Chemical pregnancy grief matters

If you’ve never heard the term ‘chemical pregnancy’ before, it refers to a very early miscarriage when an egg is fertilised but doesn’t implant in the uterus.

Chemical pregnancies are quite common. Around half of all first pregnancies end in miscarriage, and a chemical pregnancy is thought to be the cause of most of these.

It’s called a chemical pregnancy because the miscarriage occurs in the first five weeks of pregnancy, and only a biochemical test would be sensitive enough to detect the pregnancy. Although a pregnancy test might show that a woman is pregnant, an ultrasound would not have led to a pregnancy confirmation at this early stage.

This doesn’t make the pregnancy loss any less valid, and any less devastating for some.

Chemical pregnancy grief matters

Some women may be totally unaware that they have experienced a chemical pregnancy. However, with early pregnancy test kits becoming increasingly popular, many women are more likely to know if they’re pregnant very early on.

The excitement of finding out you’re pregnant, only to discover that the pregnancy has ended a short time after can be heartbreaking. A diagnosis of a chemical pregnancy doesn’t make the loss and the grief any less real.

You might be understandably flooded with sadness, anxiety, stress, confusion, and a sense that you shouldn’t be feeling these feelings since it was so early. The fact that it’s called a chemical pregnancy, rather than a miscarriage, only seems to reinforce that.

But, your chemical pregnancy grief does matter. Whatever you feel is right. Don’t deny it, don’t diminish it, and don’t regret it. You were pregnant.

You are definitely not alone, though. There are plenty of online and in-person support groups you can contact. Speak to family and friends, or ask your GP to refer you to a psychologist. You may be entitled to pregnancy support counselling under Medicare.

When and if you’re ready, you can start trying to get pregnant immediately if you wish. It’s even possible to get pregnant as soon as your next cycle. You may naturally feel anxious about getting pregnant again, so it would be good to speak to a professional first.

What are the causes of a chemical pregnancy?

They can occur for a number of reasons, including:

  • Hormonal deficiency
  • Fibroids
  • Blighted ovum
  • Uterine abnormality
  • Fetal chromosomal abnormality
  • Inadequate lining of the uterus
  • Luteal phase defect (the uterus is not in the correct phase to allow implantation)

What are the signs of a chemical pregnancy?

Many women don’t realise they have conceived, so they may be unaware they are experiencing a chemical pregnancy. These women may not notice any unusual symptoms, and then go on to get their period as usual.

For those who are tracking their cycle closely, they might notice some of these possible signs:

  • Light period
  • Late period
  • Positive pregnancy test
  • Abdominal cramps
  • Vaginal bleeding
  • Decreasing hCG levels in your blood (perhaps the lines on the pregnancy tests are getting fainter each time you test)

A chemical pregnancy doesn’t usually last very long, and many women won’t experience any pregnancy symptoms, such as nausea and fatigue.

How is it diagnosed and what is the treatment?

Make an appointment with your doctor if you suspect you’re experiencing a chemical pregnancy. They will most likely test the hCG levels in your blood, and if the levels decrease, this will confirm that you’re no longer pregnant.

Your doctor may recommend an ultrasound to check for an implanted embryo. If one is not found, then it will be assumed it was a chemical pregnancy.

In most cases, the uterus will spontaneously empty itself without any intervention. The bleeding will be similar to your normal period, but in some cases it might be heavier and last longer.


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