Miscarriage in the Early Weeks
A spontaneous abortion or miscarriage is the term used to define the loss of a pregnancy on its own within the first 20 weeks of gestation. After 20 weeks, the loss is called a stillbirth. The American Pregnancy Association says that most miscarriages occur during the first 13 weeks of pregnancy and that studies indicate that anywhere from 10-25% of all clinically recognized pregnancies will end in miscarriage. What's more, chemical pregnancies may account for between 50-75% of all miscarriages.
Those numbers may be disconcerting if you're reading them for the first time. However, it is important to be advised concerning miscarriage so that the signs and symptoms will not be ignored.
What is a Chemical Pregnancy?
A chemical pregnancy is a term given to a pregnancy loss that occurs in the very early stages, within the first few weeks. Often a woman has no idea she was pregnant and when her period comes it may be just heavier than normal with a bit more cramping. In other cases, it may seem like a very cruel joke has been played. An early pregnancy test comes out positive and excitement sets in. Then, within days, menstruation occurs and you're left wondering if the pregnancy test really was right. Confusion and even feelings of extreme loss can take over.
Conception takes place, the embryo implants, and then it miscarries. The only proof of pregnancy is usually a missed period and biochemical tests, like an hCG blood test or a home pregnancy test. An ultrasound will not be able to pick up evidence of a gestational sac. This is a chemical pregnancy, one that happens before the fifth week of gestation (about a week after your period is due). If the ultrasound is able to confirm a pregnancy had occurred, the terminology changes from chemical pregnancy to clinical pregnancy.
Since a chemical pregnancy occurs so early on, the signs of miscarriage are few:
· vaginal bleeding shortly after a confirmed positive pregnancy test
· low hCG levels detected by blood test that are decreasing rather than increasing
What Causes a Chemical Pregnancy?
The most common cause of a chemical pregnancy is chromosomal abnormalities. Basically, that means there was something wrong with the baby's chromosomes. This situation is most often caused by a damaged egg or sperm cell, or it may be due to a problem during the cell division of the zygote. However, because it is almost impossible to obtain samples for chromosomal testing, it is difficult to know for sure what causes them. Some people who perhaps lack sensitivity may say that a chemical pregnancy is the way a woman's body dispels a pregnancy that won't survive.
How Soon Can I Try Again?
Since a chemical pregnancy happens very early after conception, there is often little effect upon a woman's body. Often, if the woman doesn't know she's pregnant, she simply thinks her period is heavier than usual and a bit later than usual. A study done in 2007 discovered that bleeding after a chemical pregnancy can be quite light, even lighter than a regular menstrual period, although it may be accompanied by more cramping. Recovery is fairly quick. The doctor may feel it is fine to go ahead and try to conceive again immediately whereas other doctors hold to the idea that waiting is better.
The Aftermath - What Happens Emotionally?
Emotionally, the responses are varied. If there was no knowledge of the pregnancy, then there is usually no grief. However, on the other hand, some women who have a chemical pregnancy, regardless of the fact that it was such an early loss, are devastated. If people don't recognize the validity of the emotions they may say things that are hurtful, such as, it isn't a real pregnancy.
No matter what is said, a loss is a loss and the feelings attached to it are valid and personal. A chemical pregnancy was still a pregnancy and the disappointment of losing the pregnancy can be very difficult. It is still the loss of a baby.
One the other hand, a sad feeling may be all there is and the desire to try again is stronger than ever. There are no rules about how you are supposed to feel after a chemical pregnancy. If however, the feelings of grief are very strong, it may be a good idea to wait for one cycle to see if you are really late and avoid the thoughts of another early loss.
Chemical pregnancies are common. Learn more about them in this section of our site.