- The human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) test is also known as the pregnancy test.
- The hCG test can be a blood or urine test.
- The hCG test can be done to detect and monitor pregnancy.
- It can also be used to detect and monitor some types of cancer.
What is being tested?
The human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) test is also known as the pregnancy test. This test measures the amount of the hormone hCG in your urine or blood.
The hCG test can be used to both confirm and monitor a pregnancy. hCG is usually present only when a female is pregnant.
hCG starts being produced by the placenta after the fertilised egg implants in the womb. During pregnancy, the amount of hCG doubles every 2 to 3 days.
Home pregnancy test kits test for hCG in your urine. You can buy these from supermarkets and pharmacies. The urine test can detect hCG from around the time of your first missed period.
The hCG blood test may detect pregnancy earlier — from about 1 week after conception. Your doctor can refer you for this blood test.
Why would I need this test?
The hCG blood test is more sensitive than the urine test. Your doctor might use this to:
- check if you are pregnant
- confirm a positive urine hCG test
- check that your pregnancy is developing normally
Blood hCG tests are also used to detect tumours that can produce hCG, such as:
Blood hCG tests can monitor these tumours. This can help your doctor see if treatment is working or if the tumour has come back after treatment.
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How to prepare for this test
No special preparation is required for the hCG test. However, if you are having a urine test, try not to drink much before your test. This can dilute your urine sample and cause a false negative result.
Understanding my results
Normally, hCG levels rise quickly in early pregnancy. But if something is wrong with your pregnancy, your hCG levels may be higher or lower than expected.
If you have a tumour that increases your hCG level:
- an increase in your hCG test result would suggest that the tumour is getting bigger
- a decrease in your hCG test result would suggest that the tumour is getting smaller
Resources and support
Visit the Pathology Tests Explained website or Pregnancy, Birth and Baby for more information about hCG tests.
Read our ‘Guide to blood testing’ to learn more about blood tests in general with information on:
- what to consider before having the test
- what happens during a blood test
- the accuracy of your results
- the costs of your blood tests
You can learn more in our article about urine tests.
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Last reviewed: December 2022