Can hCG Injections Help with Pregnancy (and Miscarriage)?
Human chorionic gonadotropin, or hCG, is often referred to as the “pregnancy hormone” and plays a big role in every pregnancy journey. hCG injections are also commonly used within TTC plans to support or safeguard a pregnancy.
In this post we’ll explore what this hormone is and why some women are prescribed hCG as a fertility treatment. We’ll look at what hCG injections are, how they’re used, and what other alternatives are available if you’re struggling to conceive.
What is hCG?
Known as one of the primary pregnancy hormones, hCG is produced by the cells surrounding a developing embryo that eventually go on to form the placenta. Although it is produced naturally in the body and you may find trace amounts in your system at other times, hCG is really only produced by your emerging placenta once an embryo implants in the uterus.
As the embryo continues to develop, hCG levels rise and peak around the 8-11 weeks of pregnancy. Around the 16th week, when the placenta is fully formed and takes over progesterone production, the assistance hCG provided is no longer needed.
The real role of hCG is to tell your body to keep producing progesterone from the corpus luteum until the placenta can take over. Progesterone stops an impending menstrual cycle and protects the uterine lining and your pregnancy. Production of this hormone kicks in almost immediately after implantation and levels rapidly increase during the early weeks of pregnancy.
Once hCG production really starts, it ensures the corpus luteum continues to produce progesterone throughout the first trimester of pregnancy. Without progesterone, the womb lining would shed and prevent an embryo from implanting. hCG makes sure this doesn’t happen by ensuring the corpus luteum continues progesterone production until the placenta is established and can take over production.
In addition to how it triggers progesterone production and supports fetal growth, hCG also supports other bodily functions over the course of a pregnancy. It promotes the development of new blood vessels in the uterus as well as smoothing the muscle cells in the uterine wall, both critical developments for maintaining a pregnancy.
What are hCG injections?
Because a pregnant body requires hCG in high levels, sometimes women are prescribed hCG injections to further support their pregnancy. Although this isn’t common, women who have low levels of hCG or have had recurrent pregnancy loss may be prescribed as part of fertility treatment either before or during pregnancy.
hCG injections are typically prescribed in 5,000 to 10,000 units that are injected subcutaneously or intramuscularly as determined by your doctor. They may be prescribed as part of a fertility treatment to stimulate ovulation as hCG can act similarly to luteinizing hormone (LH) which controls ovulation. Or, they may be prescribed as part of fertility treatment to boost your body’s chance of staying pregnant. Injections are taken at a specific time or time frame that your doctor will decide based on your specific situation.
Can hCG injections help with pregnancy?
hCG’s most common use is as an injection to treat infertility in women. It is most useful for those who have trouble conceiving because of issues with ovulation. If your body is not ovulating as it should your chances of becoming pregnant are much lower. Pinpointing your peak fertility days is key to planning a successful pregnancy and injections of hCG can help as they stimulate ovulation.
How do hCG injections work?
hCG is similar in structure to LH and is often used to stimulate ovulation because your body reacts to hCG the same way that it does to LH. Ovulation is necessary for pregnancy and hCG injections help the ovaries release eggs.
When there is a follicle in the ovary, an injection of hCG can help cause the egg to be released as part of ovulation. Ovulation happens approximately 36 hours after an injection and thus helps with timing intercourse during your fertile window. Injections are also used to time egg retrievals in an IVF cycle. Injections are sometimes called a “trigger shot” since the hCG triggers the egg to go through its final growth spurt and release from the follicles.
How many injections are recommended?
Fertility treatments are highly specific to each person. Your doctor will prescribe the amount and timing of injections based on your specific health issues and fertility treatment. Injections may be used alone or along with other fertility drugs depending on your specific situation. Typically injections are 5,000 to 10,000 units of hCG to be administered subcutaneously (under the skin) or intramuscularly. The schedule and timing of injections will be determined by your doctor and you should always follow their directions carefully.
Are there any risks or side effects?
As with any medication, there are always risks or side effects but injections of hCG are commonly prescribed and generally well tolerated . Side effects vary depending on the person and dose but may include bloating and stomach or pelvic pain as well as pain,tenderness or rash at the injection site.
More serious risks include developing ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome (OHSS) where the ovaries become dangerously enlarged with fluid. Symptoms are usually mild and include nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea but can become more serious and should be reported to your doctor immediately. Although OHSS is rare, severe cases can be life-threatening and your doctor will take into account any risk factors before beginning treatment.
Are there any alternatives to hCG injections?
Prior to considering hCG injections, an alternative would be to address or prevent the underlying issues affecting fertility. That could mean supporting your hormone health to promote ovulation or trying other medications to induce ovulation. If you are investigating hCG injections to prevent miscarriage your doctor may be able to offer alternative treatments or strategies to protect the pregnancy.
As a medically-assisted fertility treatment hCG is prescribed in injectable format. Nutritional supplements of hCG may be marketed with various claims but hCG is only approved as a prescription drug for the treatment of infertility. It cannot be used without a prescription and is not approved for any other use.
Progesterone is often prescribed to women who have experienced prior miscarriage as a strategy to maintain the pregnancy. More data is needed to support the treatment, but for some women supplemental progesterone has helped during early pregnancy. Progesterone helps maintain the uterine lining so supplementation is meant to prevent miscarriage. There is some controversy over the efficacy of this treatment though since the link between low progesterone and miscarriage is not entirely clear.
How can you measure your hCG levels?
A blood test is the most accurate way to detect and track hCG levels. Home pregnancy tests detect the presence of hCG but can’t tell you the amount of hCG in your urine. And while some pregnancy tests on the market are geared to tell you if your hormone levels have risen over the baseline, they are not meant to monitor healthy pregnancies.
Fertility tracking systems, like Mira Fertility Plus, can help you track other fertility hormones like luteinizing hormone, estrogen, and progesterone. Tracking and monitoring these hormones can help you achieve your fertility goals and provide valuable health information about your body. In the future, you will be able to use your Mira device to track hCG and use the information to track vital signs in early pregnancy.
Should you take hCG if you’re struggling with miscarriages?
If you’ve experienced miscarriage or pregnancy loss then it’s understandable you would want to try a treatment that will give you a chance at a viable pregnancy. Working with your doctor or healthcare provider can help you determine whether this treatment is right for you.
There may be lifestyle changes you can make to improve your chances of a healthy pregnancy, or there may be underlying health concerns. Investigating these avenues with your doctor may uncover contributing factors that could boost your chances of getting pregnant. There are many lifestyle factors such as not smoking or managing stress associated with reduced risk of miscarriage that could benefit you both before and during your pregnancy.