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A clinical pregnancy is a pregnancy in which clinical signs of the fetus can be either seen or heard. This type of pregnancy can be confirmed through ultrasound visualization of the gestational sac or heartbeat. Typically, the earliest signs of clinical pregnancy can be detected five weeks into the pregnancy.
Levels of hCG, also known as the “pregnancy hormone,” are a good first indicator of a pregnancy. These hormones are released throughout the pregnancy by the placenta, and can be analyzed in blood or urine tests. However, a pregnancy is not considered clinical until it has been seen or heard.
An ultrasound visualization of the gestational sac can be done as early as 4–5 weeks after the last menstrual cycle. The gestational sac contains the embryo and is found in the uterus. The ultrasound would typically detect key indicators of clinical pregnancy, including the yolk sac and the fetal pole.
Detecting a heartbeat is another indication of clinical pregnancy. This can only be done later in the pregnancy, usually between weeks six and seven, using an ultrasound.
Clinical pregnancy is often confused with a chemical pregnancy. However, a chemical pregnancy is determined solely by chemical factors — namely hCG levels.
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