How do I know if I'm having a chemical pregnancy?

September 19, 2022 | By Heather Frame, BSN, RN 

Did you get a positive test but then started your period?  Did you have multiple positive pregnancy tests but as you continued to test, the results became lighter and lighter and/or eventually negative?  If you answered yes to either of these questions, you may be experiencing a chemical pregnancy.  

A chemical pregnancy is an early miscarriage

Though most pregnancy tests are 99% accurate, they are unfortunately not foolproof or a guarantee of a thriving pregnancy. Although quite rare, it is possible to have a false positive result – meaning the test is positive but a pregnancy does not exist – and this can feel both confusing and absolutely devastating. In this blog, we will discuss the different possibilities following a positive pregnancy test and when to reach out to your doctor. 

Differences between a chemical pregnancy and a false positive pregnancy test

The differences between chemical pregnancy and a false positive

Signs and symptoms of a chemical pregnancy

Most women who experience a chemical pregnancy did not even know they were pregnant – they just simply think their period is a few days late.  But if you have been tracking your cycle and take pregnancy tests before your expected period date, you are more likely to know this is the cause for these possible symptoms:

  • A positive pregnancy test followed by a negative test or a period
  • A late, heavier than normal period with or without clots
  • More intense menstrual cramping

Is a chemical pregnancy a miscarriage?

Yes. They are, unfortunately, quite common –  50-75% of all miscarriages are considered chemical pregnancies.

A chemical pregnancy is a very early miscarriage that usually happens before 5 weeks gestation. It gets its name from being verified only by the pregnancy hormone, hCG, as it cannot be detected on ultrasound this early.

However you may feel during this time is perfectly validated.  Experiencing a pregnancy loss, no matter how far along, can be absolutely devastating.  Despite its commonality, it does not make navigating this loss any easier emotionally.  It is important to give yourself grace while you heal and decide about next steps.  This is not your fault and it absolutely does not mean you cannot have a successful pregnancy in the future!  Only 1% of women will have repeated miscarriages, meaning 99% of women will have a viable pregnancy after a loss.

Should I talk to my doctor about my chemical pregnancy?

While a chemical pregnancy does not typically require any medical intervention, it is worth mentioning to your doctor. Often, there is nothing that could have been done differently to avoid a chemical pregnancy as the most common cause is chromosomal abnormalities.  

However, if you do experience recurrent chemical pregnancies, medical intervention can potentially help determine the root cause.  Your doctor may want to perform an ultrasound to look for any anatomical causes and conduct laboratory testing including progesterone, clotting factors, a thyroid panel, etc.

If you haven’t already, now is a great time to start taking a prenatal vitamin every day!  These help lay the foundation for your baby’s future home.  Don’t hesitate to ask your doctor which prenatal vitamin may be best for you.

What happens after my chemical pregnancy?

Chemical pregnancies can surface a lot of emotions.  It is important to take care of yourself both mentally and physically during this time.  Some women find talking with their partner, a friend, or even their doctor can alleviate some of the emotional burden.  Others find engaging in a favorite hobby or even trying to conceive again aids in their healing process.  

Regardless of your coping method, know you are strong and your body is capable of amazing things!  When you are ready, you have an incredible support team ready to help you learn how to take charge of your fertility.

Learn more about your cycle with a Premom app!

Importance of tracking your cycle

Tracking your cycle through the means of ovulation tests and BBT (basal body temperature) can help you identify a chemical pregnancy and whether they are recurring.  Recurrent chemical pregnancies may require medical intervention.

Ovulation tests detect luteinizing hormone (LH) levels in the urine. LH surges right before ovulation, so by testing daily after your period ends, you can see when you will most likely ovulate. 

To efficiently track BBT, you need a basal body temperature thermometer.  After sleeping for at least 3 consecutive hours, check your temperature immediately upon waking before getting out of bed.  Try to check at the same time each day to ensure accuracy and look for the spike in temperature that should occur after ovulation.

Taking charge of your fertility can not only allow you to identify recurrent losses that may otherwise go unnoticed, but it can help you find your most fertile window maximizing your chance of conception in the next cycle. 

 

Learn about your body with a Premom app
Learn more about your cycle with a Premom app!

 

About author

 

Heather Frame is a compassionate Women's Health nurse. She specializes in obstetrics, postpartum, newborn care, and lactation counseling. She is committed to providing women the support they need to achieve pregnancy and thereafter. As a personal user of Premom, she can attest to how important charting your cycles is in conjunction with achieving pregnancy. She would love to help you navigate your fertility journey. Schedule a consultation with Nurse Heather right through your Premom app!

References

Repeated Miscarriages | ACOG

master.pmd 2 (semanticscholar.org)

Chemical Pregnancy: Causes, Symptoms & Treatment (clevelandclinic.org)

Full article: Home pregnancy tests in the hands of the intended user (tandfonline.com)

Ask an expert, chemical pregnancy, conception, fertility expert, fertility hormones, get pregnant, HCG, infertility, miscarriage
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