Chemical pregnancy – 10 things you should know
What exactly is a chemical pregnancy? Like many other pregnancy failures, it’s a clunky name that doesn’t quite make sense (see blighted ovum – the most ineptly named miscarriage ever). So here are 10 important things you should know about a chemical pregnancy, as collated from reliable online medical sources.
1. A chemical pregnancy is an early miscarriage. So early, in fact, that you may not know you had one. Or indeed that you were pregnant at all. A chemical pregnancy usually occurs when you’re five or six weeks pregnant – i.e. before you’ve had an ultrasound scan.
2. It’s called a chemical pregnancy because, however short-lived the pregnancy, your body produced a ‘chemical’ (i.e. a hormone) called HCG. You may have done a home pregnancy test and got a positive result. That’s the HCG telling your body implantation happened.
3. A chemical pregnancy follows a depressingly similar pattern. After the initial positive test, your menstrual bleed soon starts. And/or you do a second test a little later and the result is negative. The HCG has nosedived. It’s a very upsetting situation if you had knowledge of the pregnancy.
4. Fertility patients know more about chemical pregnancies than women who conceive naturally. That’s because they test 12 to 14 days after their embryo transfer. They’re majorly on the case. Whereas non-IVF patients may just think their period is late.
5. A chemical pregnancy doesn’t always have symptoms. You may have some cramping. Or a discharge. Or a little bleeding before your ‘main’ bleed. Or no symptoms at all.
6. Around 50 per cent of first-time pregnancies end in a chemical pregnancy. The cause is usually a chromosomal abnormality in the embryo. Hormonal imbalances and blood-clotting problems can also cause a chemical pregnancy.
7. Research shows that many women have successful pregnancies after a chemical pregnancy. You’re not jinxed. Repeated early miscarriages, however, merit further investigation. And you’re more likely to have a chemical pregnancy at 40 than 25.
8. Generally speaking, you can’t guard against a chemical pregnancy. That said, a good diet and regular exercise are a good idea if you’re trying to get pregnant. Stop smoking, alcohol and caffeine. And limit stress.
9. Implantation bleeding (if you get this) happens a week or two before bleeding from a chemical pregnancy (if you get that). Don’t confuse the two. And don’t think early bleeding always means a miscarriage – it often doesn’t.
10. Always have an early (seven week) scan to confirm a suspected chemical pregnancy or other miscarriage. Your bleed, and falling HCG scores, will give a good indication the pregnancy has failed. But a pelvic ultrasound scan is conclusive.
A final thought. A miscarriage is always devastating, whenever it comes. A chemical pregnancy was still a hoped-for pregnancy and you have every right to feel extremely upset if it happens. Just remember: miscarriages are surprisingly common. A successful future pregnancy is often perfectly possible.