What is Chemical Pregnancy?

Medically Reviewed by Traci C. Johnson, MD on April 23, 2023
3 min read

A chemical pregnancy is a very early miscarriage. It usually happens before the pregnancy reaches five weeks. Many may not even realize they have had an early miscarriage if it happens soon after a missed period. Doctors often diagnose chemical pregnancy when you have had a positive pregnancy test and you start menstruating after. They may also diagnose it if there's a positive pregnancy test but the fetus can't be seen on an ultrasound.

Symptoms of a chemical pregnancy. Since it is an early miscarriage, many people don't realize they have had a chemical pregnancy. They may only realize it if they have already had a positive pregnancy test and then get their period. Other signs of a chemical pregnancy include:

Causes of a chemical pregnancy. There are many potential causes of an early miscarriage including:

  • Imbalanced hormones
  • Genetic abnormalities in the embryo
  • Lack of proper implantation in the uterus
  • Low body weight

It's important to note that there's little that you can do to prevent an early miscarriage, and it's not the fault of either partner. Additionally, it usually is not a reflection of you or your partner's ability to get pregnant. However, if you believe you have had a chemical pregnancy, it's best to consult a doctor for advice.

Treatments for a chemical pregnancy. Most chemical pregnancies do not require treatment. The miscarriage happens early enough in the pregnancy that it may just seem like a normal or slightly heavy period. If you do have an early miscarriage, you can try to get pregnant again right away if you want.

Those who have had multiple chemical pregnancies or miscarriages should consult a fertility specialist to figure out what's going on.

Coping with an early miscarriage. Any miscarriage, including early ones, can be emotional, and people deal with them in different ways. It's normal to feel a sense of grief and loss. Many people blame themselves for the miscarriage. Additionally, there may be hormonal shifts after a chemical pregnancy that make you more emotional.

Here are some tips for coping with a miscarriage:

  • Realize your feelings are normal after a chemical pregnancy
  • Allow yourself to grieve at your own pace
  • Realize each person's grieving process is different and allow yourself to grieve in your own way
  • Consider joining a support group
  • Consider speaking with a therapist
  • Communicate openly with your partner about how you are feeling
  • Realize that it is normal to feel fear around getting pregnant again
  • It's normal for emotional healing to take longer than physical healing

Risk factors for a chemical pregnancy. While there's nothing you can do to prevent an early miscarriage, there are some risk factors that make you more likely to have one including:

How to prevent a chemical pregnancy. There's not much you can do to prevent a chemical pregnancy. Take prenatal vitamins before you even get pregnant to promote healthy fetal development if you plan to get pregnant. Some experts recommend that anyone who may become pregnant, even unintentionally, take prenatal vitamins just in case.

Chemical pregnancies are very normal. Between 10-20% of all pregnancies end in some type of miscarriage. Most people who have an early miscarriage go on to have a healthy pregnancy later on.

A chemical pregnancy can only be detected through a pregnancy test, which shows elevated hormone levels. A pregnancy becomes clinical when a doctor can verify the pregnancy through an ultrasound or fetal heartbeat. A chemical pregnancy has no signs that can be felt or heard.

Doctors can usually detect signs of a clinical pregnancy at five to six weeks through an ultrasound, or at six to seven weeks by verifying a fetal heartbeat. However, hormonal pregnancy tests can detect a chemical pregnancy as early as two weeks after conception.