What is a Chemical Pregnancy?

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  • Written By: J. MacArthur
  • Edited By: Lucy Oppenheimer
  • Last Modified Date: 19 October 2016
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A chemical pregnancy refers to a very early miscarriage that occurs after conception when the fertilized ovum fails to implant in the uterus. This condition is often referred to as a false positive and usually happens within the first five weeks of pregnancy. It often goes unnoticed and is thought to be fairly common.

After conception, a pregnancy confirmed by using normal home pregnancy tests will detect levels of hCG, or human growth hormone. A more sophisticated blood test, usually done in a clinical setting, will also detect hCG levels and will confirm the pregnancy. Both are accurate diagnoses in that conception did occur, however in the instance of a chemical pregnancy, the fertilized ovum fails to implant into the walls of the uterus, thus ending in miscarriage. This early miscarriage occurs before an ultrasound could have shown images of a gestational sac or pick up a heartbeat. If the pregnancy were to develop to the point that an ultrasound could pick up images confirming the implantation, it then becomes a clinical pregnancy.

Signs and symptoms of this type of pregnancy include vaginal bleeding shortly after having a positive pregnancy test, and blood tests revealing hCG hormones decreasing rather than increasing. Unusually heavy periods, late periods, or periods accompanied by cramps and mild clotting have been known to accompany chemical pregnancies.


Most doctors believe the condition occurs for the same reasons as most other miscarriages or spontaneous abortions: chromosomal abnormalities in the developing fetus, inadequate uterine lining, uterine abnormalities, low hormone levels and infections. It is unclear exactly what causes chemical pregnancies, as it is nearly impossible to obtain any DNA samples for chromosomal testing.

Some researchers have theorized that as many as 70% of conceptions end in early miscarriage, however it is highly unknown how common a chemical pregnancy is. In some cases, women who are not trying to conceive and not closely monitoring their menstrual cycles may have early miscarriages and never know it.

Chemical pregnancies usually have little effect on women’s bodies and often go unnoticed. These early miscarriages are mistaken for a late or irregular period, and in some cases, are accompanied by more cramps. Adequate medical attention should be obtained after an early miscarriage, so as to ensure a complete expulsion of fetal tissue. Unfortunately, there is no way to prevent a chemical pregnancy.


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Post 3

The article touched on a great point in the last paragraph. When an early miscarriage is noticed, a woman must see a doctor. Sometimes some of the fetal tissue remains in the body and causes an infection which can be severe. It's always best to make an appointment to make sure that everything is cleared.

Post 2

@ddljohn-- It is devastating to find out that the pregnancy was chemical and not clinical.

I too experienced one. The home pregnancy test showed a false positive. But when I went to my doctor, she found hCG levels too low. A follow up test showed that they were even lower and it was confirmed that it was a chemical pregnancy. I was extremely disappointed.

I had experienced some spotting at that time, but had not taken it seriously. My period came soon afterward and it was heavier than usual. But aside from these, I did not have any significant physical signs of a miscarriage. I guess that occurs sometimes with such early miscarriages.

Post 1

For women who are trying to get period and look forward to that at home pregnancy test, are sad when they find out that they've had a chemical pregnancy. But it's actually nature's way of ensuring that a healthy fetus attaches to the uterine. Of course there are other reasons as well, but this is a major reason.

So women should not be disheartened should continue trying and should improve their diets, lifestyles to ensure a healthy a fetus and a healthy pregnancy.

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