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What is a chemical pregnancy?

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Quick Answer

Chemical pregnancy is another term used to describe early pregnancy loss, according to Healthline. This is a miscarriage that occurs shortly after getting a positive result on a pregnancy test.

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Chemical Pregnancy vs. Miscarriage
A chemical pregnancy is technically a miscarriage, which is the loss of pregnancy before the 20th week. However, there are a few slight differences that separate chemical pregnancies from other types of miscarriages. A chemical pregnancy is a miscarriage that occurs soon after implantation or in the first few weeks of pregnancy. Many women who experience a chemical pregnancy did not even know they were pregnant and did not experience any other pregnancy symptoms. Often, the only symptoms of a chemical pregnancy are cramping and bleeding, which might be mistaken for a menstrual period, states Healthline. For this reason, a chemical pregnancy is often mistaken for a period.

Causes of Chemical Pregnancy
There are a number of factors that can contribute to a chemical pregnancy. The exact cause differs from woman to woman and is often difficult for medical providers to pinpoint. Some of the major causes are low-quality egg or sperm, uterine abnormalities, unusual hormone levels and sexually transmitted infections, notes Healthline. A problem with the embryo is the most common cause of miscarriage and might also be a contributing factor to a chemical pregnancy. Nearly 50 percent of miscarriages are caused by chromosomal abnormalities such as extra or missing chromosomes and occur as the embryo grows, as stated by the Mayo Clinic. These abnormalities occur by chance and are often not due to traits inherited by the parents. Thus, experiencing a chemical pregnancy does not necessarily mean that women will be unable to carry a pregnancy to term in the future.

Treatment and Prevention of a Chemical Pregnancy
Unfortunately, once a miscarriage has started there is no way to reverse the process and preserve the pregnancy. Treatment for a chemical pregnancy varies from patient to patient. In many women, the only treatment is to take pain medication and wait for the process to complete. If the condition developed as a result of an infection, then doctors may prescribe antibiotics or other medications to treat the underlying illness, reports Healthline.

It's not always possible to prevent a chemical pregnancy from occurring. Experiencing a chemical pregnancy does not always indicate fertility issues. Women can lower their risk for miscarriage at any stage by focusing on caring for themselves and the growing fetus. This includes abstaining from smoking, drugs and alcohol as well as seeking prenatal care regularly.

Bleeding in Early Pregnancy
Bleeding early in a pregnancy is the most common symptom of a chemical pregnancy, but it is not always a cause for alarm. Women may experience bleeding during implantation when the embryo attaches to the uterus and causes blood vessels to rupture. This occurs about two weeks after conception, according to Healthline.

Chemical pregnancies make up as many as 75 percent of all miscarriages. They occur early in pregnancy before doctors can detect a fetus with an ultrasound but late enough that a pregnancy can be detected with a home pregnancy test. While chemical pregnancies are not often physically painful, the loss of any pregnancy can be devastating to the parents.

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