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Pregnancy is officially diagnosed early on by blood or urine tests. Nowadays home pregnancy tests are accurate fairly early on. Pregnancy can also be diagnosed by ultrasound or a physical exam by a practitioner. Advanced pregnancy can be diagnosed by hearing the fetal heart tones and seeing fetal movement.
The diagnosis of pregnancy requires a multifaceted approach using three area of assessment. These are history and physical examination, laboratory testing, and ultrasound examination.
History and physical examination: the classic presentation of pregnancy is a woman with menses of regular frequency who presents with amenorrhea, nausea, vomiting, generalized malaise, and breast tenderness. Physical examination findings may include an enlarged uterus, breast changes, softening and enlargement of the cervix and a bluish discoloration of the cervix from venous congestion. However, laboratory pregnancy test and ultrasound examination will often diagnosis the pregnancy before these physical changes are evident.
Laboratory testing: the most common laboratory test is a measurement of the beta subunit of hcg (human chorionic-gonadotrophin). Levels of hcg can be found in both the blood and urine. The presence of hcg is the basis of most home and office-based pregnancy tests. Other hormones that have been used in the diagnosis of pregnancy include progesterone and early pregnancy factor.
Ultrasound examination: using vaginal ultrasound technology, the fetal or embryonic pole is visible at approximately 5-6 weeks’ gestation and cardiac activity is visible at approximately7-8 weeks. These are evidence of an intrauterine pregnancy.