Chemical Pregnancy: Causes, Signs And Symptoms

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The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) states that miscarriage accounts for 15 to 20% of all pregnancies. Of these miscarriages, 50 to 75% are chemical pregnancies (1). So, what does a chemical pregnancy mean and what causes it?

Read this MomJunction post to find out about chemical pregnancy and the impact it has on you.

What Is A Chemical Pregnancy?

A chemical pregnancy (biochemical pregnancy) is a medical term given to a very early miscarriage that occurs before the fifth week of gestation (2). It is a normal pregnancy, unlike a false pregnancy that ends in a miscarriage shortly after implantation. At such an early stage, only a chemical test, and not even an ultrasound can confirm the pregnancy. That is why most women do not even realize they have had a miscarriage unless they have been tested positive for pregnancy.

Most women find out about it when an early pregnancy test shows a faint positive result but turns out to be contrary in a week or two. It typically happens about a week after your period is due (3).

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How Common Are Chemical Pregnancies?

Chemical pregnancies are very common. Studies show that around 50 to 60% of all first-time pregnancies will end in miscarriage, of which many are biochemical pregnancies. Also, almost 25% pregnancies fail even before a woman knows she is pregnant, which is before she misses her period or experiences pregnancy symptoms (4).

Read on to know what could cause a chemical pregnancy.

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Causes Of A Chemical Pregnancy

The causes of chemical pregnancy are difficult to determine, and more research is required in this field. However, some of the identified reasons or contributing factors include (5) (6):

  • Chromosomal abnormalities: Abnormalities in the chromosome number and arrangement at the time of conception will prevent the fetus from developing, leading to early pregnancy loss.
  • Uterine abnormalities: Presence of irregularities or fibroids in the uterine lining would prevent implantation of the embryo, leading to miscarriage.
  • Hormonal deficit: Luteal phase defects and lack of enough hormonal levels fail to support a healthy pregnancy, eventually leading to a miscarriage.
  • Other risk factors including, advanced maternal age (35 and above), low body mass index, and medical problems such as clotting and thyroid disorders will increase the chances of chemical pregnancy.

Other than being an early miscarriage, chemical pregnancy also shows other signs.

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Signs And Symptoms Of Chemical Pregnancy

A chemical pregnancy usually goes unnoticed as it occurs around the monthly period. But, if you are trying to get pregnant or tracking ovulation, you might notice a few changes that indicate a chemical pregnancy. The most common signs and symptoms you should watch out for are mentioned next (5).

  • A pregnancy home test that gives a positive result, followed by a negative result the second time around
  • Delay in periods, especially when you have regular periods
  • Abdominal pain and cramping
  • Passing heavy clots
  • Decreasing hCG levels in the blood

These could also be indicative of an ectopic pregnancy, which is harmful. If these symptoms cause any discomfort, check with your doctor.

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Treatment Of Chemical Pregnancy

Chemical pregnancies don’t need any treatment. However, your doctor will ask you to take some tests to assess the condition, especially if you are experiencing multiple chemical pregnancies.

The follow-up tests check for the hCG hormone levels (if they are back to normal or not), ectopic or tubal pregnancy, infections or uterine abnormalities if any. The varied treatment options include:

  • Antibiotics for treating infections
  • Surgeries to rectify uterine abnormalities
  • Counseling

Talk to your doctor for a detailed treatment/rehabilitation plan.

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Can You Prevent Chemical Pregnancy?

Unfortunately, there are no ways to prevent chemical pregnancy. But if you have any medical condition that might increase the risk of this miscarriage, managing the condition can reduce the chances of a chemical pregnancy.

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What Are The Chances Of Getting Pregnant After A Chemical Pregnancy?

According to ACOG, you can become pregnant as soon as two weeks after a chemical pregnancy. Experiencing a chemical pregnancy in the past does not mean conception will be difficult. A chemical pregnancy is a positive sign indicating that the woman is fertile and can conceive in the future.

The Emotional Impact Of A Chemical Pregnancy

When identified, a chemical pregnancy can take an emotional toll on women who have been trying to get pregnant for a long time.

There may be feelings of grief, and some may become depressed for months. The sudden loss leaves them socially isolated, and they tend to grieve alone. The WHO recommends giving around six months time to conceive again following a miscarriage.

This allows the woman to recover physically and mentally. Those who want to have a child immediately should try conceiving soon since forced delay could be stressful, which could lead to infertility at times (7).

Deal with stress and other issues by talking about it to your partner or a therapist. Let go of any fears by talking to your doctor and clarifying any doubts that are stressing you out.

Next, a few commonly raised queries answered for you.

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Frequently Asked Questions

1. How long does chemical pregnancy bleeding last?

The bleeding from a chemical pregnancy will last for five to six days on an average, whereas period bleeding continues for nearly four days.

2. Is a chemical pregnancy same as a miscarriage?

Yes, a chemical pregnancy is a miscarriage. It is named so because it is a very early miscarriage.

3. Are you more fertile after a chemical pregnancy?

Yes, women are more fertile after a chemical pregnancy. Also, a study found that women who tried to become pregnant within three months of pregnancy loss were more likely to conceive, leading to more live births compared to those who have waited for a longer time to conceive after a miscarriage (8).

Chemical pregnancies may happen to any woman, and for a number of reasons. Nevertheless, you can conceive and have a healthy pregnancy and childbirth even after one or more chemical pregnancies. If chemical pregnancy is due to a specific condition, the doctor will be able to offer the right treatment options to limit the chances of chemical pregnancy later.

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MomJunction's articles are written after analyzing the research works of expert authors and institutions. Our references consist of resources established by authorities in their respective fields. You can learn more about the authenticity of the information we present in our editorial policy.
1. A Question and Answer with Jefferson Psychologist Andrea Braverman; Thomas Jefferson University Hospitals (2015)
2. Rochelle Schieck; Qoya: A Compass for Navigating an Embodied Life that is Wise, Wild and Free
3. Coulam CB & Roussev R; Chemical pregnancies: immunologic and ultrasonographic studies; Am J Reprod Immunol (2002)
4. John Jude Kweku Annan et al.; Biochemical Pregnancy During Assisted Conception: A Little Bit Pregnant; J Clin Med Res. (2013)
5. Early Pregnancy Loss; American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (2015)
6. Simpson. J et al.; Genetic and Nongenetic Causes of Pregnancy Loss; The Global Library of Women’s Medicine (2013)
7. Johnna Nynas et al.; Depression and Anxiety Following Early Pregnancy Loss: Recommendations for Primary Care Providers; Prim Care Companion CNS Disord (2015)
8. Trying to conceive soon after a pregnancy loss may increase chances of live birth; National Institutes of Health (2016)