A chemical pregnancy is a miscarriage that occurs very early in the pregnancy; typically within a week of when you expected your period, or before the fifth week of gestation. However, just because the miscarriage occurs very early in the pregnancy, it doesn’t mean that it’s not extremely confusing and disappointing.
It’s believed that chemical pregnancies account for approximately 75% of all miscarriages, so while we know that chemical pregnancies are very common, it’s important to know that it doesn’t mean you won’t be able to get pregnant again and enjoy a healthy full-term pregnancy in the future.
Women who are undergoing IVF (In Vitro Fertilisation) are most identified as those who experience chemical pregnancies. Perhaps the anticipation of achieving a pregnancy whilst undergoing IVF could encourage some couples to test earlier and more frequently than those who naturally conceive.
Why Do Chemical Pregnancies Occur?
At conception, a sperm and an egg combine chromosomes to form a zygote, which then starts growing through rapid cell division. It can happen that a mistake occurs during this process, whereby either insufficient to too many chromosomes are produced. It’s believed this abnormality is what causes most early pregnancy losses, and that it occurs randomly. This means it can happen to anyone. We should point out here that there are several risk factors that can put you at a higher risk of experiencing a chemical pregnancy, such as if you’re older than 35, or you have an undiagnosed medical problem like a thyroid condition, or clotting disorder.
Have You Experienced a Chemical Pregnancy?
Around three weeks following your last period, a fertilised egg was implanted in your uterus, and cells that would ultimately become the placenta started producing the pregnancy hormone hCG. However, the fertilised egg did not implant on the uterine wall, and while these levels were able to be detected in a urine or blood test, implantation never fully occurred and an ultrasound would not be able to detect a heartbeat. Then, bleeding began approximately a week after your period was actually due. You should contact your doctor if you’ve experienced heavy bleeding after a positive pregnancy test, because you could well be experiencing a chemical pregnancy.
What the Experts Say
Experts say that chemical pregnancies can be caused by a number of issues, like low hormone levels, inadequate uterine lining, infections like syphilis or chlamydia, luteal phase defect, and so on; however, it’s most commonly believed that a chromosomal issue in the evolving fetus is the main cause. This may occur due to low sperm or egg quality, unnatural cell division in the fetus, or genetic irregularities from the father or mother. Most women say that, unless they had taken a pregnancy test, they wouldn’t have even known they were experiencing a chemical pregnancy because they didn’t feel any different; however, other women do experience symptoms like cramping, spotting, or their period being a few days late.
Nature Taking it’s Natural Course
It’s believed that most chemical pregnancies occur because there was some sort of chromosomal abnormality with the fertilised egg, which made the pregnancy non-viable from the very beginning. The body will naturally terminate the pregnancy once it recognises this fact.
You Can Still Fall Pregnant After Experiencing a Chemical Pregnancy
Of course it’s so exciting when you receive a positive result on a pregnancy test, but then things change drastically; either the next test gives a negative result, or you begin your period. This can be truly devastating. Instead of your hCG levels increasing, they’re decreasing, and your doctor informs you that you’ve just experienced a ‘chemical pregnancy’. You begin to wonder if you were ever actually pregnant, or perhaps you’re wondering if you received a false positive.
Fortunately, today we have access to high density early-detection pregnancy tests and it’s not uncommon for these tests to detect a chemical pregnancy.
Many women who go through a chemical pregnancy may later have successful pregnancies. Statistics reveal that chemical pregnancies are common at the early stages of pregnancy. This occurrence can be explained by different factors, including genetic abnormalities in the embryo, hormonal imbalances or problems with the uterine lining. It is indeed disheartening for couples who have eagerly tried to conceive only to be met with disappointment so suddenly.
Nevertheless, it is essential to comprehend that a chemical pregnancy does not necessarily indicate fertility issues underneath. It often happens due to chance rather than as an indication of one’s ability to conceive. Numerous women who have experienced a chemical pregnancy ultimately end up having successful pregnancies after some time.
In the event that you have encountered a chemical pregnancy, it is fundamental to attend to both your emotional and physical well-being. Allocating time for yourself to mourn and process this loss is crucial since it can affect you quite deeply. Don’t hesitate to reach out to your partner, friends, or even join a support group so you can openly express your sentiments and seek solace within their presence. Additionally, seeking consultation from a healthcare professional who can offer guidance and reassurance may prove beneficial in navigating through this difficult time.
Moreover, allowing an adequate period of recovery before attempting to conceive again is highly advised. This will give your hormonal levels sufficient time to stabilize and ensure that your body is fully prepared for another pregnancy. Your doctor might also recommend certain tests or evaluations in order to eliminate any underlying conditions that could potentially impede future pregnancies.
Remember, a chemical pregnancy does not define your ability to have a healthy pregnancy in the future. It is merely a temporary setback on your journey to parenthood. Stay positive, take care of yourself, and don’t lose hope. With time and patience, you can increase your chances of conceiving and welcoming a beautiful baby into your life.
This post first appeared in 2019. It was last updated in June 2023.