If you’re told that you have a chemical pregnancy, you may have lots of questions. Though this term sounds strangely cold, it just means that your body produced the hormones of pregnancy, but the embryo didn’t get a chance to start developing. You will usually have a miscarriage before the 5th week of pregnancy.
This is an extremely common experience, with about 10-20% of pregnancies ending in some form of miscarriage. It may happen even before you know that you’re pregnant, unless you’re trying to achieve pregnancy. Dr. Edward J. Ramirez of The Fertility & Gynecology Center - Monterey Bay IVF explains more about the facts and myths of chemical pregnancy and how you can recover if this has happened to you.
What is a chemical pregnancy?
A chemical pregnancy occurs when the sperm and egg meet and form an embryo; in some cases, this may even implant in the lining of the uterus. However, the pregnancy fails to continue to develop, even though your hormones begin to change. Your body produces the hormone hCG (human chorionic gonadotropin) that pregnancy tests detect, resulting in a positive result. However, because this isn’t an actual pregnancy, the hormones will soon drop, and you’ll get your period.
Many women don’t even know that they’re pregnant at this stage, although you may be aware of it if you’re trying to conceive. You may experience the miscarriage as a normal period, although possibly a heavier-than-usual one.
Myth: A chemical pregnancy produces no symptoms
Some women don’t experience any symptoms of a chemical pregnancy, but some women do. Signs that it may be happening to you include the following:
- Having positive pregnancy tests followed by negative ones
- Spotting about a week before your period is due
- Mild abdominal cramping
- Vaginal bleeding after a positive pregnancy test
- Low hCG levels, if your doctor is doing blood testing
The period you get after a chemical pregnancy is technically a miscarriage. You may feel sad, but experiencing one doesn’t mean that you’ll have problems with future pregnancies. Many women go on to conceive healthy, normal pregnancies with no issues.
Myth: Chemical pregnancies happen for no reason
Sometimes, chemical pregnancies “just happen.” Although it can feel devastating if you’re trying to conceive, it really is just a random occurrence.
However, certain risk factors make chemical pregnancies more likely. These include:
- Being 35 years old or older
- Having an abnormally shaped uterus, which you may have found out about through ultrasound or other testing
- Having a sexually transmitted infection or disease
- Having irregular hormone levels
- Having other issues, such as polycystic ovarian syndrome, thyroid disorders, or diabetes
Although it may feel like a small comfort, a chemical pregnancy is often a good sign because it lets you know that you can get pregnant.
Myth: You can’t do anything about chemical pregnancies
You may not be able to prevent the first chemical pregnancy from happening, but you need to consult with Dr. Ramirez to figure out why it happened.
In some cases, chemical pregnancies are more likely to occur if either or both partners are over 35 years of age.
In other cases, you may have a chemical pregnancy if the male partner has a poor sperm count. Dr. Ramirez may recommend a procedure called ICSI, Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection. This advanced infertility treatment is done with in vitro fertilization (IVF). We obtain a sperm sample, then select one healthy sperm from the sample and combine it with an egg in the lab.
If you’ve had a chemical pregnancy, you may feel sad or even heartbroken. It’s OK to mourn for as long as you need. Get increased rest and eat a healthy, balanced diet to help your body recover.
When you’re ready to try again, you should feel reassured by the fact that you were able to get pregnant. Contact Dr. Edward J. Ramirez at our Monterey, California, office today or request an appointment online.