What is a Chemical Pregnancy and how is it different from other pregnancy loses?

Clients often ask me this question, it’s a cold, misleading and confusing term and I would like to explain a bit more about what it means because it is not a pregnancy at all, it is named only retrospectively after a loss.

Chemical or Biochemical pregnancy is a very early miscarriage, before about 5 weeks (from first day of last menstrual period), essentially the period for those with approx. 28 day cycles comes a week or so late.  It takes its rather unpleasant name from the fact that the pregnancy is indicated by chemicals only.  The pregnancy hormone bhCG is the “chemical” measured in home pregnancy test kits and blood tests, detection of the hormone can start as low as 5IU/I and should double every 2-3 days.  The technical definition of this type of pregnancy is bhCG under 50 IU/L in at least 2 pregnancy tests and no ultrasound evidence of pregnancy, this means it has not been sustained long enough to see a gestational sac, the first structure seen in early pregnancy via transvaginal ultrasound.  Once a pregnancy has been established with higher hCG levels and/or confirmed with a transvaginal ultrasound scan, it would not be seen as a “chemical pregnancy” regardless of whether it results in a live birth.

This type of pregnancy loss is very common and for some women will go unnoticed, or is simply mistaken for a late period.  For those trying to conceive these loses are always noticed and in many cases are no less devastating then other miscarriages despite the pregnancy being short lived.  These pregnancies are real, they are not a false positive pregnancy test (which is very rare these days), there really was a baby on board and the beginnings of a real pregnancy.  If you have experienced one it certainly doesn’t mean you can’t carry a baby to term, but if you are worried or you think you have experienced more than one it is definitely worth speaking to a fertility expert of some kind, and I would count myself in that arena.  So, if you are not a client already, you can always book a free discovery call with me (see link at the top of the page) and I can help point you in the right direction including how to access help through the NHS.

How do you know you have experienced a Chemical Pregnancy?

The pregnancy ends shortly after an attempted implantation.  There are very often no symptoms, but you might find you have period cramping before and on first day of your bleed (which may be  normal for you).  But if TTC your more likely to see

  • Positive pregnancy test and then negative a few days, couple of weeks later
  • Positive pregnancy test and then a period a few days later
  • A period one week later than usual following high temperatures on a BBT chart

 Why does it happen?

The most likely explanation is chromosomal abnormalities preventing the foetus from developing or implantation not going to plan.  It can happen to any woman at any age but there are some factors which make the possibility more likely

  • Blood clotting problems
  • Thyroid disorders
  • Poly cystic ovaries
  • 36 years old plus

Trying to conceive again

In TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) we advocate a recovery period for miscarriages later in pregnancy, this type of very early pregnancy loss is not as physically demanding as a miscarriage down the line.  Everyone will feel differently about when is the right time to continue TTC, but in an average situation, it is likely that ovulation will happen 2 weeks again in two weeks and it would not be a problem to begin trying again in that cycle.

Finally some of you will have had more than one baby loss and possibly more than one sort.  If you are not already seeing someone please reach out to someone who can help, that might be a Fertility Acupuncturist, Nutritionist, Consultant or even your GP.