You’ve taken a pregnancy tests and gotten two lines… it’s positive! However, your excitement was short-lived, as you discover the news that you’ve had a chemical pregnancy.
So, what is a chemical pregnancy? And how did this happen?
What is a chemical pregnancy?
A chemical pregnancy is another term to describe an early miscarriage which occurs in the first five weeks of pregnancy.
You might be wondering why it’s called a ‘chemical’ pregnancy.
It’s because these kind of pregnancies occur (and also end) so very early, only a test could have been sensitive enough to pick it up.
An ultrasound would not have led to a pregnancy confirmation. This early in the pregnancy, only a biochemical test could have confirmed it.
How common are chemical pregnancies?
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.
What causes a 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
Signs of a chemical pregnancy
Some women may not realise they have conceived, and therefore will be unaware a chemical pregnancy has occurred. In these cases, the women may get their period as per normal, and don’t experience any unusual signs or symptoms.
If you’re trying to conceive and are monitoring your ovulation and menstrual cycles, you’re more likely to notice if this has occurred.
Possible signs of a chemical pregnancy include:
- Late period
- Light period
- A positive pregnancy test
- Vaginal bleeding
- Decreasing hCG levels in your blood
- Abdominal cramps
How long does chemical pregnancy last?
Usually, a chemical pregnancy doesn’t last very long at all. Many women won’t realise they’ve had one and go on to have their period as expected.
Others won’t progress far enough in the pregnancy to get those trademark pregnancy symptoms, such as fatigue, nausea and needing to urinate frequently.
Do hCG levels rise with a chemical pregnancy?
Initially, there is enough hCG in the body to produce a positive pregnancy test. However, because these pregnancies end so soon, hCG levels do not continue to rise. After the pregnancy has ended, the hCG levels then drop back to zero.
Diagnosis and treatment
Your doctor will will likely want to test the hCG levels in your blood. If a decrease in hCG levels is found, this will confirm that you’re 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. The bleeding experienced will be similar to your normal menstrual bleed. In some cases, it may be heavier or last longer than normal.
Coping with grief and loss
Many women may be unaware they have experienced a chemical pregnancy. However, the increased popularity of early pregnancy test kits means you’re now more likely to know if you’re pregnant, sooner. If you were excited to discover you were pregnant, being diagnosed with a chemical pregnancy can be devastating.
Although the pregnancy ended so soon, it doesn’t make the loss or grief any less real. Discuss your feelings with your partner, and with close friends or family. There are online and real life support groups you can contact for help. Sometimes it helps to know you are not the only person experiencing loss or grief.
Can you still get pregnant after a chemical pregnancy?
Most women who experience chemical pregnancies go on to have healthy pregnancies. You can start trying to get pregnant again immediately if you wish. It’s possible to get pregnant as soon as your next cycle.
If you’ve suffered from previous chemical pregnancies, you should speak to your healthcare provider. They may run tests to try and establish if there’s a physical cause for repeated chemical pregnancies.