A chemical pregnancy is another term to describe an early miscarriage that occurs within the first five weeks of pregnancy. Chemical pregnancies are quite common. Around half of all first pregnancies are thought to end in miscarriage, and a chemical pregnancy is thought to be the cause of most of these.
Why Is It Called A ‘Chemical Pregnancy’?
It is called a chemical pregnancy because it occurs at a time when only a chemical test could have picked up the pregnancy. An ultrasound would not have led to a pregnancy confirmation. This early in the pregnancy, only a biochemical test could have confirmed the pregnancy.
Causes Of Chemical Pregnancy
Chemical pregnancies can occur for a number of reasons, including:
- Uterine abnormality
- Inadequate lining of the uterus
- Fetal chromosomal abnormality
- Hormonal deficiency
- Luteal phase defect – the uterus is not in the correct phase to allow implantation
- Blighted ovum
Symptoms Of Chemical Pregnancy
Some women may not realise they are pregnant, and as such may not know when a chemical pregnancy occurs. For this reason, it is hard to know the exact number of women affected by this condition. If you are trying to conceive and are monitoring your ovulation and menstrual cycles, you are more likely to notice that a chemical pregnancy has occurred.
Possible symptoms include:
- Late period
- Light period
- A positive pregnancy test
- Vaginal bleeding
- Decreasing hCG levels in your blood
- Abdominal cramps
Diagnosis And Treatment of Chemical Pregnancy
To diagnose chemical pregnancy, your doctor will test the hCG levels in your blood a number of times. If a decrease in hCG levels is found, this will confirm that you are not pregnant. An ultrasound scan may be performed to check for an implanted embryo. If this is not found, a chemical pregnancy will be assumed.
In most cases, the uterus will empty itself spontaneously after a chemical pregnancy. The bleeding experienced will be similar to your normal menstrual bleed, although may in some cases be heavier or last longer than normal.
Grief And Loss After Chemical Pregnancy
Many women may be unaware they have experienced a chemical pregnancy. However, the increased popularity of early pregnancy testing kits, means you are now more likely to be aware of the pregnancy. If you were excited to discover you were pregnant, then being diagnosed with a chemical pregnancy can be devastating. Although the pregnancy ended before implantation, that doesn't make the loss or grief you may be experiencing any less real. Discuss your feelings with your partner, and with close friends or family. There are online and real life support groups that you can contact for help. Sometimes it helps to know you are not the only person experiencing loss or grief.
Getting Pregnant Again After Chemical Pregnancy
Most women who experience chemical pregnancies, go on to have healthy pregnancies. Chemical pregnancies do not cause any long term damage. You can start trying to get pregnant again immediately if you wish.
If you have suffered previous chemical pregnancies, you should speak to your healthcare provider. They may run tests to try and establish if there is a physical cause for repeated chemical pregnancies.