Chemical Pregnancy: Here Are the Facts

Pregnancy is a world of intense emotions, and can get very confusing very fast. If you’re trying to get pregnant, it’s important to understand what a chemical pregnancy is, what causes it, and how to prepare for it. It can be very scary—it is scary—but very common, and most women that experience chemical pregnancies go on to have healthy babies. 

Chemical Pregnancies

Essentially, a chemical pregnancy is a very early miscarriage, typically before the 5th week of gestation. At this point in your pregnancy you may have gotten a positive pregnancy test result, but an ultrasound can’t detect it yet. Most women don’t actually know that they’re pregnant when they have a miscarriage this early on, but if you do know it can be devastating. While chemical pregnancies are fairly common, it doesn’t make them any easier to deal with. 

Chemical pregnancies make up anywhere from 50-75% of all miscarriages, but they are not an indication that you can’t get pregnant. In fact, many doctors look at chemical pregnancies as good signs that you can get pregnant, and probably will in the future. 

It’s important to understand that a false positive pregnancy test does not automatically equal a chemical pregnancy, because you could get a false positive for a number of different reasons. Chemical pregnancies are usually because of chromosome abnormalities, but can be the result of unsuccessful IVF or in vitro fertilisation. Another important thing to note is that working, exercising, sexual intercourse, or having taken birth control does not cause pregnancy loss. You can be at higher risk for early miscarriage if you’re at an advanced maternal age, you have a thyroid condition, or a clotting disorder. 

What Causes Chemical Pregnancies?

Like a lot of pregnancy things, there’s no clear cause. The important thing is that they’re common, and not an indication of you or your partner’s ability to conceive—it’s not your fault, and it’s not your partner’s fault. 

Some possible factors that could lead to a chemical pregnancy include:

  • Chromosomal abnormalities
  • Inadequate hormone levels
  • Improper implantation
  • Low weight

Think You’ve Had a Chemical Pregnancy? Here’s What to Do

Many women experience no symptoms, and don’t know that they’ve experienced a chemical pregnancy. For others, it can feel like menstruation and involve some vaginal bleeding. Some common symptoms include getting your period after a positive pregnancy test, light spotting (this can be a result of implantation bleeding, so it doesn’t necessarily mean chemical pregnancy), and menstrual-like cramps. 

If you’ve had a positive pregnancy test, see your doctor as soon as possible. They’ll be able to confirm whether you’re pregnant, or you’ve gotten a false result. If you think you’ve had a chemical pregnancy, regardless of whether or not you’ve taken a test, you should still see your doctor. 

There’s typically no physical treatment necessary for a chemical pregnancy, since it’s so early on. The only thing you might need is tissue removal, but your doctor can confirm whether your tissue has passed on its own or not. Your OB-GYN can also help you get in touch with a mental health professional if you or your partner need someone to talk to. 

Important Things to Remember

Chemical pregnancies are not any indication that you can’t get pregnant. You can even get pregnant as soon as two weeks after you’ve had a chemical pregnancy. Even having multiple early miscarriages, although very difficult emotionally, is no cause for alarm. After three, your doctor may refer you to a fertility specialist, just to rule out any other medical causes. Most of the time they won’t find anything wrong, and you’ll go on to have a beautiful, healthy pregnancy. 

It’s completely understandable if these logical facts don’t comfort you—it’s devastating to lose a pregnancy, at any stage. If you find yourself struggling to deal with your experience, don’t be afraid to reach out. Talk openly about your feelings to your partner, your doctor, or a mental health professional. 

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