Human Chorionic Gonadotropin (hCG) is a hormone that is usually found in the body system of a pregnant woman. It is widely known as the pregnancy hormone; the detectable compound used to confirm pregnancy.
Although hCG is naturally present in females, the synthetic version of this peptide is currently available. Scientists extract the hormone from the urine of pregnant women, while some extract it from animals. The extracted product is then refined, usually into a powder, and sold to be used in treating several conditions.
Although a lot of people might have heard of hCG or come across some information about this hormone, only some are appropriately enlightened about the full description, uses and benefits of hCG. This article aims to shed more light on human chorionic gonadotropin and essential information about its effects.
Description of HCG
HCG, Human chorionic gonadotropin is a glycoprotein composed of 237 amino acids linked together by protein bonds. It has a chemical structure that is similar to luteinizing hormone (LH), follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) and thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH); All these are hormones produced by the pituitary gland to regulate the balance of androgens, progesterone and estrogen in the body.
How The Body Produces HCG
After an egg has been fertilized in the fallopian tube, the zygote (fertilized egg) travels into the uterus and attaches to the uterine wall. About 7 to ten days after implantation, hCG levels become detectable as the placenta develops from the embryo and increases the production of the hormone.
HCG reaches peak level in a pregnant woman at weeks 10 to 12 and, subsequently, begins to reduce and remains constant until the end of gestation.
Functions of HCG
HCG has a primary function during pregnancy; it maintains the integrity of the corpus luteum in the ovaries at the start of gestation. The corpus luteum secretes progesterone, a hormone that is responsible for making the uterus inhabitable and conducive to the growth of an embryo. Progesterone causes the uterine endometrial lining to thicken, creating more blood vessels to nourish the developing fetus. It also sends signals to the ovary to stop releasing eggs and put an end to menstruation.
HCG also acts as a protective agent, keeping the immune system of the fetus from becoming compromised by abnormalities present in the mother’s blood. High levels of hCG can also be detected in people with certain forms of cancer, such as liver, ovarian, testicular and lung cancer.
Uses of HCG
Nowadays, those who buy hCG do so as a treatment for a number of conditions and to correct some anomalies in both male and female patients. Some uses of hCG include;
Treatment of Infertility
Infertility in men and women can occur as a result of several factors, from low sperm production to hormonal imbalance that affects ovulation. HCG is an essential component of fertility treatments like in-vitro fertilization (IVF) and intrauterine insemination (IUI). HCG facilitates the release of ova by the ovary, which is then extracted or fertilized to induce conception.
In men, hCG reverses infertility by influencing the production of appropriate levels of sperm.
Correction of Testosterone Deficiency
Testosterone deficiency can be caused by several factors, like hypogonadism or the use of compounds like anabolic steroids. Some symptoms of low testosterone levels are low sperm production, depression, muscle weakness, fatigue, erectile dysfunction and osteoporosis.
HCG works by imitating the action of the luteinizing hormone (LH) on testosterone production. LH stimulates the Leydig cells in the seminiferous tubules of the testicles, thereby increasing the production of sperm. It can also reverse testicular shrinkage, a common side effect of constant and prolonged steroid use, by increasing the size of the gonads.
Treatment of Cryptorchidism
Cryptorchidism is a condition in which the testes fail to descend from the body into the scrotum. HCG can prove effective in correcting this anomaly, especially in boys that have not yet reached puberty.
Safety And Precautions
HCG is completely safe for human use as its use as a treatment for infertility and testosterone deficiency has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
However, hCG is contraindicated in people with the following conditions;
- Cancer of the prostate, breast, ovary and brain
- Thyroid disease
- Ovarian cysts
- Early start of puberty
- Pregnant women
Some supplements containing hCG are being marketed as surefire solutions for weight loss in addition to an ‘hCG diet’ that focuses on eating no more than 500 calories daily. However, there is no research to back these claims up, and the FDA refers to these substances as harmful.
Side Effects of HCG
People who are allergic to hCG can develop effects such as hives, swelling, itching and breathing difficulties upon administration of the hormones.
HCG can also increase the risk of developing a blood clot. Some of the signs of a clot are;
Ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome is an adverse effect that occurs mostly in women after undergoing an hCG treatment. HCG can also interact negatively with some drugs causing reactions that can prove harmful to the body.
In conclusion, human chorionic gonadotropin is a protein that is produced by the trophoblasts that form the placenta. Its main function is to preserve the corpus luteum for the continued production of progesterone, a hormone that ensures the nutrition of the fetus during the early months of pregnancy.
HCG has been synthesized by extracting the product from the urine of pregnant women and modifying the DNA of some animals. The artificial hCG hormone is an effective treatment for infertility in men and women, low testosterone levels and cryptorchidism in prepubescent males.
HCG is also used as a marker to detect the presence of tumours and cancer cells in the testicles, ovaries, breasts and stomach. It is 100% safe for human use as its proposed effects are backed by numerous scientific studies.
It is recommended to consult a healthcare provider before using hCG as it can elicit some side effects that range from mild to life-threatening. HCG can also interact with some drugs to cause adverse reactions, which can prove fatal.