Biochemical vs Clinical Pregnancy

The early stages of pregnancy can be both thrilling and uncertain for a woman. Although the majority of pregnancies go on to become confirmed, clinical pregnancies, in some cases, a biochemical pregnancy and early loss can occur. Understanding the difference between the terms can help women understand what is happening in the early weeks of a pregnancy.


Understanding clinical pregnancy

An ultrasound can confirm a viable clinical pregnancy around 6-8 weeks after the last menstrual period. The ultrasound should be able to detect a gestational sac and possibly even a fetal pole and heartbeat. Symptoms of a clinical pregnancy can include all the usual pregnancy symptoms, such as nausea, fatigue, and breast tenderness. In most cases, a woman will also have a positive pregnancy test that continues to stay positive before the ultrasound.

What is a biochemical pregnancy?

Some women who get pregnant may experience a biochemical pregnancy, which means pregnancy hormones are detectable through an early blood or urine test but not through an ultrasound. In other words, the very early pregnancy has not developed enough to be visible on an ultrasound. A biochemical pregnancy can also be called a chemical pregnancy, which means that although initially detectable, the pregnancy ends very early on, usually within the first few weeks.

Biochemical symptoms and risk factors

The main symptom of a biochemical pregnancy is a positive pregnancy test followed by a negative test shortly thereafter. Sometimes, a woman may experience early pregnancy symptoms, such as cramping and spotting, but not always. Certain factors can increase the risk of early pregnancy loss, including advanced maternal age, previous miscarriage, and medical conditions such as polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), thyroid disorders, and diabetes. Lifestyle factors such as smoking, alcohol consumption, and being overweight or underweight can also contribute to the risk.

When embryos don’t develop properly

Coping with early pregnancy loss can be emotionally challenging for women trying to conceive. Women should seek support from friends, family, healthcare providers, or professional counselors during the trying time. Experiencing a range of emotions after loss, including sadness, anger, and disappointment, is expected. Women should feel free to take time to grieve and process all feelings should a biochemical pregnancy occur.

Fertility options after loss

When a miscarriage occurs, some women may worry about future fertility. Depending on the individual circumstances, healthcare providers may recommend treatments such as ovulation induction, intrauterine insemination (IUI), or in vitro fertilization (IVF). Women may need to address underlying medical conditions or make lifestyle changes to optimize fertility. In other cases where there is no identifiable cause for the early miscarriage, continuing to try again naturally for a set period may be recommended.

Moving forward

A biochemical pregnancy can be disappointing. Taking time to grieve and seeking support can help women move forward and continue the journey toward parenthood with confidence. In cases of clinical pregnancy, ultrasound confirmation can provide reassurance that the pregnancy is progressing as expected.

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