Waiting for a positive pregnancy test after a fertility treatment cycle is a tense time. If you have been trying to conceive for some time, you know the anxiety that results from the waiting game and the strong desire to finally hear those words, “Congratulations, you are going to be a mom.”
But for some women, just knowing that they are “pregnant” is not enough. If you are like many women who have suffered a biochemical pregnancy, you may hesitate to get your hopes up for fear of what lies ahead. And if you are trying desperately to get pregnant, you may be overwhelmed with the fear of having a chemical pregnancy yourself.
What exactly is a biochemical pregnancy and what does it mean for your future prospects of carrying a little one to term?
Is a Biochemical Pregnancy a Real Pregnancy or a False Alarm?
Some mistakenly believe that a chemical pregnancy is a false positive meaning the woman did not actually conceive. This is not the case though. Biochemical pregnancy is a very real pregnancy where implantation did occur but one that results in a miscarriage within the first 2-3 weeks of conception.
At this early stage, the pregnancy is only confirmed through elevated hCG levels and is usually not visible on ultrasound examination. After 4 weeks a gestational sac can be seen on ultrasound and the pregnancy becomes a “clinical” pregnancy.
Causes of a Biochemical Pregnancy
Biochemical pregnancies are quite common and account for 50-75% of miscarriages. It has been estimated that up to 30-50% of women experience at least 1 biochemical pregnancy during their reproductive years.
Research has shown that the main causes of a biochemical pregnancy are the genetic abnormalities of the embryo itself. During the development of the embryo, as cells divide and multiply, the migration of the chromosomes may be abnormal and lead to abnormal embryos.
Early losses such as biochemical pregnancies usually mean that the abnormalities within the embryos were too severe for them to recover and continue growing. Early elimination of an abnormal embryo is just nature’s way to ensure the birth of a healthy baby.
There is Hope After a Biochemical Pregnancy
For women undergoing infertility treatment, suffering a chemical pregnancy after spending all the effort can be a huge disappointment. However, you can look at the glass half full instead of half empty. The fact that you became pregnant means that an embryo was able to implant into your uterus and that pregnancy can likely occur again.
The occurrence of a biochemical pregnancy provides some light at the end of the tunnel and gives hope for subsequent treatment cycles. Biochemical pregnancy is clear evidence that the uterus was receptive to the embryo, and that the embryo had reached the final stage of development for implantation.
Unfortunately, many women who experience a biochemical pregnancy after infertility treatment choose to discontinue treatment, especially after a failed IVF cycle. But studies have shown that women who persevere after experiencing a chemical pregnancy have a greater chance of having a baby than women who have not yet conceived with treatment.
What to Do After Suffering Multiple Miscarriages?
Although it is physically possible to conceive as little as two weeks after a miscarriage you may not be emotionally ready to try again so soon. You and your partner may need some time to help each other recover emotionally. It can be easy to blame yourself on your loss but you need to realize that you did not do anything wrong as it was up to nature to determine whether or not the pregnancy would prove to be a viable one.
If you have suffered multiple miscarriages, your doctor will likely want to proceed with testing to find the underlying causes. The investigation may include:
• Chromosomal tests- to screen for translocations or other chromosomal abnormalities in either partner
• Hormone tests- to screen for thyroid and prolactin disorders
• Thrombophilia panel- to screen for the tendency of forming clots that can prevent adequate blood flow to the uterus
• Ultrasound – to look for abnormalities on the uterus such as fibroids
• Hysterosalpingogram – an X-ray test to screen for abnormalities within the uterine cavity that can cause miscarriages (fibroids, polyps, abnormal shapes)
If these tests fail to explain why you keep losing pregnancies, the causes are likely related to genetic abnormalities within the embryos. The good news is that most women with biochemical pregnancies do go on to eventually deliver healthy children. At IVFMD our mission is to support and help you through the journey to reach your ultimate goal of becoming parents.