Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Elevated HCG

I received a call back from the place at Swedish Hospital that did my ultrasound and screening last week. Most of what I was told was reassuring. The likelihood that our fetus has Down Syndrome is 1 in 3500, and the likelihood that our fetus has Trisomy 18 is 1 in 10,000. Both of these are very low risk, so my screening is over.

The nurse practitioner then told me that I have elevated HCG levels. HCG is the hormone your placenta releases, and it's what is tested for in those at-home pregnancy tests. High HCG levels can indicate many things that we know I don't have, such as twins/multiples, an ectopic pregnancy, or a molar pregnancy. I later read it can be an indicator for things like ovarian cancer (in non-pregnant women) or even Downs Syndrome. It can also (supposedly) cause pre-term delivery, low birth weight, and even still birth. Finally, it can also just be a normal pregnancy.

It's unnerving to hear that something is abnormal in a pregnancy, even if it doesn't seem to be anything dangerous. She said my levels were at 3.22, when the highest normal range is 2.88. She said it's not really a level that is very worrisome. She said it calls for extra ultrasounds to make sure the fetus continues to grow normally and that the placenta is OK. She then added that they recommend a take a baby aspirin at night because they found a baby aspirin helps the placenta work properly (and high HCG can be indicative of the placenta working too hard/inadequately).

I don't want to take a baby aspirin every night. I want the baby to be healthy, most definitely. However, aspirin is a big no-no in pregnancy. It can lead to growth problems in the fetus, bleeding problems in the mother, and problems with the placenta (including a detached placenta that can lead to the death of both the mother and baby). The nurse practitioner assured me that the levels of a baby aspirin are low enough that it's safe to take, but I can't find much information that says a baby aspirin helps the placenta. I read that it can help if a doctor suspects blood clots in the placenta. Conversely, I keep reading (everywhere) that a woman should never take aspirin, especially during the third trimester. It makes me so reluctant to take it. I was honest with the nurse practitioner, and I told her so. She said she understands my concerns and recommends I talk to my midwife (from whom I'm currently waiting for a call back).

I read that an abnormal HCG reading can also be a fluke. I read it should be tested again, so I think I'm going to ask my midwife to run that test one more time. I think that's a reasonable place to begin. I also am not entirely convinced that she hadn't run it previously. If she had, the levels were normal because all my blood work has come back normal until now. I'm just not sure if the HCG was ever run before this. I'm hoping that the results will come back normal. At this point, I'm nearly 13 weeks pregnant (according to the ultrasound, I already am 13 weeks pregnant), so the HCG levels should start declining naturally.

The thing is, I know that this news isn't that big of a deal. I know the nurse practitioner was trying to tell me it's really probably not anything at all. But, still, as a pregnant woman, I can't get my mind off of the fact that something isn't exactly perfect with the pregnancy, and I hate that. I'm hoping I'll have some good news to share soon.


Anonymous said...

Thank you! This post was enlightening for my wife and I; her tests also showed high hcg levels.

Kishore kumar said...

THANKS FOR THE post.I will consider option of restest.

Anonymous said...

Hi elevated HCG, I just had a reading of 8.94 so i am completely sick with worry. wanting to know how everything worked out for you?

Thanks :)