We know the word “hope” can be a tough one to hear. While on our fertility journeys, it can feel like hope is one of the few things we have control over, and yet it can be a hard one to balance alongside fear and skepticism. It isn’t always easy being told to have hope or to keep hoping because what we want most in the world is just on the other side of that little four-letter word. With chemical pregnancies, however, there truly is reason to hope for a successful pregnancy afterward, and it’s a bit more tangible in these instances to keep that hope alive!  

What is a chemical pregnancy?

Let’s first figure out exactly what a chemical pregnancy is! To start, the name is pretty misleading. While it does refer to pregnancy, albeit a short one, a chemical pregnancy is more of an early miscarriage than the name lets on. A miscarriage that occurs within the first five weeks of gestation is a chemical pregnancy. 

During those early weeks of pregnancy, an embryo forms and implants itself into the lining of your uterus. The embryo then begins producing hCG, also known as the pregnancy hormone. This, however, is where its growth and development stops. Chemical pregnancies occur so early that, oftentimes, women may not even know they are experiencing a miscarriage. In fact, chemical pregnancies often end before a pregnancy can be detected on an ultrasound. 

What causes a chemical pregnancy?

There is no easily identified reason why an embryo stops developing in a chemical pregnancy. These early miscarriages can occur because of chromosomal abnormalities in the embryo. When the body recognizes the embryo as nonviable, it will naturally terminate the pregnancy. Another cause of a chemical pregnancy may simply be that the embryo did not properly implant into the lining of the uterus.

Chemical pregnancies have also been linked to uterine abnormalities, sexually transmitted infections, irregular hormone levels, and implantation outside of the uterus. There’s no singular cause or reason as to why chemical pregnancies happen, and oftentimes, it’s too late to determine the cause by the time the woman realizes she was pregnant. There is, however, still reason to have hope for a successful pregnancy after a chemical one!  

Reasons to have hope after a chemical pregnancy

Even though it occurs so early on in gestation, a miscarriage is a miscarriage. So, as with all things fertility-related, take all of the time you need before moving on to the next step. Whether it’s taking a break to process your emotions or jumping back in to try again, listen to your mind and body before making a decision. There is no one right way to do things, and honoring yourself and your feelings is the most important factor. 

After a chemical pregnancy, some couples may try to conceive again right away because it’s possible to ovulate as soon as two weeks after a chemical pregnancy. In fact, a study conducted by the National Institute of Health found that women who attempt “to conceive within three months after losing an early pregnancy, defined as less than 20 weeks gestation, have the same chances, if not greater, of achieving a live birth than those who wait for three months or more.” So, the chances of live birth after a chemical pregnancy are very good. 

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Moving forward after an early pregnancy loss

For women undergoing fertility treatment, a chemical pregnancy is, understandably, a huge disappointment. You’ve just spent a great deal of time and countless amounts of money trying to conceive only to experience an early miscarriage. And although this sounds a little bit like false hope, rest assured that this is a good sign! The chemical pregnancy showed that the embryo successfully reached its final stage of development and that your uterus was receptive to it. So, despite the heartbreaking loss, there is hope that your next treatment will be successful. 

It’s also important to remember that there is nothing you could have done to prevent your miscarriage. 1 in 4 known pregnancies ends in loss; but just because it’s common, doesn’t make it any less painful. Feel all of the feelings, and if you’re still concerned about moving forward, consider talking to your doctor about additional testing to help assuage your fears before embarking on another cycle. You have the power to choose the right path for you but know that the outlook for a successful pregnancy after a chemical one is a hopeful one. 

Brighid Flynn is a freelance writer based in Philadelphia where she lives with her husband and puppy. She is just beginning her journey toward motherhood.