Chemical pregnancy

A chemical pregnancy is the term given to a pregnancy which ends in miscarriage before the fifth week of gestation.

A chemical pregnancy is confirmed by a blood test or a home pregnancy test but not yet visible on an ultrasound scan (usually up until about 5 weeks of gestation).

Once the pregnancy progresses past the fifth week, a gestational sac is visible on ultrasound and your pregnancy is known as a clinical pregnancy.

Most women don’t know they’re pregnant until week four of gestation, as pregnancy is measured from the first day of your last period.  As a result, a chemical pregnancy can seem like a false positive pregnancy test, or simply a late period.

It’s simply a very, very early miscarriage.

Symptoms of a chemical pregnancy loss

If a blood test or pregnancy test shows positive but you start bleeding shortly afterwards  (before any pregnancy is visible on ultrasound scan) , and further blood tests show that your pregnancy hormones are decreasing rather than increasing, you are miscarrying a chemical pregnancy.

We believe that chemical pregnancies happen for the same reasons as many other miscarriages – primarily due to chromosomal problems with the developing baby.

Treatment for a chemical pregnancy loss

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

Even if a positive pregnancy test has been taken, the bleed will be like a normal period, or may even be lighter than normal, but may come with more cramps than usual.

These miscarriages happen at such an early stage  that they generally resolve naturally and you will recover quickly.  As a result, you could try again for a baby straight away, but GPs will usually recommend waiting until after your next period for any type of miscarriage.

 

Read incomplete miscarriage stories

Read more about miscarriage

  • Sad woman talking to health professional.

    Expectant management

    Letting your miscarriage happen naturally is also called ‘expectant management.’

  • Woman being comforted by healthcare professional.

    Surgical management

    If the medical option hasn’t been completely successful, or if you are bleeding heavily or have an infection, you may be advised to have surgery.

  • Woman's hand holding two pills.

    Medical management

    If you have a missed or incomplete miscarriage, you will be offered the option to take some medicine to help the miscarriage to get underway.

Sources

  1. Verbal communication, Professor Arri Coomarasamy, Director of Tommy’s National Centre for Miscarriage Research

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Last reviewed on August 1st, 2016. Next review date August 1st, 2019.

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