What is a chemical pregnancy and why does it happen?

If you’ve ever taken a home pregnancy test with a positive result only for your period to arrive shortly after, you aren’t crazy and the test wasn’t necessarily wrong.

Unfortunately a positive test does not guarantee a pregnancy is viable and chances are you may have experienced a chemical pregnancy.

What is a chemical pregnancy?

A chemical pregnancy is a very early miscarriage that occurs in the first five weeks of pregnancy, Natural fertility Info explains.

As someone who has battled with infertility personally, the term ‘chemical pregnancy’ can seem clinical and harsh but it makes reference to the fact biochemical tests are the only way these pregnancies are detected so early.

Chemical pregnancies are considered common and many women may experience them without even knowing because they can occur around the time of their period is due, meaning that any symptoms can often be dismissed as being part of an intense menstrual cycle.

The growing use of home pregnancy tests, which soon become a staple for many women trying to conceive, means more of us are aware when we have suffered one of these early miscarriages.

What causes a chemical pregnancy?

The Royal Women’s Hospital Victoria website explains there is usually no treatable cause found for a miscarriage.

“Research tells us that about half of all miscarriages happen because the chromosomes in the embryo are abnormal and the pregnancy doesn’t develop properly from the start,” the site says.

“In this case, miscarriage is nature’s way of dealing with an abnormal embryo. Nothing can be done to prevent miscarriage from occurring if a pregnancy is developing abnormally.”

Having a chemical pregnancy does not mean a woman has a serious underlying condition that caused it, nor does it mean it will happen again.

But, Natural Fertility Info says there are some conditions that may cause a chemical pregnancy such as uterine abnormalities, hormone deficiencies, fetal chromosomal abnormalities, uterine fibroids and inadequate lining of the uterus.

It is best to speak to your doctor if you are having trouble conceiving or notice repeat chemical pregnancies.

Chemical pregnancy can offer hope

While miscarriage at any stage can be heartbreaking, Fertility Partnership medical director Dr Elan Simcks from the US explains how a confirmed chemical pregnancy can offer hope to couples trying to conceive, in this short Youtube clip.

“It is disappointing to have a chemical pregnancy but… there is good news there, in that sperm and egg met and they formed an embryo and that embryo did in fact connect and implant into the wall of your uterus and, for reasons that could vary, it did not develop into a successful pregnancy,” Dr Simcks says.

He says a diagnosed chemical pregnancy can actually help doctors narrow down reasons behind a couple’s infertility and hopefully help lead to successful treatments.

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