Pregnancy in the emergency department: risk factors and prevalence among all women

Ann Emerg Med. 1994 Oct;24(4):697-700. doi: 10.1016/s0196-0644(94)70280-2.


Study objective: To determine the prevalence of unrecognized pregnancy in the emergency department and to ascertain if patient history can effectively detect unrecognized pregnancies.

Design: Prospective study.

Setting: Urban ED with annual census of 40,000.

Participants: One hundred ninety-one consecutive women meeting inclusion criteria.

Interventions: All participants completed a menstrual/sexual history questionnaire and had a urine pregnancy test.

Results: Overall, we found a 6.3% prevalence of unrecognized pregnancy. Women with abdominal/pelvic complaints had a 13% prevalence; those with other complaints had a 2.5% prevalence. Two historical risk factors, the patient's suspicion that she might be pregnant and an abnormal last menstrual period, had a statistically significant correlation with unrecognized pregnancy. A third risk factor, the presence of abdominal/pelvic complaints, nearly achieved statistical significance. These risk factors detected all unrecognized pregnancies with a sensitivity of 100% and a specificity of 54%.

Conclusion: The prevalence of unrecognized pregnancy in our ED was 6.3%. Historical risk factors detected all of them.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Emergency Service, Hospital*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Medical History Taking*
  • Pregnancy* / statistics & numerical data
  • Prevalence
  • Prospective Studies
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Surveys and Questionnaires