A chemical pregnancy is a very early pregnancy that is detectable by its chemical makeup and ends in a miscarriage. Many women who have chemical pregnancies are not aware that they were ever pregnant. They may mistake the pregnancy as being late on their menstrual cycle by several days or even up to a week. In fact, scientists theorize that as many as 70 percent of all pregnancies can be categorized as chemical pregnancies that never reach viability.
In essence, during a chemical pregnancy, a woman may notice that she is a few days late on her period. A woman who is very in tune with her body may take a pregnancy test, which may show a faint, but positive result. The level of human chorionic gonadotropin, a pregnancy hormone known otherwise as hCG, may rise significantly at first in her bloodstream. However, after a few days her hCG levels will begin to decrease, indicating that the pregnancy is failing and that a miscarriage is imminent.
Chemical Pregnancy Signs
Because chemical pregnancies rarely reach the fifth week of gestation, they are very difficult to diagnose. Many women who have these kinds of pregnancies also never have ultrasounds performed; in fact, ultrasounds performed on the relatively few number of women who have had chemical pregnancies showed that no viable pregnancy or fetus was ever formed. After the fifth week of gestation, if not sooner, women typically begin to experience normal menstrual cycle symptoms, including cramping, bleeding, and moodiness. Even so, women who were aware that they were pregnant during this earliest of stage experience a variety of emotions after their pregnancies end. Some women are relieved. Other mourn the loss of the pregnancy and believe that they have lost a child. These emotions are reported to be normal, as with the loss of a pregnancy in later stages.
What Causes A Chemical Pregnancy?
As with a miscarriage during any stage of pregnancy, theories abound for why chemical pregnancies occur. Many doctors and scientists believe that these pregnancies take place because of fetal or chromosomal abnormalities. In essence, the defect to a developing fetus’ chromosomes is so extensive that a normal pregnancy cannot take place. Either the mother’s body expels the pregnancy or the fetus itself cannot attach to the uterine wall and in essence dies.
Other theories suggest that the mother’s overall state of health could contribute to a chemical pregnancy. Some scientists argue that a woman with a significant hormonal disorder, such as hypothyroidism, may be unable to support a normal pregnancy and inadvertently contribute to her own miscarriage because of the uneven levels of hormones in her body. Still other theories suggest as well that sexual transmitted diseases may play a role in the occurrence of chemical pregnancies. Women who either have ongoing STDs or have been treated for them in the past may be unable to sustain the pregnancy and miscarry.
Along with hormonal conditions and sexually transmitted diseases, the condition of the uterus also may have a role in this type of pregnancy. If a woman’s uterus is inhospitable to a developing pregnancy, the fetus may be unable to implant and thus be expelled with the woman’s next period. Likewise, a woman who has severe endometriosis also may be unable to maintain a pregnancy in its earliest stages and miscarry unknowingly. It has also been suggested that chemical pregnancies occur when they are inadvertently implanted outside the uterus. If it implants in a bodily location other than uterus itself, this pregnancy often will terminate on its own, often with the woman never knowing that she was pregnant.
Scientists also believe that environmental factors may influence whether or not a pregnancy will be viable. They suggest that women who have been exposed to toxins like toxoplasmosis may have a greater chance of developing chemical pregnancies. The harmful level of chemicals in their bodies may contribute to their bodies’ inability to sustain a normal pregnancy.
How Long Does A Chemical Pregnancy Last?
Despite its inevitable end in miscarriage, a chemical pregnancy can actually last for several weeks. In fact, most medical experts report that this kind of pregnancy can last for as long as five, and even up to six weeks at a time. A woman may think that she is simply late on her period by several days or even a week. However, in reality she is more than likely anywhere from three to five weeks pregnant. By the time she reaches the sixth week, however, she may notice that she is experiencing typical menstrual cycle symptoms, which of course would be bleeding, cramps, and emotional swings.
In fact, many women who have chemical pregnancies never have any symptoms of normal pregnancy at all. They are not fatigued, nauseated, bloated, or have breast tenderness. No symptoms exist to suggest that they are pregnant at all, other than being late on their periods by a few days. Because many women have irregular periods a few times in their lives, they may not ever think to take a pregnancy test. Only women who have very regular cycles and are never a day early or late think to test themselves for being pregnant. It is also these women who typically acknowledge their miscarriages after they once again begin to bleed like a normal period.
Once the pregnancy begins to terminate, in fact, the bleeding can last a bit longer than a usual period. Some women report having blood flow for a few days longer than usual. Others report having heavier periods with a significant amount of cramping. Women who have heavier flow and cramping are advised to seek medical help if their bleeding does not subside on its own after a week. They may need medical treatment, such as a procedure typically known as a D and C, to help remove excess tissue and blood from their uterus.
A chemical pregnancies can also be taken as a sign that a woman’s reproductive system is functional. She can typically get pregnant again and carry to term successfully. However, she may also be well advised to stop any harmful habits that would jeopardize future pregnancies, including smoking or drinking alcohol excessively.