what is a chemical pregnancy?

woman contemplating a chemical pregnancy

Whether you’re trying for a baby or just enjoying your partner’s company, it’s possible that you’ve had a chemical pregnancy without realising. Perhaps you have your suspicions though and that’s how you ended up here. Or maybe you just want to know everything you can when hoping for a new arrival. Either way, you’re no doubt wondering…

what is a chemical pregnancy?

In simple terms, a chemical pregnancy is where implantation takes place but the pregnancy ends in the very early stages, usually before five weeks. Until this point, an ultrasound won’t show any sign of the pregnancy – it’s only your changing hormones which would give the game away. Hence the name chemical pregnancy.

what causes a chemical pregnancy?

As for what causes a chemical pregnancy to occur, the answer isn’t always straightforward. It could be due to low hormone levels, an infection or other unknown factors. After all, the human body is a wonderful but complicated thing. However, the most commonly suggested cause of a chemical pregnancy is chromosomal abnormalities. These occur randomly, often at no fault of mum and dad-to-be, and stop the embryo forming properly.

is a chemical pregnancy the same as a miscarriage?

While used interchangeably in some circumstances, the two are not quite the same. A miscarriage is the term used to describe the loss of an embryo or foetus before it is fully developed. A chemical pregnancy, much like an ectopic pregnancy, is just one type of miscarriage. So while a chemical pregnancy is the more accurate and specific term, you are likely to hear both names if speaking to your doctor (or reading this blog).

the signs and symptoms of a chemical pregnancy

If you’re not passionately trying for a baby, you could have a chemical pregnancy and never know. Some women experience light cramping or bleeding before their period is due while others have no outward symptoms at all. For those of you regularly checking for a plus sign though, you’re much more likely to spot it.

That’s because pregnancy tests check the levels of hCG (human chorionic gonadotropin), a hormone that is produced after implantation. The levels of this chemical rise in a normal pregnancy but decrease after a miscarriage. As such, having a positive test followed by a negative result or your normal period could indicate a chemical pregnancy.

when to take a pregnancy test

As pregnancy tests become more advanced, many hopeful mums and dads find themselves staring at a stick earlier and earlier. Gone are the days of having to wait a week after you’ve missed your period before peeing on a stick. Now you can pre-empt Mother Nature herself with early detection tests. But is this a good idea?

Perhaps the answer is yes and no. Knowing sooner gives you more time to plan and be excited, but it could also lead to disappointment. By taking a pregnancy test earlier in your cycle rather than waiting until you’re late, that little plus sign could become a minus later on due to a chemical pregnancy. For some couples, this can be very upsetting.

dealing with miscarriage grief

Like any loss, a chemical pregnancy can be an emotional experience. Both mums and dads-to-be may feel grief and guilt or confusion and concern, all of which are natural. If you suffer a miscarriage and want to understand what happened or need support, reach out to your doctor or the Miscarriage Association who are there to help.

fertility after a chemical pregnancy

Here’s some good news – going through a chemical pregnancy shouldn’t affect your fertility. You can continue to try for a little bundle as soon as you and your partner feel ready! The only reason to speak to your doctor about your fertility afterwards is if you have three or more miscarriages in a row. There may be an underlying cause for your recurrent pregnancy loss, so speaking up can help get you back on your way to a growing family.

keeping positive about pregnancy

Whether you experience a chemical pregnancy or just worry about it, one of the best things you can do is stay positive. Many parents have gone through the ups and downs of conceiving and come out the other side with a newborn to cuddle and cherish. Hopefully you’ll soon be just as lucky too.


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