What It Means When You Have A Chemical Pregnancy

Whether you've been trying to conceive for a long time or want to avoid pregnancy at all costs, a chemical pregnancy can come as a surprise. While the term "chemical pregnancy" might sound scientific and harsh, it's a very real pregnancy that just doesn't last very long due to the embryo not developing (via Cleveland Clinic). If you've been told you're having a chemical pregnancy, understanding what it means can be helpful in processing what's going on in your body.

In a typically developing pregnancy, an egg becomes fertilized by sperm in the fallopian tubes and makes its way to the uterus, according to The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Once it reaches the uterine lining, it will implant and begin to grow. After nine weeks of fertilization, the embryo is called a fetus, which continues to grow within the expanding uterus. Pregnancy typically lasts for 40 weeks from the date of your last menstrual period, broken up into three trimesters. Major organs begin to develop in the first trimester, and by the third trimester, they begin to mature, with the fetus gaining a considerable amount of weight.

But not all pregnancies develop typically. Some end in a miscarriage, often known as spontaneous abortion, or are aborted, known as induced abortion, and others result in stillbirth, as per a 2022 article via PLOS ONE. In fact, a handful of pregnancies don't make it past the first few weeks, also known as a chemical pregnancy (via Cleveland Clinic).

What happens during a chemical pregnancy

When a miscarriage occurs within the first five weeks of pregnancy, it's called a chemical pregnancy (per Cleveland Clinic). This very early loss is named for the hormones produced by the embryo to cause a positive pregnancy test, called the human chorionic gonadotrophin (hCG) hormone. In a chemical pregnancy, the embryo forms and might implant in the uterine lining, but then development stops. Once the embryo stops growing, hCG levels will drop. It could happen so early that you don't even know you're pregnant yet. However, most people who experience a chemical pregnancy go on to have healthy, full-term pregnancies.

Chemical pregnancies can be impacted by genetic abnormalities, imbalanced hormones, improper implantation, and low body weight, according to the American Pregnancy Association. You might know you're having a chemical pregnancy if you experience menstrual cramping or if your period is heavier than usual. But many people don't know they are miscarrying or even pregnant since they can mistake it for a normal period.

Therefore, if you're not sure you're experiencing a chemical pregnancy, contact your healthcare provider for guidance. They can also help you process your loss and help you figure out the next steps.