What is a chemical pregnancy?

What is a chemical pregnancy?


3 minute read

Getting your period a week after a positive pregnancy test can send you through a whirlwind of emotions. What you may have experienced is called a chemical pregnancy, and it’s much more common than you might realize. Chemical pregnancy loss may account for up to 70% of all conceptions. 

A chemical pregnancy is one that results in very early pregnancy loss, usually in the first few weeks. The name comes from the levels of hCG:levels of the hormone human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) are initially high enough to produce a positive pregnancy result on a pregnancy test but dip again before they can be visibly detected on an ultrasound. 

Many women may not even know that they have experienced a chemical pregnancy if they have not taken a pregnancy test yet. 

 

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What causes a chemical pregnancy?

Most early pregnancy losses including chemical pregnancies are caused by chromosomal abnormalities that make it non-viable from the start. When the body recognizes this, it will naturally terminate the pregnancy soon after the egg implants. 

At the start of a normal pregnancy, an egg and sperm combine 23 chromosomes from each partner to form a zygote with 46 chromosomes. The zygote begins to grow rapidly through cell division and eventually implants in the uterine wall. 

However, in a chemical pregnancy:

  • A sperm or egg has too many chromosomes or not enough.
  • After conception, the zygote that is formed also has an abnormal number of chromosomes.
  • This chromosomal abnormality causes the zygote to not develop normally. 
  • Instead of implanting in the uterine wall, the fertilized egg is released from the body which results in bleeding a few days to a week after your regular period was due. 

 

What are the symptoms and signs?

A chemical pregnancy is sometimes revealed when an early pregnancy test shows a faint positive result but later returns a negative result. The loss of a chemical pregnancy will typically happen about a week after your regular period was due. There are no real symptoms of a chemical pregnancy other than a late period, but a woman may experience cramping. 

 

What is conceiving like after a chemical pregnancy?

Chemical pregnancies usually happen early enough that they generally have little effect on a women’s body. If one happens, there is usually nothing standing in the way of you trying to conceive again as soon as you would like. If you have had a chemical pregnancy, it is usually a positive sign that you can get pregnant and the chances are high that you next pregnancy will be normal.

Everyone reacts differently to a chemical pregnancy and there is no single, right response. On one hand, a chemical pregnancy may not cause you any grief or distress which is perfectly normal. However, it is also natural to feel upset no matter how early a pregnancy loss occurs. Remember that a chemical pregnancy is not your fault! Since most miscarriages are caused by chromosomal accidents, there’s nothing you can do to prevent them. You should not hesitate to seek care from a doctor, counselor or support group and organization if you are struggling with this loss. 

 


 

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