Chemical pregnancy

A chemical pregnancy is when a pregnancy ends in miscarriage before five weeks of pregnancy.

What is a chemical pregnancy?

A chemical pregnancy is a very early miscarriage. It is diagnosed when a pregnancy is confirmed by a blood test or a home pregnancy test, but it can’t be seen on an ultrasound scan – usually up until about 5 weeks of pregnancy.

How is a chemical pregnancy diagnosed?

Sometimes women have a positive blood test or pregnancy test, but start bleeding shortly afterwards. In this case, they may have more blood tests to find out what’s happening. Sometimes blood tests aren’t done because a pregnancy test may be negative after just a few days.

If bloods are taken and show that the pregnancy hormones are decreasing rather than increasing, a woman will be diagnosed as miscarrying a chemical pregnancy.

If you have any bleeding during your pregnancy, with or without pain, it’s very important to get it checked out.

What causes a chemical pregnancy?

We believe that chemical pregnancies happen because of chromosomal problems with the developing baby. Chromosomes are block of DNA, which contain instructions for your baby’s development.

Sometimes something can go wrong at the point when you get pregnant and the baby gets too many or not enough chromosomes. If this happens, the baby can’t develop properly.

What is the treatment for a chemical pregnancy loss?

As many women don’t even find out that they’re pregnant until after five weeks, the loss of a chemical pregnancy may be mistaken for a normal period, or a late period.

Even if you’ve had a positive pregnancy test, the bleed will be like a normal period, or may even be lighter than normal. You may also have stomach cramps.

These miscarriages happen at such an early stage that they generally resolve naturally and you will recover quickly. You may be able to try again for a baby straight away if you want to, but your doctor will usually recommend waiting until after your next period.

Find out more about trying again after a miscarriage.

It can be hard to recover from a miscarriage. No matter when in your pregnancy you miscarry, you may need support to help you come to terms with what’s happened. Tommy’s is here to help you. You can talk to a Tommy’s midwife for free, Monday-Friday, 9am-5pm. You can call them on 0800 0147 800 or email [email protected]

You can read more information about coping after a miscarriage and stories from other people who have also experienced an early miscarriage.

There are no national health guidelines available about chemical pregnancy. This information has been provided by Tommy's experts in obstetrics and gynaecology.

Review dates
Reviewed: 13 March 2020
Next review: 13 March 2023

This content is currently being reviewed by our team. Updated information will be coming soon.