Pregnancy is a dream shared by many people. Unfortunately, infertility is a problem that is experienced by a percentage of couples who are trying to conceive. A great number of patients at the Center for Fertility and Gynecology who are facing fertility problems can benefit from in vitro fertilization, commonly referred to as IVF. IVF is a fertility treatment that aids and monitors all of the stages of conception, from ovary stimulation to embryo transfer. Throughout IVF treatment at our fertility center, there are many hormone levels that are monitored. One important number to watch for in our Los Angeles patients undergoing IVF treatment is hCG levels. Known as the pregnancy hormone, hCG is used to trigger ovulation during IVF and is later an indicator of a successful pregnancy result.
What Is hCG?
Medically known as human chorionic gonadotropin, hCG is a hormone that is produced when an embryo begins to implant in the uterus. A patient’s hCG levels typically begin to rise eight to 10 days after conception and continue to increase throughout the first eight to 10 weeks of a patient’s pregnancy. When performing a pregnancy test, doctors are looking for the presence or level of hCG, which is why this is known as the pregnancy hormone.
hCG and IVF
For any person trying to conceive, hCG levels are important. However, hCG plays an especially important role in IVF treatment. For our patients, hCG will play a vital role in IVF treatment during the stages of ovarian stimulation and egg retrieval and again during the final stages of IVF when we are testing for a positive pregnancy.
- Ovarian stimulation and egg retrieval: IVF treatment begins with the use of fertility drugs that are meant to stimulate the ovaries in order to promote the production of healthy eggs. When the eggs have matured, they will be ready for egg retrieval. However, in order to increase the chances of successful IVF treatment, every stage of treatment must be carefully timed. In order to ensure that the mature eggs “drop” and are ready for retrieval, an injection of hCG is given to the patient. Known as the “trigger” shot, this injection of hCG stimulates ovulation. Egg retrieval will be scheduled for 36 hours after this injection of hCG.
- Testing for pregnancy: A patient’s hCG levels become important once again toward the end of IVF treatment when testing whether conception has been successful. After embryos have been implanted, a waiting period begins. We typically wait two weeks before testing for pregnancy because the hCG injected before egg retrieval can remain in the blood and produce a false positive. After two weeks, the patient’s hCG levels will be tested. If hCG is detected, it is considered a positive pregnancy test. However, we will continue to test hCG levels every two to three days for a minimum of three tests. In a healthy pregnancy, the hCG levels should roughly double for each test. If hCG levels continue to indicate a healthy pregnancy, an ultrasound will be scheduled between weeks six and eight of the pregnancy.
Schedule an Appointment
Fertility treatment can be a physically and emotionally draining experience for couples. At the Center for Fertility and Gynecology, we combine experience, advanced technology and techniques, and a caring and understanding staff to ensure that this time is as easy as possible for our patients. If you would like to learn how we can help you in your journey to a healthy pregnancy, schedule an appointment with one of our fertility doctors at your earliest convenience. We look forward to meeting you!