A chemical pregnancy is a miscarriage that occurs during the first five weeks of pregnancy. Conception occurs around week two, so by week five the embryo is just three weeks old. Chemical pregnancies are not uncommon. It is estimated that around half of all first pregnancies end in miscarriage, and that the majority of these occur before the fifth week of pregnancy.
Chemical pregnancies are called so because biochemical tests are the only way to detect a pregnancy so early on. Before week five, an ultrasound would usually fail to detect a pregnancy. In fact, some chemical pregnancies end before the pregnancy is detected, so many of these very early miscarriages go unnoticed. The use of early pregnancy tests, however, means more women are now aware when they have suffered chemical pregnancies.
What Causes a Chemical Pregnancy?
All of the causes may not yet be understood; however, it is believed that the following conditions may cause chemical pregnancy:
- Uterine abnormality
- Hormonal deficiency
- Fetal chromosomal abnormality
- Uterine Fibroids
- Inadequate lining of the uterus
Suffering a chemical pregnancy does not mean you have one of the conditions listed above; it is not yet known why all chemical pregnancies occur. However, the conditions above are some of the known causes of very early miscarriage.
Symptoms and Diagnosis for Chemical Pregnancy
Some women do not yet know they are pregnant and, as such, chemical pregnancy can go undiagnosed. If you are monitoring your ovulation and menstrual cycles, you are more likely to be aware if a chemical pregnancy has occurred.
Symptoms of chemical pregnancy include:
- A late period
- An unusually heavy period
- A positive pregnancy test
- Decreasing HcG (a pregnancy hormone) levels
To determine whether a very early miscarriage has occurred, your healthcare provider will take blood samples on two separate occasions. If the level of HcG in your blood is found to be decreasing, this means a chemical pregnancy has occurred.
In most cases, the uterus will empty spontaneously after a chemical pregnancy. This bleeding will be similar to a menstrual period, though may be heavier or last longer. Some women even report a lighter period following a chemical pregnancy. This bleeding is similar to a menstrual period and this is why some women do not know they have suffered a miscarriage. Without taking an early pregnancy test, women may just assume their period was later, and perhaps slightly heavier, than usual.
Trying to Conceive Again
Suffering a chemical pregnancy does not mean you will have problems conceiving. Most women go on to have healthy pregnancies. If you want to, you can start trying to conceive again straight away. If you have suffered repeated chemical pregnancies, speak to your healthcare provider. They may wish to establish if there is an underlying physical cause.
Some women avoid the use of very early pregnancy tests, choosing instead to wait until the first day of their missed period to test. It can be hard to wait the extra weeks, but some women feel it is a small sacrifice to avoid experiencing the feelings of loss associated with a chemical pregnancy.
Experiencing Real Loss
Though many women never know they have suffered a chemical pregnancy, for those who do, the loss is very real. The loss can be devastating, and you must allow yourself to grieve. Speak to your partner about how you feel, and be aware that he may be experiencing the same feelings of loss. Support is important during times of loss, so speak to close friends or family about how you feel. Support can be found both in real-life and online, so make sure you have someone you can talk to.
- What is a chemical pregnancy? (n.d.). Retrieved from: http://www.madeformums.com/pregnancy/what-is-a-chemical-pregnancy/36135.html
- Trout, D. S. (n.d.). Chemical Pregnancy – Symptoms & Causes Of Chemical Pregnancy. Retrieved from: http://www.pregnancycorner.com/loss/chemical-pregnancy.html
- Krissi Danielsson | Reviewed by Meredith Shur, MD. (n.d.). What Does It Mean to Have a Miscarriage Due a Chemical Pregnancy? Retrieved from: http://miscarriage.about.com/od/onetimemiscarriages/p/chemicalpreg.htm
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