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Human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG) is sometimes called “the pregnancy hormone” because of its important role in maintaining pregnancy. Pregnancy tests check HCG levels in the urine or blood to determine if the test is positive or negative.
HCG injection is also approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat specific medical conditions in both women and men.
In women, HCG injections are FDA-approved to help treat infertility.
In men, HCG injections are FDA-approved for a type of hypogonadism in which the body doesn’t adequately stimulate the gonads to produce the sex hormone testosterone.
What is it used for in men?
In men, doctors prescribe HCG combat the symptoms of hypogonadism, such as low testosterone and infertility. It can help the body increase the production of testosterone and increase sperm production, which can reduce infertility.
Injections of HCG are also sometimes used as an alternative to testosterone products in men with testosterone deficiency. Testosterone deficiency is defined as testosterone blood levels less than 300 nanograms per deciliter along with symptoms of low testosterone. These include:
low sex drive
According to the American Urological Association, HCG is appropriate for those men with testosterone deficiency who also desire to maintain fertility.
Testosterone products boost levels of the hormone in the body but can have the side effects of shrinking the gonads, altering sexual function, and causing infertility. HCG can help increase testosterone levels, increase fertility, and increase gonad size.
Some doctors think that using testosterone along with HCG might improve symptoms of testosterone deficiency while preventing some of the testosterone side effects.
There is also speculation that HCG might help improve sexual function in men who don’t have improvement while on testosterone.
Bodybuilders who take anabolic steroids such as testosterone also sometimes use HCG to prevent or reverse some of the side effects caused by steroids, such as gonad shrinkage and infertility.
How does it work to increase testosterone?
In men, HCG acts like luteinizing hormone (LH). LH stimulates Leydig cells in the testicles, which results in the production of testosterone. LH also stimulates the production of sperm within structures in the testicles called seminiferous tubules.
As hCG stimulates the testicles to produce testosterone and sperm, the testicles grow in size over time.
What does the research say?
Very little clinical research has evaluated HCG in men with low testosterone levels. In a small study of men with hypogonadism, HCG increased testosterone levels compared to a placebo control. There was no effect of HCG on sexual function.
In one study, men taking testosterone along with HCG were able to maintain adequate sperm production. In another study, men taking testosterone along with HCG were able to maintain testosterone production in the testicles.
What are the side effects?
The most common side effects men experience when HCG injections are used include:
the growth of male breasts (ginecomastia)
pain, redness, and swelling at the injection site
In rare cases, people taking HCG have developed blood clots. Although also rare, allergic reactions can occur, including mild skin rashes and severe anaphylactic reactions.
Can it be used for weight loss?
There is no substantial evidence that hCG works for weight loss.
When used appropriately with the guidance of your doctor, HCG is safe. It shouldn’t be used by men with prostate cancer, certain brain cancers, or uncontrolled thyroid disease. Talk to your doctor about your other medical conditions before using HCG.
HCG is produced from hamster ovary cells. People with an allergy to hamster protein shouldn’t take HCG.