A chemical pregnancy is the term given to a pregnancy that ends very early in the first trimester. Chemical pregnancies are confirmed by testing for hCG, the hormones that indicate the presence of a pregnancy. These hormones are typically detected by a urine or blood pregnancy test.
However, within weeks, these hCG levels begin to drop rapidly, signifying an end to the pregnancy. As a result, your baby and his amniotic sac cannot be seen on an ultrasound and a miscarriage takes place.
It is believed that chemical pregnancies occur when the fetus dies immediately after conception. This happens before the embryo has a chance to implant in your uterus where it can grow and develop. Like a stillbirth or molar pregnancy, chemical pregnancies can be very upsetting for the couple involved.
How Common is a Chemical Pregnancy?
Unfortunately, chemical pregnancies are actually quite common. In fact, between 50% and 60% of all first-time pregnancies are thought to end in miscarriage. A large majority of these can be attributed to chemical pregnancies.
When it comes to chemical pregnancies, many women don’t even realize that they have experienced one. This is because the vast majority of these miscarriages occur within the initial six weeks of pregnancy. During this time, typical signs of pregnancy are not always present just yet and a missed period may not have happened yet, making it somewhat unlikely for most women to take a pregnancy test. As a result, many women don’t even know that they were pregnant in the first place.
However, because pregnancy tests are becoming increasingly sensitive, it is now possible for women to detect pregnancy up to 3 days before their period is due. As a result, more and more women are able to recognize their pregnancies ahead of time, making it more likely that women will detect a chemical pregnancy.
What Causes a Chemical Pregnancy?
The causes of a chemical pregnancy are often difficult to determine, however, there are a few common causes:
- Chromosome Abnormality: Chromosomal abnormality is by far the most common cause for chemical pregnancies. These abnormalities are present at the time of conception, and prevent the baby from forming properly. As a result, the body miscarries the baby.
- Uterine Abnormalities: Abnormalities in the uterus, such as the presence of uterine fibroids, can interfere with implantation, leading to a chemical pregnancy.
- Hormonal Deficiency: Women with luteal phase defects and other hormone deficiencies have difficulty maintaining a pregnancy due to a lack of hormones. As a result, the body experiences a miscarriage.