Author Forensic Question: Evidence of Pregnancy on Autopsy

Aray Asks

Can an autopsy show evidence of a three week old fetus? I’m researching for a novel I’m writing and I need your help, considering that the information has to be accurate.
My MC’s mother’s body is severely mutilated ( carved into).  She was three weeks pregnant at the time this gruesome murder took place. Police officials accuse her husband of doing the deed.  Having no leads, they arrest him. The husband’s on trial for capital murder.  The medical examiner takes the witness stand. The lawyer asks him a series of questions, one being the autopsy report.
Amryn Says:
A 3 week old fetus would not be visible during an autopsy. At that point in development, the fetus is a ball of cells but without any physical characteristics that one would recognize as human. If the medical examiner needs to detect that the victim was pregnant, the best way would be to perform an HCG test on the victim’s blood.
HCG is the hormone that is responsible for making a pregnancy test appear positive. It usually takes 3-4 weeks for this hormone to be at a high enough level to trigger a positive test, however a quantitative test might be enough to suggest that the victim’s hormone levels were slightly above normal. I wouldn’t think it would be enough for a medical examiner to definitively say the victim was pregnant, but it might be enough for he/she to say it’s possible. Any time after 4 weeks, the HCG levels will begin to rise almost exponentially and therefore would be more easily detected.  


Amryn Cross is a full-time forensic scientist and author of romantic suspense and mystery novels. Her first novel, Learning to Die, is available on Amazon. The first book in her latest series, loosely based on an updated Sherlock Holmes, is available for pre-order on Amazon. Look for Warzone in January 2015. You can connect with Amryn via her websiteTwitter and Facebook.

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