In vitro fertilization (IVF) can help people who have struggled to become pregnant overcome infertility issues.
However, the journey to IVF, and sometimes through IVF, can be marked with the joyous moment of a positive pregnancy test shortly followed by a menstrual period and no pregnancy. This type of pregnancy loss is called a chemical pregnancy.
Dr. Janelle Dorsett explains what a chemical pregnancy is during consultations at our Lubbock, TX, fertility clinic as she helps couples grow their families.
What Is a Chemical Pregnancy?
A chemical pregnancy, also called a biochemical pregnancy, is an early stage pregnancy loss and typically occurs within the first few weeks of pregnancy.
With a chemical pregnancy, pregnancy hormones are high enough to be detected on a pregnancy test but the pregnancy fails to progress to a point where the gestational sac or placenta can be seen in an ultrasound.
Chemical pregnancies refer to pregnancies in which the levels of the hormone detected by pregnancy tests, human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG), are high enough to produce a positive test result but for some reason implantation does not occur, resulting in an early stage miscarriage.
What Occurs During a Chemical Pregnancy?
A chemical pregnancy starts like a typical pregnancy with a fertilized egg beginning to implant in the uterus about three weeks after a woman's last period.
As the egg begins to implant in the uterus, the body begins to produce the pregnancy hormone hCG. Hormone levels become high enough to detect on a pregnancy test. However, implantation doesn't fully occur. As a result, bleeding will occur about a week after a woman's regular period is due.
Because bleeding occurs close to the time of a woman's regular period, women who aren't regularly taking pregnancy tests may not realize they had a chemical pregnancy.
What Causes Chemical Pregnancies?
The exact cause of chemical pregnancies is not known. However, some possible causes include:
- Problems with the embryo
- Uterine abnormalities
- Infections, like syphilis or chlamydia
- Being over the age of 35
- Implantation outside of the uterus
- Thyroid disorders or other disorders that can affect hormone levels
What Is the Frequency of Chemical Pregnancies?
The true frequency of chemical pregnancies really can't be known since women don't always take pregnancy tests before their next expected period.
For example, a woman can have a chemical pregnancy but never know because she wasn't trying to conceive and didn't take a pregnancy test since her period came roughly around the time she was expecting it.
Are Chemical Pregnancies More Common with IVF?
Chemical pregnancies are not believed to be more common with IVF treatment. However, women undergoing IVF are more likely to be aware of a chemical pregnancy because they are more likely to undergo early pregnancy testing.
When a chemical pregnancy occurs, it can be devastating and those who experience this type of loss should grieve as needed.
Although a known chemical pregnancy can be devastating, the silver lining is that doctors often consider it a sign that a woman can become pregnant. It is possible for women who have had a previous chemical pregnancy to successfully undergo IVF at our Lubbock fertility clinic.
Schedule a Consultation
If you live in or around Lubbock and would like more information about chemical pregnancies, or to learn more about infertility treatment options, we welcome you to call (806) 788-1212 and schedule a consultation with Dr. Dorsett.