Making Sense Of Chemical Pregnancies

A positive pregnancy test can be extremely exciting when trying to get pregnant. However, for women experiencing a biochemical pregnancy, that positive result doesn’t last long, and a viable pregnancy is never confirmed. A biochemical or chemical pregnancy is a very early miscarriage that happens in the first 5 weeks of pregnancy. Most women who experience this type of loss can go on to have a healthy pregnancy, but in some cases, in vitro fertilization (IVF) may be required. There are different reasons for a biochemical pregnancy.


1. Older age

Approximately 1 in every 4 pregnancies will end in miscarriage, with older women facing a higher share of the burden. As a woman ages, the chance of chromosomal abnormalities increases. Since many early miscarriages are a result of the body recognizing a chromosomal imbalance and naturally expelling the embryo, women over 35 are at heightened risk.

2. Hormone imbalance

Another cause of a chemical pregnancy is a hormone imbalance. When certain hormones, such as progesterone, are too high or too low, an embryo will not implant and develop. In this case, an egg is released, and fertilization occurs normally. The body recognizes the pregnancy and starts producing human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG), which is what a pregnancy test detects. However, the embryo will not stick in the uterus, and the pregnancy will result in an early loss.

3. STIs can pose a risk

In some cases, untreated sexually transmitted infections (STIs) can result in a biochemical pregnancy. Gonorrhea is a well-known example of an infection that can lead to miscarriage. Women planning pregnancy should be tested for STIs at a pre-conception doctor’s visit to ensure that the body is as healthy as possible before conception. If a medication is prescribed to treat the infection, the entire course should be completed before attempting to get pregnant.

4. Abnormally shaped uterus

In some cases, an atypical uterus shape can make pregnancy more difficult to achieve. If a woman has an abnormal uterus, a chemical pregnancy and subsequent early loss can occur. Although this cause is less common, if repetitive losses occur, a doctor can check the uterus’s size, shape, and overall health.

Signs and symptoms

Biochemical pregnancies are most easily identified by paying close attention to the cycle. Women who test for pregnancy early or at the first sign of a missed period are more likely to identify a biochemical pregnancy. An early positive test will quickly be followed by a negative result a few days later. Sometimes, women can experience cramping and a heavier period than usual. Early pregnancy symptoms such as breast tenderness and nausea can also be present and then disappear.

Miscarriage is common

An early pregnancy loss, while emotionally difficult, is incredibly common. Many women go on to conceive again naturally following a chemical pregnancy. For individuals who have experienced multiple early losses, further investigation of the cause is warranted. If hormone levels are off or the uterus is abnormally shaped, IVF may be required to conceive. Women with biochemical pregnancies who are over the age of 35 may also want to consider fertility treatment. Each case is unique, and the patient and healthcare provider should work together to determine if a woman should continue to try naturally after an early loss or if IVF is recommended.

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