What is a chemical pregnancy?
A chemical pregnancy is one that results in very early pregnancy loss, usually within the first few weeks.
The levels of the hormone human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) are initially elevated enough to produce a positive result on a pregnancy test but the levels fall before a gestational sac is seen on ultrasound.
Many women do not know that they have experienced a chemical pregnancy unless they have taken a pregnancy test.
Signs and Symptoms
The clearest indication of a chemical pregnancy is a positive pregnancy test result that is followed by a negative one.
A chemical pregnancy does not always cause symptoms.
Advances in pregnancy tests means that women can now identify pregnancies as early as the first day of embryo implantation.
Research shows however, that up to 25 percent of pregnancies result in miscarriage before a woman has any pregnancy symptoms or misses a period.
A chemical pregnancy does not usually require medical intervention or treatment.
Causes and risk factors
It is usually not possible to determine the exact cause of a chemical pregnancy. However, potential causes or contributing factors may include:
- Chromosomal abnormalities: Irregularities in chromosomal arrangements may prevent the fetus from developing and are considered the leading cause of early pregnancy loss.
- Advanced maternal age.
- Insufficient hormone levels: The body requires higher levels of certain hormones such as progesterone to support fetal growth.
- Low body mass index (BMI): Women who are underweight according to their BMI are at risk of an early miscarriage.
How soon can you conceive again?
Most women can attempt to get pregnant again almost immediately after an early pregnancy loss unless you are advised otherwise by your doctor.
If a woman has experienced a chemical pregnancy in the past, it does not mean that she will have difficulty conceiving in the future. A chemical pregnancy means that an embryo has reached the preimplantation phase of development and is a positive sign regarding a future pregnancy.
Pregnancy loss at any stage can cause grief, anxiety and stress. A woman and her partner should not hesitate to seek care from their doctor, midwife or a support group.
It is crucial to remember that no one is to blame for a chemical pregnancy and that a woman with a history of pregnancy loss can still go on to have a successful pregnancy and birth.
Dr Len Kliman (OAM) is one of Melbourne’s most experienced and respected obstetricians and gynaecologists.
With over three decades of experience, Dr Kliman has delivered over 20,000 babies and still counting!
In 2017, Dr Kliman was awarded an Order of Australia for his services to obstetrics and gynaecology.