Before the birth of our third child the term chemical pregnancy came up for me repeatedly in chatting with other moms. The general consensus was that until it happened to them, no one had heard the term before. I was pregnant 3 times in one calendar year, none of the pregnancies went beyond 9 weeks. I’m not writing this for sympathy, the fact of the matter is that while I was going through all of that, I already had two awesome kids. But I learned something in that time that I was unaware of previously so I figured I would share with you.
While two of the pregnancies were miscarriages ending at 7 and 9 weeks, the third, my doctor referred to as a chemical pregnancy. I happened to be at my doctor’s office for other reasons when I told him that I had recently taken a pregnancy test that came back positive (truth be told, I had taken 5 pregnancy tests, I seem to have some weird compulsion with taking them).
My urine sample at the doctor’s office however was showing that I might be pregnant and it wasn’t a strong positive. So he ordered blood work to be taken so they could confirm. Prior to that, he said, “You know our urine tests are highly sensitive so you might not actually be pregnant.” I was confused and said, “Really? But the home test said I was and doesn’t that always mean you are?” I felt like a little kid and totally in the dark. He said that it was likely a chemical pregnancy. My doctor is awesome, but he’s not big on elaboration, and I’m not the best at asking the right questions. Like, “What the hell is a chemical pregnancy?” would have been a totally appropriate question at the time.
A chemical pregnancy, I have since found out, happens when a fertilized egg does not implant. Many women have them and don’t even realize it, assuming their period is just a little late and a little heavier than normal. However, your HCG levels are high enough to register as a positive on a home pregnancy test. This made me far more wary of at home tests, especially the ones that tell you you can find out 5 days before a missed period.
Because we were trying to get pregnant I was aware of my cycle and so took the test shortly after a missed period and it came back positive. But sure enough, my blood work from the doctor came back negative and I got my period the following week at what would have been 6 weeks. The true cause of chemical pregnancies isn’t known but generally attributed to abnormal chromosomes of the fetus, poor quality of the egg or sperm or abnormal division of cells in the fetus.
Fifty to sixty percent of first trimester miscarriages are chemical pregnancies that often end without the woman even knowing she was pregnant. For me, it was a bit of an emotional rollercoaster thinking I was pregnant only to find out that I wasn’t. Nature is fascinating to me, and I was comforted by the fact that none of my pregnancies had a viable fetus. I, like everybody else, didn’t do anything wrong, it just wasn’t meant to be. I am extremely fortunate and could look at my two little kids every morning and feel more than lucky with what I already had.
My feelings should in no way discount the loss many women feel with a miscarriage. Everyone’s situation is unique. Many women and couples seek counseling over this type of loss and that is completely normal too. If you are struggling with getting pregnant my heart goes out to you, it can be all consuming and emotionally exhausting.
Have you ever heard of a chemical pregnancy before or was it just me that was totally in the dark?