What Is A Chemical Pregnancy

Chemical pregnancies are very normal. Between 10-20% of all pregnancies end in some type of miscarriage. Most people who have an early miscarriage go on to have a healthy pregnancy later on.

What’s a Chemical Pregnancy?

A chemical pregnancy is an early pregnancy loss that occurs shortly after implantation. Chemical pregnancies may account for 50 to 75 percent of all miscarriages.

Chemical pregnancies take place before ultrasounds can detect a fetus, but not too early for a pregnancy test to detect levels of hCG, or human chorionic gonadotropin. This is a pregnancy hormone the embryo creates after implantation. Your doctor can confirm a chemical pregnancy by testing your blood for it.

Experiencing a miscarriage just one or two weeks after a positive pregnancy test can be devastating.

A chemical pregnancy can have no symptoms. Some women have an early miscarriage without realizing they were pregnant.

For women who do have symptoms, these may include menstrual-like stomach cramping and vaginal bleeding within days of getting a positive pregnancy result.

It’s important to note that bleeding after a positive pregnancy test doesn’t always mean a chemical pregnancy. Bleeding is also common during implantation, which is when the embryo attaches to the uterus. This process can rupture or damage tiny blood vessels along the uterine lining, resulting in the release of blood. Spotting often appears as a pinkish or brownish discharge. This is normal 10 to 14 days after conception.

A chemical pregnancy doesn’t usually last long enough to cause pregnancy-related symptoms like nausea and fatigue.

This type of miscarriage differs from other miscarriages. Miscarriages can occur at any time during a pregnancy. But they are more common before the 20th week. A chemical pregnancy, on the other hand, always occurs shortly after implantation. Since most often the only symptom is menstrual-like cramping and bleeding, some women assume they’re having their menstrual cycle.

A chemical pregnancy can also happen after in vitro fertilization (IVF). An egg is removed from your ovaries and mixed with sperm. The embryo is transferred to the uterus after fertilization.

IVF is an option if you can’t conceive because of:

  • damaged fallopian tubes
  • ovulation problems
  • endometriosis
  • uterine fibroids
  • other fertility issues

A blood test is usually given within 9 to 14 days after IVF to check for a pregnancy, depending on the clinic you use.

Blood test results will be positive if implantation took place. But sadly, abnormalities with the embryo may cause a chemical pregnancy shortly thereafter.

A miscarriage after IVF can be heartbreaking, but it’s also a sign that you can get pregnant. Other attempts at IVF may be successful.

The exact cause of a chemical pregnancy is unknown. But in most cases the miscarriage is due to problems with the embryo, possibly caused by a low quality of sperm or egg.

Other causes may include:

  • abnormal hormone levels
  • uterine abnormalities
  • implantation outside the uterus
  • infections like chlamydia or syphilis

Being over the age of 35 increases the risk of a chemical pregnancy, as does certain medical problems. These include blood clotting and thyroid disorders.

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Unfortunately, there are no known ways to prevent a chemical pregnancy.

A chemical pregnancy doesn’t always mean you’re unable to conceive and have a healthy delivery. While there’s no specific treatment for this type of miscarriage, there are options to help you conceive.

If you’ve had more than one chemical pregnancy, your doctor can run tests to diagnose possible underlying causes. If your doctor can treat the cause, this can reduce the risk of another chemical pregnancy.

For example, if an early miscarriage was caused by an undiagnosed infection, taking antibiotics to clear the infection can improve your chances of conceiving and having a healthy delivery in the future. If the miscarriage was due to problems with your uterus, you may need a surgical procedure to correct the issue and have a healthy pregnancy.

You should also know that a chemical pregnancy isn’t the only condition that causes the body to produce the pregnancy hormone. Higher levels of hCG can also occur with an ectopic pregnancy. This is when an egg implants outside the uterus. Since an ectopic pregnancy can mimic a chemical pregnancy, your doctor may run tests to rule out this condition.

A chemical pregnancy doesn’t mean your body is unable to have a healthy pregnancy. If you learn the reasons for an early pregnancy miscarriage, you may be able to receive proper treatment. This can correct the underlying cause.

Speak with your doctor and discuss your options. Your doctor can also provide information on support groups or counseling services. These can be critical if you need emotional support after a miscarriage.

Last medically reviewed on June 26, 2017

What is Chemical Pregnancy?

A chemical pregnancy is a very early miscarriage. It usually happens before the pregnancy reaches five weeks. Many may not even realize they have had an early miscarriage if it happens soon after a missed period. Doctors often diagnose chemical pregnancy when you have had a positive pregnancy test and you start menstruating after. They may also diagnose it if there’s a positive pregnancy test but the fetus can’t be seen on an ultrasound.

What is an Early Miscarriage (Chemical Pregnancy)?

Symptoms of a chemical pregnancy. Since it is an early miscarriage, many people don’t realize they have had a chemical pregnancy. They may only realize it if they have already had a positive pregnancy test and then get their period. Other signs of a chemical pregnancy include:

  • A heavier than normal period
  • More menstrual cramping than usual
  • Low hCG levels
  • Lack of common pregnancy symptoms like morning sickness or breast soreness after a positive pregnancy test

Causes of a chemical pregnancy. There are many potential causes of an early miscarriage including:

  • Imbalanced hormones
  • Genetic abnormalities in the embryo
  • Lack of proper implantation in the uterus
  • Low body weight

It’s important to note that there’s little that you can do to prevent an early miscarriage, and it’s not the fault of either partner. Additionally, it usually is not a reflection of you or your partner’s ability to get pregnant. However, if you believe you have had a chemical pregnancy, it’s best to consult a doctor for advice.

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Treatments for a chemical pregnancy. Most chemical pregnancies do not require treatment. The miscarriage happens early enough in the pregnancy that it may just seem like a normal or slightly heavy period. If you do have an early miscarriage, you can try to get pregnant again right away if you want.

Those who have had multiple chemical pregnancies or miscarriages should consult a fertility specialist to figure out what’s going on.

Coping with an early miscarriage. Any miscarriage, including early ones, can be emotional, and people deal with them in different ways. It’s normal to feel a sense of grief and loss. Many people blame themselves for the miscarriage. Additionally, there may be hormonal shifts after a chemical pregnancy that make you more emotional.

Here are some tips for coping with a miscarriage:

  • Realize your feelings are normal after a chemical pregnancy
  • Allow yourself to grieve at your own pace
  • Realize each person’s grieving process is different and allow yourself to grieve in your own way
  • Consider joining a support group
  • Consider speaking with a therapist
  • Communicate openly with your partner about how you are feeling
  • Realize that it is normal to feel fear around getting pregnant again
  • It’s normal for emotional healing to take longer than physical healing

Risk factors for a chemical pregnancy. While there’s nothing you can do to prevent an early miscarriage, there are some risk factors that make you more likely to have one including:

  • Thyroid problems
  • “Geriatric pregnancy” (a pregnancy over the age of 35)
  • Diabetes
  • Blood clotting disorders
  • Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)
  • Using in vitro fertilization (IVF) to get pregnant

How to prevent a chemical pregnancy. There’s not much you can do to prevent a chemical pregnancy. Take prenatal vitamins before you even get pregnant to promote healthy fetal development if you plan to get pregnant. Some experts recommend that anyone who may become pregnant, even unintentionally, take prenatal vitamins just in case.

Chemical pregnancies are very normal. Between 10-20% of all pregnancies end in some type of miscarriage. Most people who have an early miscarriage go on to have a healthy pregnancy later on.

Differences Between a Chemical Pregnancy and a Clinical Pregnancy

A chemical pregnancy can only be detected through a pregnancy test, which shows elevated hormone levels. A pregnancy becomes clinical when a doctor can verify the pregnancy through an ultrasound or fetal heartbeat. A chemical pregnancy has no signs that can be felt or heard.

Doctors can usually detect signs of a clinical pregnancy at five to six weeks through an ultrasound, or at six to seven weeks by verifying a fetal heartbeat. However, hormonal pregnancy tests can detect a chemical pregnancy as early as two weeks after conception.

Show Sources

Mayo Clinic: “Can too much stress cause early miscarriage?” “Prenatal vitamins: Why they matter, how to choose.”

RMC Health System: “Chemical Pregnancy: Here Are the Facts.”

Stanford Children’s Health: “Coping with Miscarriage.”

Tommy’s: “Chemical pregnancy – information and support.”

Verywell Family: “What Is a Chemical Pregnancy?” “When the Clinical Signs of Pregnancy Occur.”

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Alex Koliada, PhD

Alex Koliada, PhD

Alex Koliada, PhD, is a well-known doctor. He is famous for his studies of ageing, genetics and other medical conditions. He works at the Institute of Food Biotechnology and Genomics NAS of Ukraine. His scientific researches are printed by the most reputable international magazines. Some of his works are: Differences in the gut Firmicutes to Bacteroidetes ratio across age groups in healthy Ukrainian population [BiomedCentral.com]; Mating status affects Drosophila lifespan, metabolism and antioxidant system [Science Direct]; Anise Hyssop Agastache foeniculum Increases Lifespan, Stress Resistance, and Metabolism by Affecting Free Radical Processes in Drosophila [Frontiersin].
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