Chemical Pregnancy: Very Early Miscarriage
A chemical pregnancy can seem like someone's idea of a cruel joke. The way it goes is that you decide to take an early pregnancy test just around the time you're due for your next period. The test shows a faint positive result. You get all excited and tell your partner, your best friend, and your mother the wonderful new that you're expecting. A few days later, you realize you've started your period and when you consult your physician he says, "I'm sorry. It appears that you've had a chemical pregnancy."
This chain of events leaves you very disappointed and also confused. The term "chemical pregnancy" is the key factor in your confusion. It sounds as though the result was a false positive, and that you were never pregnant at all. But a chemical pregnancy is a real pregnancy. What you've had is in fact, a very early miscarriage.
The medical term "chemical pregnancy" refers to a miscarriage that occurs so early that a late period and a pregnancy test measuring hCG levels in blood or urine are the only indications that you ever conceived.
Doctors make a distinction between a clinical and a chemical pregnancy. A chemical pregnancy ends in miscarriage before the fifth week of pregnancy, or around a week after you miss your period. An ultrasound performed during the first five weeks of pregnancy would fail to show evidence of a gestational sac. But a clinical pregnancy is confirmed when evidence of the sac can be seen on an ultrasound screening at some time after five weeks of gestation have elapsed.
Chemical pregnancies are defined through the main associated symptom of vaginal bleeding that occurs just after a positive result on a pregnancy test. Blood tests will reveal that the already low levels of hCG, the pregnancy hormone that should be rising in a clinical pregnancy, are in decline.
Experts believe that a chemical pregnancy is no different than any other miscarriage in that it occurs for the same reasons, such as possible chromosomal anomalies in the developing embryo. But no one knows for sure since it is just about impossible for researchers to collect samples for chromosomal testing.
Just as experts are unsure that chemical pregnancies are caused by the same reasons as other miscarriages, they also have no idea how often this type of miscarriage occurs. After all, it's not uncommon for a woman to be late anywhere from between a few days to a week in getting her period. Who knows how many few-days-late or week-late periods are, in reality, chemical pregnancies? Doctors posit that as many as 70% of all pregnancies end in miscarriages with many of them the chemical variety. If a woman isn't trying to conceive, she has no reason to run take a pregnancy test at this time, so the fact that she is pregnant may escape her notice.