What Is a Beta Pregnancy Test?



Pregnancy tests are a massive industry, as women wonder after each cycle whether they will be listening to that pitter-patter of tiny feet. Will it be this month? Next month? Do we need to start looking at infant car seats, or maybe pick up a few gender-neutral onesies on the way home from work? Are we comfortable growing and raising a tiny human being? Do we have what we need to be good parents? Will we be like our mom? Is that a good thing or a bad thing?

Lots of questions floating through your mind, and lots of hormones floating through your body. This is exciting and terrifying at the same time. Your mind flits between desperately wanting to see a positive test result, and being desperately terrified that you might actually see a positive test result!

A beta pregnancy test is a blood test for hCG. Doctor’s offices and hospitals use this type of test (as you know, home pregnancy tests are urine tests). Beta pregnancy tests come in two types: qualitative and quantitative.

Qualitative tests offer a simple yes or no; pregnant or not answer. The cut-off for a “yes” verdict is similar to many urine tests – 25 mIU of hCG. These tests will confirm a positive urine test that a woman takes at home, or tests a woman for pregnancy if she hasn’t already tested herself.

Most pregnant women hit the 25 mIU mark in their 3rd to 5th week of pregnancy (measured since their last menstrual period), and there can be a wide variance of hCG levels from woman to woman. Remember that a negative qualitative test does not mean that you are not pregnant; it means that your body has not produced enough hCG to register on a pregnancy test.





Quantitative tests show the amount of hCG in the woman’s blood. These tests are useful especially for women who are taking fertility treatments or who have a history of miscarriage. The value of knowing how much hCG in a woman’s blood is knowing whether her hCG levels are increasing. During the first weeks of pregnancy, hCG levels double every 48-72 hours. If a woman is undergoing fertility treatments, she will likely be taking several of these tests to ensure that her hCG levels are increasing and that her pregnancy is developing normally. If the levels are not increasing at the expected pace, she may have had a miscarriage, and would be encouraged to get an ultrasound to confirm the pregnancy.

There you have it: two types of pregnancy tests you didn’t know existed. So when you’re at your doc’s office for a pregnancy test, you can really show your pregnancy know-how by asking, “Is that a qualitative or quantitative beta pregnancy test?”

hCG Levels During Pregnancy

When tracking your pregnancy’s progress with blood pregnancy tests, you will want to see an increase in the level from one test to another. hCG typically doubles every 48 to 72 hours in a healthy pregnancy. If a hCG result is 100 on Tuesday, a second blood test should show a result of 200 on Thursday or Friday.

hCG levels During Early Pregnancy:

hCG levels in weeks from LMP (last menstrual period):

3 weeks LMP: 5 – 50 mIU/ml
4 weeks LMP: 5 – 426 mIU/ml
5 weeks LMP: 18 – 7,340 mIU/ml
6 weeks LMP: 1,080 – 56,500 mIU/ml
7 – 8 weeks LMP: 7, 650 – 229,000 mIU/ml
9 – 12 weeks LMP: 25,700 – 288,000 mIU/ml
13 – 16 weeks LMP: 13,300 – 254,000 mIU/ml
17 – 24 weeks LMP: 4,060 – 165,400 mIU/ml
  • Jenny

    Why is this article kep on saying ” you did not know a beta count existing” .It should not even start the way it started.

  • Issebell

    (Person with No name) I took six early pregnancy test that measure 25mg of hcg pregnancy hormone levels and they all came out positive but where a faint positive test and my doctor did a pregnancy blood test but not sure what type of pregnancy blood test it was. And she said that the blood test came back negative. Im not sure if i should believe im pregnant or not. Does anyone know how much hcg pregnancy hormone levels have to be in order for either two pregnancy blood test to pick it up. I heard theres a yes and no pregnancy blood test and one that measures your hcg levels but im not sure what kind of pregnancy blood test my docter did. Can someone help answer my questions you can email me at ezybella7@gmail.com. As im worrid and going out of my mind cause im not sure what to think. My docter told me i can have the test repeated in a week or two if im still having positive pregnancy testAmerican Pregnancy Association
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    Human Chorionic Gonadotropin (HCG);The Pregnancy Hormone
    Home / Birth Defects & Disorders / Human Chorionic Gonadotropin (hCG);The Pregnancy Hormone

    The hormone human chorionic gonadotropin (better known as hCG) is produced during pregnancy. It is made by cells that form the placenta, which nourishes the egg after it has been fertilized and becomes attached to the uterine wall. Levels can first be detected by a blood test about 11 days after conception and about 12 – 14 days after conception by a urine test. In general the hCG levels will double every 72 hours. The level will reach its peak in the first 8 – 11 weeks of pregnancy and then will decline and level off for the remainder of the pregnancy.

    Key Things To Remember About HCG Levels

    85% of normal pregnancies, the hCG level will double every 48 – 72 hours. As you get further along in pregnancy and the hCG level gets higher, the time it takes to double can increase to about every 96 hours.
    Caution must be used in making too much of hCG numbers. A normal pregnancy may have low hCG levels and result in a perfectly healthy baby. The results from an ultrasound after 5 -6 weeks gestation are much more accurate than using hCG numbers.
    An hCG level of less than 5mIU/ml is considered negative for pregnancy, and anything above 25mIU/ml is considered positive for pregnancy.
    The hCG hormone is measured in milli-international units per milliliter (mIU/ml).
    A transvaginal ultrasound should be able to show at least a gestational sac once the hCG levels have reached between 1,000 – 2,000mIU/ml. Because levels can differentiate so much and conception dating can be wrong, a diagnosis should not be made by ultrasound findings until the hCG level has reached at least 2,000.
    A single hCG reading is not enough information for most diagnoses. When there is a question regarding the health of the pregnancy, multiple testings of hCG done a couple of days apart give a more accurate assessment of the situation.
    The hCG levels should not be used to date a pregnancy since these numbers can vary so widely.
    There are two common types of hCG tests. A qualitative hCG test detects if hCG is present in the blood. A quantitative hCG test (or beta hCG) measures the amount of hCG actually present in the blood.
    Guideline To HCG Levels During Pregnancy

    hCG levels in weeks from LMP (gestational age)* :

    3 weeks LMP: 5 – 50 mIU/ml
    4 weeks LMP: 5 – 426 mIU/ml
    5 weeks LMP: 18 – 7,340 mIU/ml
    6 weeks LMP: 1,080 – 56,500 mIU/ml
    7 – 8 weeks LMP: 7, 650 – 229,000 mIU/ml
    9 – 12 weeks LMP: 25,700 – 288,000 mIU/ml
    13 – 16 weeks LMP: 13,300 – 254,000 mIU/ml
    17 – 24 weeks LMP: 4,060 – 165,400 mIU/ml
    25 – 40 weeks LMP: 3,640 – 117,000 mIU/ml
    Non-pregnant females: <5.0 mIU/ml
    Postmenopausal females: <9.5 mIU/ml
    * These numbers are just a GUIDELINE– every woman’s level of hCG can rise differently. It is not necessarily the level that matters but rather the change in the level.

    What Can A Low HCG Level Mean?

    A low hCG level can mean any number of things and should be rechecked within 48-72 hours to see how the level is changing.

    A low hCG level could indicate:

    Miscalculation of pregnancy dating
    Possible miscarriage or blighted ovum
    Ectopic pregnancy
    What Can A High HCG Level Mean?

    A high level of hCG can also mean a number of things and should be rechecked within 48-72 hours to evaluate changes in the level.

    A high hCG level can indicate:

    Miscalculation of pregnancy dating
    Molar pregnancy
    Multiple pregnancy
    Should My HCG Level Be Checked Routinely?

    It is not common for doctors to routinely check your hCG levels unless you are showing signs of a possible problem. A health care provider may recheck your levels if you are bleeding, experiencing severe cramping, or have a history of miscarriage.

    What Can I Expect Of My HCG Levels After A Pregnancy Loss?

    Most women can expect their levels to return to a non-pregnant range about 4 – 6 weeks after a pregnancy loss has occurred. This can differentiate by how the loss occurred (spontaneous miscarriage, D & C procedure, abortion, natural delivery) and how high the levels were at the time of the loss. Health care providers usually will continue to test hCG levels after a pregnancy loss to ensure they return back to <5.0.

    Can Anything Interfere With My HCG Levels?

    Nothing should interfere with an hCG level except medications that contain hCG. These medications are often used in fertility treatments, and your health care provider should advise you on how they may affect a test. All other medications such as antibiotics, pain relievers, contraception or other hormone medications should not have any effect on a test that measures hCG.

    Last Updated: 01/2014
    Tags: Featured, Understanding Development


Last modified: July 30, 2014