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Chemical Pregnancy

What is the Meaning of Chemical Pregnancy?

Chemical pregnancy, also known as a biochemical pregnancy, refers to pregnancy loss that occurs very early in the pregnancy, shortly after fertilisation and before the fifth week of gestation, often before the pregnancy is detectable on imaging tests. The term "chemical pregnancy" comes from the fact that pregnancy loss can only be detected through chemical testing, such as a blood test or urine test. Pregnancy loss in a chemical pregnancy often coincides with the menstrual cycle, which means that many people are not even aware of having conceived. In a chemical pregnancy, hCG levels rise during the initial weeks, but as the embryo fails to implant properly and shows no growth, the hCG levels start going down. The human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG) hormone is the key indicator of pregnancy during the early stages and can result in a positive pregnancy test result in a chemical pregnancy.

The good news is that it is still possible to have a successful pregnancy after a chemical pregnancy.

Chemical Pregnancy Symptoms

As a late menstrual period is one of the first inklings of pregnancy, many times, a pregnancy goes unnoticed, revealed sometimes with a faint positive result in an early pregnancy test followed by a negative test result a few weeks later. The chances of detecting chemical pregnancies are higher with in-vitro fertilisation, as those cases are closely monitored.

However, one may be able to notice certain signs of a chemical pregnancy at 4 weeks of gestation or later as well. These may include:

  • Abnormal Menstrual Bleeding

While many people experience regular menstrual bleeding after a chemical pregnancy, some may experience heavier periods and more intense cramps.

  • Late Menses

Menstrual periods may be late, coming about a week later than usual.

  • Positive Pregnancy Test

Women may get a positive pregnancy test result, indicating they are pregnant, but a negative test result after a couple of weeks. Similarly, getting a period after a positive pregnancy test is also one of the signs of a chemical pregnancy.

  • No Signs of an Early Pregnancy

Despite a positive pregnancy test, if one cannot notice the signs of an early pregnancy, like mild breast tenderness, nausea, etc., it may indicate a chemical pregnancy.

Causes of Chemical Pregnancy

The reasons for chemical pregnancy may vary from person to person and may be caused by chromosomal abnormalities that prevent the embryo’s normal development, fertilisation of a nonviable egg, or by the egg failing to implant. Common causes behind a chemical pregnancy include:

  • Uterine lining being insufficient or too thin.
  • A genetic or DNA defect in the sperm
  • Low or abnormal hormonal levels.
  • Lifestyle choices like drinking alcohol, smoking, or constant exposure to environmental toxins.
  • Sexually transmitted infections like syphilis or chlamydia.
  • Abnormalities of the uterus

There are also several risk factors that increase the risk of a chemical pregnancy. These include:

  • Blood clotting disorders.
  • Lifestyle diseases, like diabetes.
  • More than 35 years of maternal age.
  • Having polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS).
  • Thyroid disorder.

How to Manage Chemical Pregnancy?

Generally, there is no requirement for treatment for a chemical pregnancy and couples can try to conceive immediately afterwards as well. The chances of a successful pregnancy after a chemical pregnancy are pretty high. However, for people who have been having trouble conceiving, a chemical pregnancy can be devastating. Here are some ways of managing the same:

  • Take time to process emotions and seek support. Talking about feelings regarding what happened or seeking professional help can be useful.
  • It is important to take care of physical health as well. Ample rest and avoiding strenuous physical activities can help recovery and healing. Maintaining a healthy diet and staying hydrated is also crucial.
  • Avoid smoking, alcohol, and unprescribed medication.
  • Understand that all feelings are valid, whether one feels depressed, is grieving, or even if they don’t have any feelings about it.

When to See an OB/GYN?

If one receives a negative pregnancy test result, if there are no signs of early pregnancy, or if one gets their period after a positive pregnancy test, one can consult their doctor to confirm if it was a chemical pregnancy. Other signs that may necessitate a doctor consultation include:

  • Heavier than normal bleeding during periods that is accompanied by severe cramping,
  • Severe persistent or worsening abdominal pain.

In case one has any concerns or questions regarding their health or fertility and chances of conception after having gone through a chemical pregnancy, it is always better to err on the side of caution and seek a consultation with a medical practitioner.  The doctor will also be able to give helpful tips for getting pregnant after a chemical pregnancy for people having issues with conception or multiple chemical pregnancies.

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