What Is a Chemical Pregnancy? [5 SYMPTOMS YOU HAVE IT]


Pregnancy comes with many complications, and one must do their best to avoid as many as possible. A common question many women have is ‘what is a chemical pregnancy?’ This will be answered here.

An early pregnancy loss that occurs prior to the fifth week is called a chemical pregnancy. Biochemical pregnancy can be detected if you have a positive pregnancy test but then receive a negative result just several weeks later. The majority of women who get chemical pregnancies continue to have successful pregnancies too. Some women have reported being more fertile after going through a chemical pregnancy.

What Happens During a Chemical Pregnancy?

A chemical pregnancy, often referred to as a biochemical pregnancy, is an extremely early miscarriage that takes place when an egg stops maturing just before the fifth week of gestation, about around the same time as an anticipated menstrual period. Almost 18% to 22% of in-vitro fertilization (IVF) pregnancies and between 8% and 33% of normal pregnancies that result in miscarriage are caused by chemical pregnancies. 

When a blood test or a urine test for the pregnancy hormone human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) returns a positive result, it is referred to as a “chemical pregnancy.” Due to the early nature of chemical pregnancies, many women don’t even know they are pregnant; they might not have even taken a pregnancy test right up to experiencing any signs of pregnancy or even skipped a period. They might merely experience a heavier-than-normal late period. 

Since it could look and feel like late menstruation, this type of pregnancy frequently goes unnoticed. Women who are trying to conceive will record their symptoms, monitor their fertility, and take a preliminary pregnancy test around a week before the start of their period.

Since these women are keenly aware of their body’s modifications, they should almost instantly notice if they experience an early miscarriage. Increased chemical pregnancies are being discovered as a result of the rise in early-detection pregnancy tests, which has increased awareness of early loss. Conversely, a woman who is not attempting to get pregnant can blame stress for her late period and fail to recognize that she is miscarrying.

What Is the Difference Between a Chemical Pregnancy and Miscarriage?

The enzymes, hormones, and cells associated with pregnancy have begun to proliferate, while the other physical characteristics of pregnancy have not. Since an ultrasound or a medical examination by a fertility specialist cannot detect the pregnancy, this early type of miscarriage is known as a chemical pregnancy.

The length of the pregnancy is the only distinction between a chemical pregnancy and a miscarriage. Both are prenatal losses, but they occur at various times throughout the baby’s development. While a miscarriage that occurs later in the pregnancy has a distinct physiological recovery process, both result in pain and disappointment.

Is Chemical Pregnancy a Real Pregnancy?

Due to the embryo’s halting growth, a chemical pregnancy terminates prematurely. It differs from a clinical pregnancy, in which a fetus is clearly seen. However, that does not imply that a chemical pregnancy is not genuine. The discovery of your pregnancy might occasionally help the event feel more real. But occasionally, it’s the sound of a heartbeat. Each person’s perception of the experience is different. Every experience is authentic.

Pregnancy being referred to as a “chemical” can sound distant and cold. The name, however, has no connection to the actual pregnancy. Instead, the substances or chemicals in your body that cause a positive pregnancy test result are what give chemical pregnancies their title. The only reliable indicator that you are pregnant at around this stage is your hCG hormone levels.

What Causes Chemical Pregnancy?

The embryo in a chemical pregnancy generates hCG, the hormone it must produce to grow. To find out if you’re pregnant, pregnancy tests also look for this hormone. An embryo stops producing hCG when it finishes growing. Nobody is certain of the precise reason why an embryo stops growing during a chemical pregnancy. Most likely, a flaw in the embryo’s DNA is what causes it to cease growing. An embryo may not always attach properly to the uterine lining, which is necessary for growth. Your hCG levels fall as a result, while the pregnancy tests return back negative. Other potential factors include:

  • Excessive amounts of hormones.
  • Unusual uterine behavior.
  • External uterine implantation.
  • Illnesses like syphilis or chlamydia.

Risk Factor

A chemical pregnancy cannot be prevented, but there are certain known risk factors. The detection of chemical pregnancies is common in IVF. Chemical pregnancy risk is increased by being over 35 and having particular health problems. These include thyroid issues and blood clotting.

IVF and Chemical Pregnancies

If you’ve had in vitro fertilization (IVF), chemical pregnancies can also be a possibility. In reality, they can happen rather frequently following IVF or some other fertility procedure. The good thing is that, in contrast to women who have solely negative pregnancy tests, a premature pregnancy loss like this one can increase the likelihood of conceiving during subsequent IVF rounds.

Even though a chemical pregnancy following infertility treatments is undoubtedly discouraging and can even lead you to give up on IVF entirely, technology is on your team. Discuss your prospects of getting pregnant and whether another IVF cycle is necessary with your doctor.

Signs and Symptoms of Chemical Pregnancy

Signs and Symptoms of Chemical Pregnancy

Chemical pregnancies can be symptom-free. Several women miscarry before they even know they are pregnant.

Within days of receiving a positive pregnancy test, women who have symptoms may endure menstrual discomfort including abdominal pains and vaginal bleeding.

It’s importan to understand that bleeding after a positive pregnancy test does not really mean a chemical pregnancy. Additionally, frequent bleeding occurs as the embryo connects to the uterus throughout implantation. The procedure can cause microscopic blood vessels anywhere along the uterine lining to burst or become damaged, releasing blood.

As the only genuine sign of a chemical pregnancy is a delayed period, the vast majority of individuals who experience one never even realize they are pregnant. When an early pregnancy test yields a flimsy positive response but then gives a negative result after a week or two, this may indicate a chemical pregnancy.

Due to the accuracy of contemporary home pregnancy tests, many women discover they are pregnant far earlier than they expected—even before their anticipated period. In a chemical pregnancy, the embryo ceases development after the fertilized egg’s cells create enough hCG to give a positive pregnancy result.

Regardless of whether you anticipate that a chemical pregnancy would result in more than usual menstrual flow, this is not always the case. Other indicators of a chemical pregnancy could be:

  • A blood test showing low hCG levels.
  • Mild stomach cramps or very severe abdominal cramping throughout a period.
  • Mild bleeding a week or so before the start of a regular menstruation. 

In a chemical pregnancy, hormonal pregnancy changes are detectable but low, so you wouldn’t typically feel any of the other typical early pregnancy symptoms like exhaustion or nausea.

How Is It Diagnosed?

Sometimes after taking a home pregnancy test and getting a positive result, a woman will experience a late period or learn there isn’t a pregnancy after taking a pregnancy test in the doctor’s office.

A urine or blood test to measure your body’s hCG level can be used by your doctor to determine whether you suffered a chemical pregnancy. In other cases, women might not even be aware that they are pregnant because they believe their period is simply late.

Prevention and Treatment

Unfortunately, there is no way to treat or prevent a chemical pregnancy. However, a chemical pregnancy will not prevent you from getting pregnant and giving birth normally. Chemical pregnancies typically occur early enough so that the body of the pregnant person is not significantly affected and no treatment is necessary. If one does happen, practically nothing prevents a couple from actually attempting again straight away. Furthermore, there are methods to assist you in getting pregnant, even though there isn’t a precise remedy for this kind of miscarriage.

Your doctor can perform tests to identify any potential underlying issues if you’ve been through more than one chemical pregnancy. The likelihood of yet another chemical pregnancy can be decreased if your doctor can address the underlying cause.

For instance, taking antibiotics to treat an illness that resulted in an early miscarriage can improve your odds of developing and delivering a healthy birth in the future. You could require surgery to have a healthy pregnancy if your uterus was the cause of the miscarriage.

Additionally, you should be aware that the pregnancy hormone isn’t just released by the body in response to a chemical pregnancy. An ectopic pregnancy might also result in higher hCG levels. This occurs when an egg attaches outside of the uterus. Your doctor may order testing to rule out a chemical pregnancy because an ectopic pregnancy can resemble one.

Grief After an Early Pregnancy Loss

As opposed to a miscarriage later in the pregnancy, a chemical pregnancy may look more like a phase in which a pregnancy never happened. But on an emotional level, things may be completely different. Regardless of how premature a pregnancy loss happens, it’s normal to feel sad. Let yourself grieve if you must.

Never forget that you are not to blame for a chemical pregnancy. There is not much you can do to prevent miscarriages because chromosomal mistakes are the main cause. Understanding the mourning process, which often involves various stages like denial, guilt, rage, and even despair may help you get through this trying period. Permitting yourself to go through each step at your personal rhythm will help. Additionally, you may experience jealousy when you see other pregnant people or mothers with their children, and you might encounter difficulties while you recover from an early miscarriage. Remind yourself that it’s quite acceptable for feelings to come back and change.

As a part of your healing process, think about doing something practical like creating a memorial for your child, scheduling time for self-care, keeping a journal of your feelings, or attending a support network for parents who have gone through a similar loss.

However, seek assistance from a counselor or doctor if your grief begins to dominate or overpower your days and prevent you from going on to your normal routine. If you’ve observed that your period is frequently delayed, make an appointment with your doctor right away. Your doctor might want to rule out any anovulation-related problems that could hinder your ability to conceive. If necessary, they might recommend a fertility specialist.

Always consult a medical professional if:

  • You and your spouse have been trying to get pregnant for the past 12 months, are both under 35, and have no infertility issues.
  • You are over 35 and have been trying to get pregnant for more than six months.
  • You are older than 38 and have been trying to get pregnant for three months.
  • Your family members have experienced infertility in the past.

Don’t Worry Too Much

Know that a very early miscarriage is actually normal and is no cause for concern. Pregnancy hormones have no influence on your capability to conceive or deliver a healthy baby. You might require medical intervention if you notice that your menstrual cycle is irregular, but generally, your next pregnancy will not be affected by a very early miscarriage.

Stephanie Edenburgh

I'm Steph, a mom to 3 beautiful children and lover all things having to do with my family and being a mom. I've learned a lot raising my own children and working in education and healthcare roles throughout my career. Living in beautiful Southern California I enjoy documenting and writing about all of the hard work us mom's do on a daily basis.

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