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Can Doctors Diagnose an Ectopic Pregnancy from hCG Levels?

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Updated June 01, 2009

Question: Can Doctors Diagnose an Ectopic Pregnancy from hCG Levels?

The doctor says my hCG levels are rising too slow. I read that slow rising hCG levels can be a sign of tubal pregnancy. Does that mean my pregnancy is ectopic?

Answer:

Low hCG levels or slow-rising hCG levels can be a sign of ectopic or tubal pregnancy, but hCG levels usually are not enough to diagnose an ectopic pregnancy. Your doctor will probably want to continue monitoring your hCG levels and perhaps perform an ultrasound in order to get more information. (Ectopic pregnancies are often referred to as tubal pregnancies since the majority of ectopic pregnancies are located in the fallopian tubes.)

Remember that although slow-rising or low hCG levels may be a warning sign of ectopic pregnancy, that doesn't mean that you definitely do have an ectopic pregnancy. If it's just one single low hCG level, another explanation could be that you are still early along in the pregnancy -- it is much easier to predict what's going on if you have two measurements to compare.

If you do have two levels but they seem not to be doubling every two to three days, remember that hCG levels have slower doubling times in the mid- to late-first trimester if you are further along, and slow-rising hCG can occasionally occur even in normal pregnancies. If signs suggest your pregnancy is not normal, such as if you are also experiencing bleeding, it is also possible that you are having a miscarriage rather than an ectopic pregnancy. Your doctor will need to evaluate you further to find out what is going on.

Source:

Ectopic and Molar Pregnancy. March of Dimes. Accessed: May 24, 2009. http://www.marchofdimes.com/professionals/14332_1189.asp

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