An ectopic pregnancy is a serious medical problem that can be life-threatening if not treated. One way that an ectopic pregnancy can be diagnosed is by measuring the levels of a hormone known as beta HCG 1. Although beta HCG levels are an important part of diagnosing ectopic pregnancies, they should be combined with other techniques for diagnosing an ectopic pregnancy.
An ectopic pregnancy is any pregnancy in which the fertilized egg implants outside of the intrauterine cavity. Most ectopic pregnancies are the result of the egg implanting in the fallopian tubes, though some occur due to implantation in the ovaries, the abdominal cavity, the cervix or a part of the uterus that cannot support a fertilized egg. None of these tissues can support the fertilized egg and if the ectopic pregnancy ruptures, massive bleeding results.
Normal Endometrial Stripe Thickness
HCG is also known as human chorionic gonadotropin, and a beta HCG test measures the levels of HCG in the blood. Human chonorionic gonadotropin is a hormone that is produced during pregnancy. HCG levels rise as the pregnancy progresses and are often used to confirm pregnancies. Problems with the pregnancy, such as an ectopic pregnancy, can cause these levels to rise more slowly. As a result, doctors may measure your HCG levels as part of testing for an ectopic pregnancy.
- HCG is also known as human chorionic gonadotropin, and a beta HCG test measures the levels of HCG in the blood.
- Problems with the pregnancy, such as an ectopic pregnancy, can cause these levels to rise more slowly.
Beta HCG and Ectopic Pregnancy Diagnosis
Because HCG levels rise more slowly in women with ectopic pregnancies, a beta HCG test that shows abnormally low HCG levels may signal that you have an ectopic pregnancy. In addition to having a beta HCG test, your doctor may also utilize ultrasonography to diagnose an ectopic pregnancy 1. If your beta HCG levels are higher than 6,500 mIU and a transabdominal ultrasound shows no intrauterine sac, an ectopic pregnancy is suspected. In addition, beta HCG levels above 1,500 coupled with an intravaginal ultrasound that shows no intrauterine sac also suggests an ectopic pregnancy.
- Because HCG levels rise more slowly in women with ectopic pregnancies, a beta HCG test that shows abnormally low HCG levels may signal that you have an ectopic pregnancy.
- In addition, beta HCG levels above 1,500 coupled with an intravaginal ultrasound that shows no intrauterine sac also suggests an ectopic pregnancy.
HCG & Menstruation
Although beta HCG levels are important for diagnosing problems with a pregnancy, they should not be used as the only diagnostic test. Normal pregnancies can have low beta HCG levels and a sonogram at five to six weeks is a much better indication of the health of the fetus than HCG levels. If you develop heavy bleeding during pregnancy or feel sick, talk to your doctor to see if your symptoms are a potential sign of a more serious problem.
Normal Endometrial Stripe Thickness
HCG & Menstruation
Transvaginal Ultrasound & Endometrial Cancer
High Alpha-Fetoprotein Levels
Accuracy of Transvaginal Ultrasound for Dating Pregnancy
Can HCG Injections Cause Cancer?
How Long After Conception Can You Tell If You Are Pregnant?
Signs & Symptoms of Uterine Fibroids Vs. Ovarian Cancer
What Is the Endometrial Stripe?
Abnormal Estradiol Levels
- "American Family Physician"; Diagnosis and Management of Ectopic Pregnancy; Anne-Marie Lozeau and Beth Potter; November 2005
- Lab Tests Online; HCG: The Test; 2011
- Jennings LK, Krywko DM. Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID). [Updated 2019 Feb 11]. In: StatPearls. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2020 Jan-.
- Wiesenfeld HC, Hillier SL, Meyn LA, Amortegui AJ, Sweet RL. Subclinical pelvic inflammatory disease and infertility. Obstet Gynecol. 2012;120(1):37-43. doi:10.1097/AOG.0b013e31825a6bc9
- Mitchell C, Prabhu M. Pelvic inflammatory disease: current concepts in pathogenesis, diagnosis and treatment. Infect Dis Clin North Am. 2013;27(4):793-809. doi:10.1016/j.idc.2013.08.004
- Spencer TH, Umeh PO, Irokanulo E, et al. Bacterial isolates associated with pelvic inflammatory disease among female patients attending some hospitals in Abuja, Nigeria. Afr J Infect Dis. 2014;8(1):9-13. doi:10.4314/ajid.v8i1.3
- Dulin JD, Akers MC. Pelvic inflammatory disease and sepsis. Crit Care Nurs Clin North Am. 2003;15(1):63-70.
- Trent M. Pelvic inflammatory disease. Pediatr Rev. 2013;34(4):163-72. doi:10.1542/pir.34-4-163
- Huang CC, Huang CC, Lin SY, et al. Association of pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) with ectopic pregnancy and preterm labor in Taiwan: A nationwide population-based retrospective cohort study. PLoS ONE. 2019;14(8):e0219351. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0219351
- Martino JL, Vermund SH. Vaginal douching: evidence for risks or benefits to women's health. Epidemiol Rev. 2002;24(2):109-24. doi:10.1093/epirev/mxf004
- Hubacher D. Intrauterine devices & infection: review of the literature. Indian J Med Res. 2014;140 Suppl:S53-7.
- Das BB, Ronda J, Trent M. Pelvic inflammatory disease: improving awareness, prevention, and treatment. Infect Drug Resist. 2016;9:191-7. doi:10.2147/IDR.S91260
- Bourne PA, Charles CA, Francis CG, South-bourne N, Peters R. Perception, attitude and practices of women towards pelvic examination and Pap smear in Jamaica. N Am J Med Sci. 2010;2(10):478-86. doi:10.4297/najms.2010.2478
- Romosan G, Valentin L. The sensitivity and specificity of transvaginal ultrasound with regard to acute pelvic inflammatory disease: a review of the literature. Arch Gynecol Obstet. 2014;289(4):705-14. doi:10.1007/s00404-013-3091-6
- Shigemi D, Matsui H, Fushimi K, Yasunaga H. Laparoscopic Compared With Open Surgery for Severe Pelvic Inflammatory Disease and Tubo-Ovarian Abscess. Obstet Gynecol. 2019;133(6):1224-1230. doi:10.1097/AOG.0000000000003259
- Mummert T, Gnugnoli DM. Ectopic Pregnancy. [Updated 2019 Mar 10]. In: StatPearls. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2020 Jan-.
- Anyalechi GE, Hong J, Kreisel K, Torrone E, Boulet S, Gorwitz R et al. Self-Reported Infertility and Associated Pelvic Inflammatory Disease Among Women of Reproductive Age-National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, United States, 2013-2016. Sex Transm Dis. 2019 Jul;46(7):446-451. doi: 10.1097/OLQ.0000000000000996.
- Savaris RF, Fuhrich DG, Duarte RV, Franik S, Ross JDC. Antibiotic therapy for pelvic inflammatory disease: an abridged version of a Cochrane systematic review and meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials. Sex Transm Infect. 2019 Feb;95(1):21-27. doi: 10.1136/sextrans-2018-053693. Epub 2018 Oct 19.
- Shigemi D, Matsui H, Fushimi K, Yasunaga H. Laparoscopic Compared With Open Surgery for Severe Pelvic Inflammatory Disease and Tubo-Ovarian Abscess. Obstet Gynecol. 2019 Jun;133(6):1224-1230. doi: 10.1097/AOG.0000000000003259.
Adam Cloe has been published in various scientific journals, including the "Journal of Biochemistry." He is currently a pathology resident at the University of Chicago. Cloe holds a Bachelor of Arts in biochemistry from Boston University, a M.D. from the University of Chicago and a Ph.D. in pathology from the University of Chicago.