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The term “chemical pregnancy” is a way of describing a pregnancy that does not develop for long enough to be confirmed as a clinical pregnancy. The only way to know you are pregnant at this early stage is due to the chemicals, or hormones, that your body produces when you first become pregnant.

 

These pregnancies might be detected on a home pregnancy test, only to result in an early miscarriage before they can be confirmed in a clinical setting. While many chemical pregnancies go unnoticed, it can be a disappointing and confusing experience for those hoping to have a baby.

 

Below are 8 things to know about chemical pregnancy symptoms, causes, and what they mean for future pregnancies.

1. Chemical pregnancies can be detected with urine or blood tests.

Urine tests can be used to detect the human chorionic gonadotrophic (or hCG) hormone as early as 5 days before a missed period. You might have used a home pregnancy test on or before the day of your expected period if you are actively trying to conceive. Blood tests may also be used very early in the case of fertility treatments or other closely monitored pregnancies.
 
When a pregnancy test shows a positive, but your period starts within a week of the positive test, it could be that you experienced a chemical pregnancy. This could also be the case if you get a positive home test, only to have a negative test a bit later on.
 

2. Chemical pregnancies result when an embryo ceases to continue development.

A chemical pregnancy simply means that there was an egg that was fertilized and maybe even implanted into the uterus, but ceased to continue developing very early in the process. Therefore, your body started to produce hCG only to stop producing it shortly after.
 
There are any number of reasons why an embryo might cease to develop at this early stage. There might be a genetic component that causes that particular embryo to be incompatible with growth. Other times, the uterine lining might not be ready to support a growing pregnancy, or certain illnesses might cause the body to reject the pregnancy in order to protect the health of the mother.

 

3. Chemical pregnancies are very common.

About 80% of known miscarriages happen very early, such as in the case of a chemical pregnancy. Miscarriages (pregnancies that end before 20 weeks) occur in about a quarter of all recorded pregnancies. Due to the nature of chemical pregnancies, there may even be a large number that go completely unnoticed.

 

4. Early pregnancy loss means not everyone will realize they were even pregnant.

People with irregular periods or inconsistent cycles might not think to test for pregnancy or assume that they are simply experiencing a heavier than normal period. Some women may never test or find out for sure but suspect that they experienced a chemical pregnancy after the fact.
 
For those trying to conceive, a chemical pregnancy can be a source of grief and confusion, as they will be more likely to have tested early enough to see the positive test before the pregnancy stopped developing.
 
 

5. Some factors can increase your odds of a chemical pregnancy.

The risk of having a chemical pregnancy is similar to the risk of having any other early miscarriage. You might be more likely to notice that a chemical pregnancy has occurred if you are closely monitoring for pregnancy, as in the case of IVF.
 
Common risk factors that increase your chance of pregnancy loss are being over 35 years old, having a uterus that is atypical in shape, inconsistent hormone levels, or certain STIs or other reproductive conditions such as PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome).
 
 

6. Chemical pregnancy symptoms will vary from person to person.

Chemical pregnancies will cause different symptoms depending on the person as well as how many days pregnant you are. There is no way to know ahead of time if an early positive pregnancy test will result in a chemical pregnancy.
 
Some signs that you have experienced a chemical pregnancy are a heavier or late period, more painful cramps, a positive pregnancy test followed by a period that starts a few days later, or a positive test followed by a negative test later on.
 
Whether or not you were expecting a pregnancy, each person will have a unique response to the experience of a pregnancy loss. Whatever you feel about the situation is valid for you. Do not be afraid to reach out for emotional and physical support if you are having trouble processing the experience or dealing with symptoms of pain or exhaustion.
 
 

7. There is no sure way to prevent an early pregnancy loss.

Unfortunately, pregnancy loss at such an early stage is not something that can be prevented or predicted before it happens. Often, the loss occurs due to some kind of genetic incompatibility within the embryo or an inability of the uterus to support the pregnancy.
 
If you are thinking of getting pregnant, your provider might recommend starting prenatal vitamins and a getting full checkup before attempting to conceive. While it’s a good idea to be taking prenatal vitamins and make sure you are healthy enough to carry a pregnancy, early miscarriages can happen to anyone regardless of these measures.
 
 

8. Many people continue on with normal pregnancies after a chemical pregnancy.

The good news for those trying to conceive is that the majority of people who experience a chemical pregnancy will go on to have a healthy pregnancy later on. If you have experienced a chemical pregnancy or other early miscarriage for the first time, chances are high that you will be able to become pregnant again and carry the pregnancy to term.
 
If you have experienced repeated early losses or meet certain criteria, you may need to speak with your care provider about fertility options. They will be able to work with you to discover if there is a treatable reason for your early losses, or if fertility treatments might be needed.

Final Thoughts

Chemical pregnancies can happen to anyone, and should not be taken as a sign that something is wrong with you or your body. Many people experience chemical pregnancies without any noticeable symptoms, while others may be acutely aware of the early loss.

 

Remember, everyone experiences chemical pregnancies differently, both physically and emotionally. If you have experienced a chemical pregnancy, do not be afraid to reach out to friends and family for support while you process the experience. If you’re worried about future pregnancies, consider talking to your doctor and asking any questions you have until you feel comfortable.