Clinical Pregnancy

Reviewed by Dr. Huma Rasheed, MBBSCheckmark
Published: August 12, 2017

What Does Clinical Pregnancy Mean?

A clinical pregnancy is a pregnancy that has been confirmed by both high levels of human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) hormone and ultrasound visualization of the gestational sac.

If a pregnancy ends before it is confirmed by ultrasound, it is known as a chemical pregnancy rather than a clinical pregnancy.

FertilitySmarts Explains Clinical Pregnancy

hCG Levels

Human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) is the hormone released by the placenta during pregnancy and detected in the blood or urine in pregnancy tests. A positive pregnancy test indicates that hCG is present in a woman's body. Once this has been confirmed, the pregnancy is known as a chemical pregnancy because it has only been confirmed by the presence of the biochemical test, i.e., hCG. If for some reason, the pregnancy fails to progress at this point, it would be called a chemical pregnancy.

Visualization of the Gestational Sac

In addition to the detection of hCG, other signs of conception need to be present before confirming a clinical pregnancy. The first sign of clinical pregnancy is the ultrasound visualization of the gestational sac as early as 4 weeks from the last menstrual period.

The gestational sac is the fluid-filled structure that encloses the developing embryo and is normally contained within the uterus. The developing embryo is inside the gestational sac, but it is difficult to see the embryo on an ultrasound because of its small size.

Visualization of the fetal heartbeat can also be used to confirm a clinical pregnancy, but this doesn't appear on an ultrasound until later in pregnancy. For this reason, detection of the fetal heartbeat is less frequently used to confirm clinical pregnancy than the visualization of the gestational sac.

When both hCG in the body and clinical signs of pregnancy are confirmed, it would be called a clinical pregnancy.

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