Chemical Pregnancy: Everything You Need to Know

on March 7, 2018

What is a chemical pregnancy all about? Is this a new term you aren’t aware of? Read on for some trivia on what a chemical pregnancy is all about. Today, we also list out 7 signs and symptoms that may indicate you are having a chemical pregnancy!

What is a Chemical Pregnancy?

A conception with measurable HCG levels that does not develop enough to be seen on ultrasound, is said to be a chemical pregnancy. This makes such pregnancies unsuccessful. The only way one can determine that a woman has been pregnant is because of the presence of HCG in her blood or urine. Chemical pregnancies are therefore also known as miscarriages because of their short lives.

Usually, women don’t even realize that they are pregnant because such pregnancies occur within the first six weeks of conception. In this period, women may not display any pregnancy symptoms. In fact, most women do not take a pregnancy test as they still have not missed their first period.

Read More: 15 Miscarriage Foods To Avoid During Early Pregnancy

These days, pregnancy tests have become more advanced and accurate, making women detect their pregnancy up to a maximum of three days before an upcoming period. As a result, they are able to detect a chemical pregnancy.

Pregnancy chemical

Causes of Chemical Pregnancy

Within the first six weeks of pregnancy, the largest number of chemical pregnancies or early miscarriages occur. Though it’s still not clear why women go through chemical pregnancies, yet there are some definite causes:

  • A chromosomal or genetic abnormality that prevents the embryo from forming normally
  • A uterine abnormality that interferes with implantation, including fibroids
  • A hormonal deficiency that renders pregnancy very difficult

Having one chemical pregnancy doesn’t mean that the next one will be another chemical pregnancy. However, your risk for one increases if you’re 35 years old or more, or if you have a pre-existing or undiagnosed medical problem, such as thyroid or clotting disorders.

Read more: 11 Must Know Early Signs of Miscarriage

Signs and Symptoms of a Chemical Pregnancy

A chemical pregnancy’s signs aren’t as prominent as a regular one because they appear very early in the pregnancy. However, here are its signs and symptoms that women experience:

1. First of all, it’s important to note that women don’t experience the normal pregnancy signs and symptoms. The symptoms they have could be what women experience in a routine period, like fatigue, breast tenderness, nausea and bloating.

2. A prominent sign of a chemical pregnancy is that women test positive for pregnancy and within a week of that, they get their period. Another sign that women have chemical pregnancy is the vaginal bleeding they experience, which makes it look like a regular period. If they undergo blood tests at this stage, it will reveal that their HCG levels are falling, whereas they should be increasing in a regular pregnancy.

3. A woman’s blood flow is much heavier than normal in a chemical pregnancy, so this is one more sign. This blood could be peppered with clots and women could experience chronic menstrual cramping.

4. Chemical pregnancies generally end with vaginal bleeding, which occurs at the same time as one’s regular period. Women who don’t know why they have a heavy blood flow assume it’s just a late period they experience or a delayed one for that month.

5. Women also experience mild spotting in the week preceding their period is a prominent symptom of a chemical pregnancy.

6. They also have low HCG hormone levels and experience mild abdominal cramps.

7. Women also complain of mild or severe low back pain or stomach pain, or menstrual-like cramps, either intermittent or persistent. Chemical pregnancy also shows up as women suffering with nausea and low breast sensitivity.

Overall, women who go through chemical pregnancies hardly ever know that they are pregnant, no matter how briefly. Only those women who have been trying to get pregnant and have been monitoring any irregularities in their system will know that they have had a miscarriage.

However, women do get upset by their miscarriage, even if this means that they do not know they were pregnant. Yet, they feel the loss of a growing baby.

Read More: Pregnancy after Miscarriage – 11 Must Know Facts

How long does chemical pregnancy bleeding last?

Generally, a chemical pregnancy happens so early in the pregnancy that many women don’t even realize that they were pregnant. Women who aren’t actively trying to get pregnant can even mistake it to be a late period. If you have suffered from a chemical pregnancy you can expect bleeding to continue like your normal menstruation cycle or for a bit longer.

Some women may also experience heavy bleeding. They can soak through two pads an hour for two hours in a row. This can continue for the length of your normal menstrual period or slightly longer. However, some early pregnancy loss can lead to excessive bleeding. If the bleeding is extremely heavy and you can’t stand up or even sit, then you need immediate medical attention.

Along with bleeding, you may also experience common menstrual symptoms such as cramps and abdominal pain. However, if you find any of the below complications, then seek immediate medical help:

  • Extremely painful cramping that doesn’t go away with your usual medication.
  • Fever with a temperature of 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit or higher.
  • Foul-smelling discharge.

These indicate that you have developed infection. You need to head to the emergency room immediately when you spot any of these signs.

When does a chemical pregnancy occur?

A chemical pregnancy happens within the first five weeks of the pregnancy. During this time the fetus is not developed and only the chemical changes take place in your body. This is a case of a very early miscarriage. In this stage it is not possible for the baby’s heart beats to show.

A chemical pregnancy is very much a pregnancy. The sperm has fertilized the egg and it has begun to develop. However, for some reason the pregnancy stops developing very early on and you suffer from a very early miscarriage. The causes for a chemical pregnancy are still not known. However, there are certain conditions that may increase the risk of suffering from a chemical pregnancy. These include:

  • Certain infections.
  • Some systematic illnesses such as thyroid disease that is not treated on time.
  • Uterine abnormalities that are either acquired or congenital.
  • Inadequate uterine lining.
  • Abnormal hormonal levels.
  • Implantation of the fetus outside the uterus.
  • Fibroids
  • Blighted ovum.
  • Chromosomal abnormalities.
  • Luteal phase defect.

Treatment for Chemical Pregnancy

There are many complications that can happen during pregnancy. One such complication is chemical pregnancy. The sad news is that there is no way to prevent a chemical pregnancy. There are also no known medical treatments for the condition. There are certain things that your doctor may suggest after a chemical pregnancy.

Follow up tests

Following a case of chemical pregnancy, your doctor can ask you to have some follow up tests done. These tests will help to see whether your HCG level has returned to normal. Certain cases of ectopic or tubal pregnancy also show signs and symptoms like chemical pregnancy. Getting these tests done will help in determining the next course of action.

Dilation and curettage (D&C)

This is a surgical procedure that your doctor may recommend in case your chemical pregnancy is not complete. This means that you have an incomplete miscarriage. Through the procedure your doctor will remove all the traces of the pregnancy from your body. This is essential to prevent possible infection of the uterus.

Checking the fetus for abnormalities

In case you have had multiple cases of chemical pregnancies, your doctor may send the tissues or fetus for testing. This is done to check for any possible abnormalities that may be causing the repeated chemical pregnancies. This helps to determine further treatment.

Tests to check for other health issues

If you have suffered from a chemical pregnancy, your doctor may suggest tests to look for possible health issues. Certain ailments and underlying conditions can have a negative impact on your pregnancy. In case any health issue is detected, then the treatment for the same can be started immediately.

Emotional Counseling

Losing a pregnancy, even at the early stages, can be a devastating experience for both you and your partner. Your doctor can suggest emotional counseling to help you cope with the feelings of loss and guilt. This can be very effective in helping you deal with the grief of losing your pregnancy.

Other medical alternatives

Your doctor can also suggest treatment options such as baby aspirin and progesterone for chemical pregnancy. There are also surgeries that can help fix any abnormalities present in your uterus. The doctor may also suggest a course of antibiotics in case you have any infection from the chemical pregnancy.

Is chemical pregnancy and miscarriage the same?

A chemical pregnancy is a very early miscarriage. In a chemical pregnancy, the development of the pregnancy doesn’t go beyond the chemical changes in your body. A chemical pregnancy happens when you miscarry after conception but before the fetus starts to develop.

Even though chemical pregnancy is not considered to be either a pregnancy or a miscarriage, they are indeed both. The only difference between a chemical pregnancy and a miscarriage is the time when they take place. In case of a chemical pregnancy, the time is around three or four weeks of pregnancy.

Another difference lies in the time that your body takes to recover from these. In the case of a chemical pregnancy the physical recovery process for your body is less. Many women don’t even realize that they’ve had a chemical pregnancy. However, in the case of a later-term miscarriage, the body can take significantly longer to recover.

Both chemical pregnancy and miscarriage can be similarly heartbreaking, and many couples have found counseling to be a good way to cope with the loss. There is no medical evidence that a past chemical pregnancy can affect your future pregnancy. While there are some women who have faced problems in later pregnancies after a chemical pregnancy, there are others who have gone on to have healthy and successful pregnancies.

It is important to stay healthy physically as well as emotionally after suffering from a chemical pregnancy. Talk to your doctor to know when you can safely start trying for a pregnancy again.

How to prevent chemical pregnancy?

Once you have suffered from the loss of a chemical pregnancy it is common for you to ask yourself what you could have done to prevent it. The first thing you need to understand about a chemical pregnancy or any other miscarriage is that it’s not your fault. This is especially true in the case of a chemical pregnancy.

Most women who aren’t trying to get pregnant don’t even realize that they’ve had a chemical pregnancy. Medically, it is like your monthly menstrual cycle in which you did not conceive. It is not considered to be a miscarriage. You need to understand that the chemical pregnancy is not a result of something that you have done.

Like most other miscarriages, chemical pregnancies also happen due to genetic abnormalities that you have no control over. There is quite frankly not much that you can do to prevent a chemical pregnancy from happening. However, there are certain pre-conception precautions that you can take. These include:

  • Reviewing your medical history with your doctor.
  • Discussing any earlier cases of miscarriage.
  • Discussing any earlier instances of chemical pregnancy.
  • Check for disorders such as PCOS or irregular menstruation. These may mean that your body doesn’t have enough female hormones to support the early stages of pregnancy.
  • Get tested for chromosomal abnormalities if you have suffered from multiple miscarriages earlier. This helps to determine whether you can benefit from IVF.
  • Limit the number of sexual partners.
  • Avoid taking too many emergency contraceptive pills.
  • Follow all precautions that your doctor recommends during the infertility therapies.
  • Do not douche or insert anything in your vagina.
  • Always use condoms while having sex if you are not planning for another pregnancy.
  • Quit smoking as this can have adverse effects on your body and fertility.
  • Limit the amount of alcohol you consume.
  • Avoid using any recreational drugs long before you decide to get pregnant.

The hard truth is that there is very little you can do in order to prevent a chemical pregnancy from happening. As sad as it is, you can not prevent it from happening. However, you can practice safe sex and lead a healthy life style to minimize the risk.

Even though chemical pregnancy is not qualified as either a pregnancy or a miscarriage in medical terms, the truth is that it is both. For a woman who has been trying to get pregnant, a chemical pregnancy can be a devastating incident. It is a painful experience both physically and emotionally. There are no known treatments for chemical pregnancy till now. However, your doctor can suggest hormone supplement, counseling and antibiotics for infections. The most important thing to remember about a chemical pregnancy is that it is not the result of something you have done. You need to understand this and look forward. There are many women who have gone on to have healthy and successful pregnancies after suffering from chemical pregnancy. So, don’t lose heart.

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  • Katherine Thompson

    The sentence “In fact, it’s quite common for women to get pregnant soon after this incident, so there’s no big loss in going through a chemical pregnancy.” Is extremely insensitive!

    • ParentingHealthyBabies

      Thanks for pointing this out Katherine. We are working on your feedback.

  • New Mom

    I like the way the symptoms have been summed up. thanks for the informative article.

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