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Clinical manifestations and diagnosis of early pregnancy

Lori A Bastian, MD, MPH
Haywood L Brown, MD
Section Editor
Charles J Lockwood, MD, MHCM
Deputy Editor
Vanessa A Barss, MD, FACOG


Diagnosis of pregnancy and knowledge of normal findings associated with early pregnancy are common issues in the medical care of reproductive-age women.

The diagnosis of early pregnancy is based primarily upon laboratory assessment of human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) in urine or blood. History and physical examination are not highly sensitive methods for early diagnosis, but knowledge of the characteristic findings of a normal pregnancy can be helpful in alerting the clinician to the possibility of an abnormal pregnancy, such as ectopic pregnancy, or the presence of coexistent disorders.


Most of the clinical findings associated with normal pregnancy can be attributed to end-organ effects of hormonal and mechanical changes associated with pregnancy. These pathophysiological changes are described in detail separately:

(See "Maternal adaptations to pregnancy: Skin, hair, nails, and mucous membranes".)

(See "Maternal adaptations to pregnancy: Cardiovascular and hemodynamic changes".)

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Literature review current through: Oct 2017. | This topic last updated: Sep 26, 2017.
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