When you're trying to conceive, it's easy to fall into a place where you dissect every sign, symptom, and test. Everything seems to be a possible pregnancy symptom, and waiting for the results of anything can be excruciating. So, when your doctor mentions something like "low hCG levels," it can feel devastating. You know hCG levels are supposed to increase for each day you're pregnant, so you might wonder, "Does a low hCG level mean I'm having a miscarriage?"
If you've already been working with a doctor to support you getting pregnant, you're likely familiar with what hCG is. According to the American Pregnancy Association (APA), the hormone human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) is produced during pregnancy. Typically, hCG levels will double every 72 hours, and peak around eight to 11 weeks into the pregnancy.
According to Dr. Sheeva Talbein, M.D., Fellow of American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (F.A.C.O.G.), a low hCG could indicate an unhealthy pregnancy. "The pregnancy may be implanted properly in the uterus, but not chromosomally intact," Talbein tells Romper, "and therefore, could produce low levels of hCG." The pregnancy could also be implanted outside of the uterus (known as an "ectopic" pregnancy), she says, and an ectopic pregnancy could also make low levels of hCG.
Dr. David Rivera, M.D., F.A.C.O.G., agrees. "HCG levels should roughly double every 48 hours," he says to Romper, "and if they don't rise appropriately, it could be a miscarriage or an ectopic pregnancy." Your doctor should be able to see evidence of a pregnancy on ultrasound when the hCG level reaches 2000 or so. "Dropping hCG levels usually indicate a miscarriage, but they can also indicate an ectopic pregnancy," Rivera reiterates, "so, the trend over time is what matters."
"But," Talbein encourages, "the pregnancy can still be viable despite a low hCG, as long as the hCG progressively increases, and the fetus grows." As the APA mentioned, a low hCG could possibly just mean a miscalculation of pregnancy dating. Only your doctor can tell you what your low hCG level could mean for sure. So until you find out definitely, staying hopeful is likely your best course of action.