Pregnancy is a joyous occasion, no doubt! But, the path to pregnancy isn’t always easy. For some couples, pregnancy is a hard earned dream. Unfortunately, infertility robs many families of the spontaneous joy of creating new life and adding to the merry brood.
Unlike most couples yearning for a baby, couples who have infertility have to walk that extra mile to fulfil their dreams of having a family. And, one of the tools that can help beat infertility is an IVF or In Vitro Fertilization treatment.
But IVF is not the holy-grail, it is not a fool-proof source of a ‘happily ever after’! Many IVF treatments do end in heartbreak. One of the biggest challenges of IVF treatment is a chemical pregnancy. If you are thinking of opting for an IVF or are already in the middle of one, you need to know more about this strangely heart-breaking phenomenon called ‘Chemical Pregnancy.’ So here, MomJunction has compiled some important information on the subject. Read on to learn more.
What Is IVF?
Before we tell you about chemical pregnancy, let’s understand IVF a little better.
IVF or In Vitro Fertilization is proof that medical science can work miracles! The process involves hormone therapy, which encourages the development of numerous eggs in a woman’s ovaries.
These eggs are then collected and fertilized in a test tube using healthy sperms received from a man. These fertilized eggs go on to make embryos that are allowed to grow for 2-5 days. The most vigorous of these embryos are transferred to the uterus. Pregnancy typically begins when these embryos nestle in nicely in the uterus (implantation).
[ Read: IVF Treatment And Risks ]
What Is A Chemical Pregnancy?
Now that you know, in brief, what IVF is, let’s move on to a chemical pregnancy. What exactly is a chemical pregnancy? How is it different from a miscarriage?
A chemical pregnancy is a practical name given to a heart-breaking condition– a pregnancy loss. Here’s a brief account of what a chemical pregnancy entails:
- A chemical pregnancy is an early miscarriage, a rather early miscarriage. In fact, more women than you can imagine, have a chemical pregnancy but, don’t even know about it.
- It usually occurs around the time or a little after your period is due. That is when you are technically five to six weeks pregnant.
- A chemical pregnancy implies that your body did make the hCG hormone, a sure shot indicator of pregnancy.
- Most women experience their periods within days of a positive pregnancy test when they have a chemical pregnancy.
- A chemical pregnancy does not have differentiating symptoms. It feels like a period that came a little late.
Women who suffer from infertility, especially those undergoing IVF, experience a chemical pregnancy more often than others. Women who conceive naturally, in most cases, treat a chemical pregnancy as a late period because they have no clue they were even pregnant in the first place! On the other hand, women using artificial reproductive techniques like IUI and IVF, test (whether HPT or a blood test) a maximum of 14 days after transfer, which allows them to realize an early pregnancy.
[ Read: Chemical Pregnancy ]
Chemical Pregnancy And IVF – Causes
Many, maybe too many, women experience chemical pregnancy while undergoing IVF. Around 20 out of 100 IVF treatment couples experience a positive pregnancy test post transfer, end up with an early pregnancy loss or chemical pregnancy.
Here are the major causes of a chemical pregnancy after IVF:
1. Embryo Abnormalities:
The biggest cause of a chemical pregnancy and miscarriage is embryo abnormality. What exactly does embryo abnormality mean? Well, a normal embryo consists of many chromosomes. But an abnormal embryo contains a disproportionate number of chromosomes. Other factors that can cause the growth of abnormal embryos include structural chromosomal, epigenetic, and metabolic factors. Older women and women with PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome) are more likely to experience embryo abnormalities during IVF too.
2. Implantation Dysfunction:
Several chemical pregnancies occur due to implantation issues. Some of the causes of implantation dysfunction include:
- Endometrial polyps
- Surgical scarring
- Advanced maternal age
3. Autoimmune Issues:
Sometimes, a woman’s immune cells are wired in such a way that they attack a growing embryo instead of nurturing it. This happens because the immune system is unable to differentiate between embryo cells and disease-causing cells.
4. Other Issues:
Other causes of chemical pregnancy can include:
- Infections (especially sexually transmitted infections)
- Thyroid issues
- Abnormal hormone levels
- Luteal phase defects
- Unbalanced embryo chromosomal translocations
[ Read: Ectopic Pregnancy ]
Testing To Avoid A Chemical Pregnancy
If you are experiencing repeated chemical pregnancies, it may be time to dig a little deeper.
Some tests that can help unearth the real cause of repeated chemical pregnancies are:
1. Sonohysterogram, Hysteroscopy Or APelvic MRI:
Any of these tests can help evaluate the condition of your uterus and pinpoint any abnormalities. It makes sense to undergo these tests before you embark on IVF so that you can avoid chemical pregnancies and early pregnancy losses.
2. Ultrasound Scan:
An ultrasound scan determines the thickness of your endometrial wall lining. If your lining measures less than 8mm, it makes sense to wait till it is thicker before embryo transfer. A great way to thicken the lining is to use vaginal viagra 72 hours before the hCG trigger.
3. Natural Killer Cell aActivity (NKa) Test:
This primary immune test can help your doctor to find out if it is your immune system that is causing the chemical pregnancies.
4. Blood Tests:
If you are undergoing IVF, the chances are high that you would have undergone a plethora of blood tests already. But it is possible that something has changed in your body since your last series of tests. So, it is better to take fresh tests to learn more about your reoccurring chemical pregnancies.
5. Molecular And Biochemical Testing:
Your doctor can also check the molecular and biochemical factors in your endometrium. These tests can help discover your chances of implantations.
6. Chromosome Testing:
Thanks to the development of medical science, your doctor can now choose the healthiest embryo to transfer! Tests like using Comparative Genomic Hybridization (CGH) can help identify chromosomally healthy and normal embryos.
IVF And Chemical Pregnancy – Prevention
Once the exact cause is clear, your doctor can go on to treat the condition. Some of the treatment options for recurrent chemical pregnancies are:
If your body is not making enough progesterone and that is causing your early pregnancy losses, your doctor may prescribe oral or vaginal progesterone use.
[ Read: Progesterone Level During Pregnancy ]
2. Baby Aspirin:
Baby Aspirin acts as a blood thinner and can help prevent chemical pregnancy.
If an infection is causing you to lose your pregnancies, a course of antibiotics can do the trick.
As mentioned above, abnormalities in the uterus can in many cases cause chemical pregnancies. In such a case, your doctor may prescribe surgery to fix the problem.
Women who have never gone through the heartbreak that is a chemical pregnancy often wonder what the fuss is all about. ‘You weren’t really that far along so you should not grieve’ – is, unfortunately, the common mindset about chemical pregnancy. But what you lost was also your baby! You are allowed to mourn the loss of life that never got a fair chance at life.
But remember, this is not the end! Most women who experience a chemical pregnancy go on to have healthy babies. So hold on! Talk to your doctor, and get ready for the next round!
Have you ever experienced a chemical pregnancy? What symptoms did you encounter? Tell us here.
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