What Exactly is a Chemical Pregnancy?

There are times when IVF patients are told that they have what is called a “chemical pregnancy” and that they are “a little pregnant” (which obviously confuses them) So, what exactly is this and how is it different from a normal pregnancy? A chemical pregnancy is also referred to as a biochecmical pregnancy; it occurs when an embryo doesn’t implant properly.

About a chemical pregnancy

The embryo actually produces enough hCG (human chorionic gonadotropin), the molecule that is unique to pregnancy; it’s why it gets recorded in the beta HCG blood test as well as in the sensitive uterine pregnancy home tests. Since it can be detected via chemical tests, it’s called a chemical pregnancy. However, since its development isn’t normal, there is a decline in the hCG levels.

The signs & symptoms

When a chemical pregnancy is detected in a woman, the couple has to cope with this news of believing that they are pregnant; though in reality, they are miscarrying. These are the signs and symptoms of a chemical pregnancy:

  • Most women don’t have any symptoms
  • They might experience some mild abdominal cramping
  • Mild spotting may also be present, just before what women feel is their regular menstrual cycle
  • In this case, the menstrual cycle starts a couple of days later than usual

The simple fact is that nature is quite inefficient at making babies. Modern research has shown that a large percentage of women, who have this kind of a pregnancy, weren’t even aware they were pregnant at that point of time. In most instances, the cause of this is a genetic abnormality in the embryo. This is nature’s way of preventing an abnormal embryo from developing any further. There can be a number of factors that cause genetic abnormalities, but most are unpredictable and random.

Chemical Pregnancy- The treatment

A chemical pregnancy doesn’t really require any specific treatment. The one very important follow-up test that has to be done is to ensure that the hCG levels go back to non-detectable levels. A chemical pregnancy doesn’t have any negative impact on future pregnancies.

The one major impact is that this type of pregnancy creates false hope in the couple, but all this elation comes crashing to the ground when they realize it’s a miscarriage. All couples that have had to deal with a chemical pregnancy ask one common question- “Why did this happen?” “Is this an indication that I wouldn’t be able to have a baby at all?” “Was it something I did, that harmed the baby?” They also wonder whether their uterus is defective and that’s why the baby is being rejected.

Very simply, none of this is true. When the hCG is positive, it’s an indication that the process of embryo implantation had started. This also means the chances of you being able to have a healthy pregnancy in the future, are really good. It’s far better than having a negative hCG. If you have had a chemical pregnancy, you would have to wait for at least one more regular menstrual cycle before you attempt to conceive again.

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Authored by : Dr Aniruddha Malpani, MD and reviewed by Dr Anjali Malpani.