experience nausea, whereas some may have hyperemesis gravidarum (nausea throughout the pregnancy). For a few women, morning sickness may resolve by the 13th or 14th week of pregnancy.
  • Food cravings or aversion: In the early stages of pregnancy, some women may experience cravings for certain foods, whereas some may experience aversion (unable to stand the smell of certain food). These symptoms may resolve in some by the 13th or 14th week, although some may experience them throughout the pregnancy.
  • Mood swings: Due to the increased levels of estrogen and progesterone in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, pregnant women have more mood swings than nonpregnant women. Being anxious or stressed out during pregnancy is completely fine; however, if it lasts for a couple of weeks, does not get better, or causes constant sadness, then talking to a gynecologist would be an ideal option. Sometimes, thyroid imbalance in pregnancy may also lead to feeling low.
  • Constipation: Pregnant women may have a surge of progesterone in their bodies. Progesterone causes food to pass slowly through the intestine causing constipation. Drinking more water, eating plenty of high-fiber foods, and exercising can ease constipation.
  • Headaches: Pregnant women may experience mild headaches throughout the pregnancy. This may be due to hormonal changes.
  • Dizziness and fainting: This may be due to the dilation of blood vessels and low blood pressure and sugar levels caused due to hormonal changes.
  • Heartburn: Some women experience heartburn as an early sign of pregnancy. The valve between the stomach and esophagus relaxes, which allows stomach acid to leak causing heartburn.
  • Weight gain: Women may gain weight toward the end of the first trimester. About one to four pounds may be gained in the first few months.
  • Nasal congestion: Increasing hormonal levels and blood production can affect the mucous membrane of the nose causing it to swell and dry out.

Moreover, difficulty sleeping, shortness of breath, and low back pain are some other not-so-common signs of early pregnancy. 

Medically Reviewed on 3/4/2022
Medscape Medical Reference