Chemical Pregnancies: The Undetected Miscarriage
A chemical pregnancy is defined as a pregnancy loss that happens very early in the first trimester. In fact, chemical pregnancies tend to happen so early most women don’t even know that they’ve experienced one. Most health experts believe that in a chemical pregnancy the fetus actually dies almost immediately after conception. Nevertheless, for couples who are trying to conceive, experiencing a chemical pregnancy is no less upsetting than any other form of miscarriage.
How Common are Chemical Pregnancies?
Chemical pregnancies are much more common than you might think. In fact, between 50% and 60% of all first-time pregnancies are thought to end in miscarriage – a large majority of which can be attributed to chemical pregnancies.
The difference between a chemical pregnancy and most other forms of miscarriage is that many women don’t even realize that they have experienced one. This is because the vast majority of chemical pregnancies occur within the initial six weeks of pregnancy, when most typical pregnancy symptoms are not yet present, meaning that women is unlikely to take a pregnancy test.
Of course, with ongoing developments in pregnancy test sensitivity, women are becoming increasingly able to detect a pregnancy early on – as early as 3 days before a predicted period. As a result, it is likely that more women will begin detecting chemical pregnancies.
What Causes a Chemical Pregnancy?
Determining the reason for a chemical pregnancy can be difficult, however, there are a few known causes, such as:
- Chromosome Abnormality: Chromosomal abnormalities are by far the most common cause of a chemical pregnancy, and are present at the time of conception, preventing the baby from forming properly. As a result, a miscarriage occurs.
- 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.
Symptoms of Chemical Pregnancy
Women who have been pregnant before though, may notice that they "feel pregnant" prior to starting their period. That is because they will be experiencing some of the normal symptoms of pregnancy, such as:
- tender, swollen breasts
Women experiencing these symptoms may also have a positive pregnancy test. However, a sudden reversal in signs of pregnancy and the onset of a period will indicate a chemical pregnancy has taken place. In addition, your may notice:
- small clots in your blood
- increased amounts of blood
- more severe cramping
Diagnosing a Chemical Pregnancy
Chemical pregnancies are primarily diagnosed by confirming the presence of pregnancy through a pregnancy blood test. Once a pregnancy has been confirmed, your health care provider will monitor your hCG levels to ensure that your pregnancy is moving along smoothly. If there is a sudden decrease in your hCG levels, this may signal a miscarriage.
If these levels drop, an ultrasound will likely be performed to detect any signs of life in the uterus. If a chemical pregnancy has occurred, no embryo will be seen and no heartbeat will be heard.
Because the vast majority of chemical pregnancies go unnoticed, most women do not seek treatment. Instead, it will be a comfort to know, most go on to experience healthy, full-term babies in the future.
However, if you are aware that you are experiencing a chemical pregnancy it is a good idea to visit your local heath care provider, so that she can monitor your hCG levels. If your hCG levels do not continue to decline, it is possible that a miscarriage will not take place, which could lead to dangerous health complications.
Furthermore, women who are found to have a specific cause for their chemical pregnancy may receive certain treatments in order to increase their chances of getting pregnant in the future. Common treatments include:
- fibroid surgery
- baby aspirin