When I first heard about chemical pregnancies, it didn't take me long to start analyzing whether it may or may not have happened every month. For women like me who pay close attention to learning our cycles and understanding our body's rhythms, the slightest abnormality can raise questions. For instance, a period that comes a few days late can make us wonder if it was actually something more. "How will I know if I've had a chemical pregnancy?" was something I would worry about. It's a legitimate question and thankfully, there are answers.
According to the American Pregnancy Association (APA), a chemical pregnancy occurs when a fertilized egg is implanted into the uterine wall, but is lost shortly after. The loss results in bleeding that comes around the same time as the woman's usual period, so it can be tricky to detect. In fact, many women never even know they had one. The APA estimated that chemical pregnancies account for 50 to 75 percent of all miscarriages.
Eva Martin, MD, founder of Elm Tree Medical, tells Romper in an interview that the only real way to know for sure if you had a chemical pregnancy is to have known about it before the loss. If you're trying to figure it out after the fact, you'll likely be frustrated by the lack of certainty.
Martin explains, "The symptoms would not be any different from any other very early pregnancy, except that with a chemical pregnancy, a woman will have a positive pregnancy test followed shortly afterwards by bleeding (like a period). A chemical pregnancy can go completely undetected if a woman hasn't taken a pregnancy test, and she may just assume her period came a little late that month."
By the way, if you're wondering what is meant by the term "chemical," Martin can clear that up, too. "The term 'chemical' pregnancy refers to the fact that the pregnancy hormone (a chemical) rises enough to make a pregnancy test positive, but that the pregnancy ends quite early, before you would be able to see anything on ultrasound," she says.
Contrary to normal fears, having a chemical pregnancy doesn't mean you're necessarily at risk for more miscarriages in the future. Doula Trainer Amy Gilliland tells Romper, "Chemical pregnancy is a normative event — lots of people have them and it doesn’t mean that a person can’t conceive or implant in the future. It just means something was amiss about the growth process this time so the body decided to discard it and start over with the next opportunity."
If your period appears to have come a few days to a week late and you never confirmed the suspected pregnancy with a test, there's no use losing sleep over it now. When it comes to chemical pregnancies, the only way to know is to really know, so stock up on some home pregnancy tests, have them ready on the first day your period is late, and girl, get to peeing.