Dealing With a Chemical Pregnancy
What Is a Chemical Pregnancy?
A chemical pregnancy is essentially a very early miscarriage. It is generally a term used when a miscarriage occurs before the embryo can be seen on an ultrasound, which is usually before the sixth week of the pregnancy*, but it can often happen earlier than this. It is quite likely that the woman's period arrives within one week of its due date.
It is understood that there are many pregnancies that are not recognized because of such an early loss and it is likely that you will only know that you have experienced a chemical pregnancy because you are closely monitoring your cycles. Most people will just experience a late period and think nothing much of it.
The main way of telling that you have had a chemical pregnancy is that you will have got a positive pregnancy test (it can be quite a faint line on the test) before your period is due.
For some people who get a good line that can easily be distinguished on the test, this may be a big shock and disappointment to them as they will firmly believe that they have become pregnant and will not be expecting it to end so quickly. Others (including myself) may be more philosophical about it as the line on the pregnancy test was never that dark and so they didn't really expect a viable pregnancy to come from it. In any case, you need to deal with it in your own way depending on your circumstances as it is a loss like any other and there will be a massive disappointment.
Having said all of the above, just because you get a very faint line on a pregnancy test does not mean it will definitely be a chemical pregnancy.
Are Chemical Pregnancies Common?
Chemical pregnancies are very common and, as described above, can happen to many people without them even realizing it, as their period may just be a few days late and they may just pass this off as nothing. In fact, the International Journal of Comprehensive Nursing estimates chemical pregnancies are so common that they occur in as many as 50-60% of first pregnancies.
Just because you have a chemical pregnancy does not mean that you cannot go on to have a viable pregnancy the next time you get pregnant, there is usually nothing wrong with you to cause a chemical pregnancy.
My Chemical Pregnancy Experience
As I had been trying to get pregnant for a year and had already suffered one miscarriage at two months, I was monitoring my cycles pretty closely so I knew exactly when I ovulated. I was also testing pretty early as I had plenty of cheap pregnancy tests so I did not mind using them up just to see if there was a line there.
At 12dpo (12 days past ovulation) I took a test in the evening and it had a very faint line. I took another test later and there was another faint line. This continued for a couple of days until 15dpo when my period was due. I had been having cramps and my breasts were sore (which they never usually are) and I was starting to feel really tired, which was a symptom that I had with my pregnancy, to the point where I had to have a nap during the day for three days in a row. However, at 15dpo the test came up blank so I thought my period should arrive as it was due on that day.
However, my period was three days late and it arrived after a few more days of cramps. As my ovulation date was obvious from the temperatures on my chart I figured that something had happened and along with the other symptoms and the lines on the tests a chemical pregnancy seemed to be an obvious answer.
Although it was a massive disappointment, I could still take the positive out of it that the sperm and egg had met and had started on the fertilization journey.
How Do You Deal With a Chemical Pregnancy?
It is entirely up to you how you deal with this situation. For some people (and I have seen people go through this), they get a positive pregnancy test and are very excited, and then all of a sudden they are shocked because their period arrives. This can be a very devastating experience as you are not expecting it and can take some getting over, so just give yourself some time.
I also know others who have had a similar experience to me where they have got faint lines on tests that come and go—they may even go to the doctor to get blood tests - but at the end of the day there is nothing that you can do to stop a chemical pregnancy.
Just take your time and if you don't want to go back to trying to get pregnant straight away then take a month or two off before trying again. Unfortunately for some people like me, time is of the essence and so taking any time off was not a possibility.
What Happens Afterwards?
In most cases, you will get your period, which may be as per normal or it may be a bit heavier with some cramping.
It is likely that your cycles will not be interrupted too much by a chemical pregnancy unless your period is a week or so late. At this stage you are looking more at an early miscarriage than a chemical pregnancy, so that can affect you more physically and hormonally.
So you can likely go on and keep trying to get pregnant the next month while still testing to see when you will ovulate.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.
© 2012 Jackie Grant