Period after positive pregnancy test

If you’ve ever spent time on websites or online forums dedicated to trying to conceive, you may have seen the term “chemical pregnancy.” It’s kind of—OK, definitely—confusing. What exactly is a chemical pregnancy, and how might you know if you’ve had one? We talked to ob/gyns for the top facts you need to know.

1. A chemical pregnancy describes a miscarriage that happens so early on, you may not even know you conceived.

“‘Chemical pregnancy’ is just the name of a very early miscarriage,” Maura Quinlan, M.D., assistant professor in the department of obstetrics and gynecology at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, tells SELF. How early? Well, it’s hard to say.

A miscarriage is the loss of a pregnancy in the first 20 weeks, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). After that, it’s known as a stillbirth.

A chemical pregnancy doesn’t happen within a definitive time frame in those 20 weeks. Instead, this term typically describes the experience of getting a positive pregnancy test very soon after a fertilized egg attaches to the uterine lining, but getting confirmation that you’re no longer pregnant soon after that.

2. You might find out about your chemical pregnancy when, after getting a positive pregnancy test result, you get your period or see your ob/gyn.

At-home pregnancy tests look for the presence of human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG), which is a hormone from your placenta (the organ that helps maintain and nourish a pregnancy). With a chemical pregnancy, you have enough hCG to get a positive pregnancy test result, but your levels will start to fall as you miscarry.

If you’re trying to conceive, you’re probably keeping really close tabs on your cycle, so you may take a test the second your period is late. Getting your period soon after you get a positive result can understandably be confusing and devastating. (Although, keep in mind that there are all sorts of non-period reasons why you might bleed a bit early on in pregnancy, like a vaginal tear.)

The other way you might discover a chemical pregnancy is if you go to the doctor. Every practice is different, but your doctor will typically want to see you anywhere between six and 10 weeks after your missed period, Jessica Shepherd, M.D., a minimally invasive gynecologist at Baylor University Medical Center at Dallas, tells SELF.

During that visit, your doctor will want to confirm your pregnancy, which may involve an ultrasound. If you’re what doctors call clinically pregnant, there will be a gestational sac in your uterus or, if you’re further along, an embryo or fetus with a heartbeat, Dr. Quinlan says. If you’ve had a chemical pregnancy, tests won’t detect any of this, she says.

You might also realize you’re miscarrying due to bleeding and cramping as your body passes the tissue, but these symptoms may not be that intense since it’s so early, Dr. Shepherd says.

3. Not every false-positive pregnancy test is due to a chemical pregnancy.

A false-positive pregnancy test (when you get a positive result but aren’t actually expecting) can happen for many reasons, including a chemical pregnancy. But it’s hard for doctors to say how many false positives are due to chemical pregnancies specifically, Dr. Shepherd says, since there are quite a few other reasons why you might see a positive result when you’re not clinically pregnant.

They include using an expired test, having an ectopic pregnancy (when a fertilized egg attaches somewhere outside of the uterus), being on a fertility medication that contains hCG, and having residual hCG in your system after you give birth or have a miscarriage, Dr. Shepherd says. Menopause (or the time right before it, known as perimenopause) can cause your pituitary gland to produce more hCG, which could lead to a false positive. There are even rare cases of people with chronic kidney disease having elevated hCG levels (the kidneys play a role in clearing hCG from your system).


Frequently asked questions about chemical pregnancy

If you’ve ever felt the thrill of getting a positive pregnancy test result only to have your period arrive days later, you’re likely among the countless women who’ve had their pregnancy hopes dashed by a chemical pregnancy.
A chemical pregnancy is one that ends before the five-week mark, prior to your doctor seeing the gestational sac on an ultrasound (1). The term “chemical” refers to the way the pregnancy is diagnosed — by chemical means instead of an ultrasound. You’ll also hear it called a biochemical pregnancy.

Here, we answer your most pressing questions — and dispel misinformation — about a chemical pregnancy.

How do I know if I’ve had a chemical pregnancy?

The short answer is you won’t — unless you’ve taken a pregnancy test before your period is due. The advent of highly sensitive pregnancy tests means more women are detecting chemical pregnancies by testing before a missed period (1). And although those double lines might give you a burst of hope, unfortunately a chemical pregnancy won’t progress.

Doctors call these early pregnancies a chemical pregnancy because the level of pregnancy hormone, human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG), is high enough initially to produce a positive result on a pregnancy test, but the pregnancy isn’t confirmed on an ultrasound. Attempting to arrive at a definition for chemical pregnancy, the authors of a paper in the American Journal of Epidemiology suggested it requires three factors: a low peak in hCG (< 100 mIU/mL), a rapid drop in hCG, and not much of a delay before your period arrives (2).

Could I still test positive after chemical pregnancy?

Taking a pregnancy test in the days after a chemical pregnancy can still show a positive result because today’s tests detect very low levels of hCG. Even though you’ve had a chemical pregnancy, some hCG remains in your body; it takes time for the pregnancy hormone to dissipate.

This chart used by doctors to time the decline of hCG following a non-viable pregnancy shows that pregnancy hormone levels may drop as little as 12% after two days and 26% after four days (3). Among women whose hCG levels started out higher (2500 MIU/mL), doctors expect to see a sharper plunge: a 32% decline after two days and 62% drop after four days.

Is a chemical pregnancy the same as a miscarriage?

While you may have noticed stories in your feed equating a chemical pregnancy to a false positive, that’s inaccurate. As scientists with the United Kingdom’s National Health Services Foundation Trust recently noted in a paper, “The truth is that a biochemical pregnancy was indeed a conception and is actually a very early miscarriage” (1).

Miscarriage is the most common type of pregnancy loss, with research estimating that anywhere from 10% to 25% of all clinically recognized pregnancies will end in miscarriage, per the American Pregnancy Association.(4) Chemical pregnancies may account for up to 75% of all pregnancy losses (4).

What causes a chemical pregnancy?

While the precise reason is unknown, researchers have theorized that problematic embryos may be somewhat to blame. A study published in Human Reproduction of women undergoing IVF found they had fewer chemical pregnancies than women with unassisted pregnancies. The authors suggested the ability to choose healthier embryos was linked somehow to fewer chemical pregnancies (5).

Your risk of a chemical pregnancy rises if you’re age 35 or older (6). Medical conditions, such blood clotting and thyroid disorders, are also thought to play a role.

What happens to my body after a chemical pregnancy?

A chemical pregnancy doesn’t prevent you from conceiving again soon. And although you’ll want to feel all your feels after your loss, there’s no medical reason to stop you from trying again when you’re ready. According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, it’s possible to ovulate and become pregnant again as soon as two weeks after an early pregnancy loss (7). In fact, you may have better odds of conceiving and having a baby.

When researchers followed 2,245 women undergoing IVF, they found those with a past chemical pregnancy had a better chance at a subsequent pregnancy and live birth. The women who’d had a chemical pregnancy in their first IVF cycle enjoyed a 34% success rate with a subsequent pregnancy, compared to a 21% success rate among women without an initial chemical pregnancy (8).

However, if you’re having repeated chemical pregnancies, you’ll definitely want to consult with your doctor.

I was 8 days late for my period and had 2 positive digital pregnancy tests then 3 days later got my period..nothing was unusual about it so i took another test that read negative..what do i believe? could i still be pregnant? ive been having unprotected sex for the past 8 months.

You probably had a very early pregnancy loss (miscarriage). A very early miscarriage can feel very similar to a regular period.

Pregnancy tests are very accurate. Most home pregnancy tests work 99 out of 100 times if used after a missed period.

Many of us who experience miscarriage are not aware that it is fairly common. For every 10 pregnancies, 1 to 2 end in miscarriage. Miscarriage is most likely to happen early in pregnancy — in fact, 8 out of 10 miscarriages happen in the first three months of pregnancy.

Not all miscarriages cause physical pain. But most women have some cramping. For some women, the cramping can be quite strong. For others, it is gentler.

Women also have bleeding and may pass large blood clots. Many women are surprised and scared by the heavy bleeding that can occur during a miscarriage.

Whether it’s painful or not or happens quickly or not, miscarriage can be a very upsetting experience. Learn more about miscarriage.

If you’re having unprotected sex, and you don’t want to get pregnant, it’s a good idea to use birth control.

Tags: miscarriage, periods, pregnancy tests

Am I Pregnant? FAQs On Early Pregnancy

There are many situations that lead women to ask the question, “Am I pregnant?” The following questions are some of the most frequently asked questions that the APA receives regarding early pregnancy issues.

Can I be pregnant and still have a period?

Pregnant women can have some light irregular bleeding during pregnancy, but it should not be like a “normal” period. Some women can confuse this for their period because often it can come right around the time she was expecting her normal period.

The irregular bleeding or spotting that can occur during pregnancy is often a dark brown or a light pinkish color. It should not be enough bleeding to fill pads or tampons over a few days. If you are bleeding enough to fill pads and tampons, then this would be a good indication that you are probably not pregnant. Learn more about getting pregnant while on your period.

What if I have a positive pregnancy test and then start bleeding?

About 25-30% of pregnant women experience some type of spotting or bleeding in early pregnancy. This can be a result of many different factors including implantation bleeding, infection, cervical irritation, ectopic pregnancy or a threatened miscarriage.

Many women who have this light bleeding go on to have normal pregnancies and healthy babies. About half of the women who experience some light bleeding will go on to have heavier bleeding that will ultimately result in miscarriage.

Unfortunately, there is no way to predict whether or not vaginal bleeding will progress to miscarriage. If you experience light bleeding that continues to get heavier, accompanied by painful cramping, back pain or stabbing pains, then you would want to seek medical attention right away.

If you experience some very slight spotting that then goes away, you would want to make sure to share this with your healthcare provider so that they are fully informed of everything you are experiencing in your pregnancy.

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What if I have symptoms of pregnancy followed by a heavy period?

If you are experiencing symptoms that could indicate pregnancy and made you think you may be pregnant, but then have heavy bleeding, you may want to see a healthcare provider as soon as possible. This could be caused by a hormonal imbalance, an infection, or a possible miscarriage.

What if I notice some cramping during pregnancy?

Pregnant women may experience some light cramping early in pregnancy. The cramping is often like light menstrual cramps through the lower abdomen or on one side or the other. It is often a result of all the changes that are occurring in the uterus as the implanted egg begins to grow and develop. Also, a cyst, called the corpus luteum cyst, can develop on the ovary at ovulation.

This cyst forms in the spot on the ovary where the egg comes out before making its journey to the uterus. It then produces progesterone until the placenta has formed enough to begin producing its own progesterone. The cyst can cause some discomfort for women in early pregnancy.

Can the exact date of conception be determined accurately?

Many women have questions about the date of possible conception, and unfortunately figuring this out is not always so easy. The assumption is that if a woman has pretty regular menstrual cycles, then she will be ovulating during a certain time of the month.

Ovulation is the time when conception can take place because that is when an egg is made available. The problem is that most women do not ovulate on an exact date each month, and many women have a different ovulation day from month to month.

If you also take into account that sperm can live in the body 3-5 days after intercourse has taken place, this can make determining conception very difficult.

Most doctors use the first day of the last period (LMP) and ultrasound measurements to gauge the gestational age of a baby and determine when the baby was conceived. But these are just tools used to estimate the dates—it is very hard for anything to tell what the exact date of conception really is.

Most people do not realize that ultrasounds can be off up to 5-7 days in early pregnancy and up to a couple of weeks off if the first ultrasounds are done farther into the second trimester or beyond.

Due dates are not an accurate tool for determining conception since they also are only an estimation date (only 5% of women give birth on their due dates). If you are seeking the estimated date of conception for paternity reasons, and intercourse with two different partners took place within 10 days of each other, we strongly encourage that paternity testing to be done; this testing can be done during pregnancy and after the baby is born. It is the only way to accurately know who the father is.

If I have a negative pregnancy test after I have missed my period, does that mean I am not pregnant?

A negative result can mean that you are not pregnant, you took the test too early, or you took the test wrong. Pregnancy tests vary in their sensitivity (how soon they can detect the hormone hCG), and you may not have given your body enough time to produce enough hCG hormones that will show up on the test.

Also, if you let a test sit for too long (after the instructions on the box tell you), the test is invalid. It is best to follow the instructions and wait until you have missed a period before taking the test. Some women show up accurately on a test the day they miss a period, while others may not show up positive until 3-4 weeks after a missed period.

We encourage women to test after a missed period; if the result is negative they should wait a week and test again if a normal period has not started.

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  • Am I Pregnant, Or…?

What Is a Chemical Pregnancy?

Chemical pregnancies may account for 50 to 75 percent of all miscarriages.

Learning that you’re pregnant can be one of the most profound moments of your life.

But experiencing heavy bleeding around the time of your expected period soon after receiving a positive result from a pregnancy test can be a sign that you’re no longer pregnant.

A chemical pregnancy, or a very early miscarriage, occurs when a pregnancy is lost shortly after implantation, resulting in heavy bleeding.

What To Expect reports that chemical pregnancies may account for up to 75 percent of all miscarriages.

What Happens During a Chemical Pregnancy?

When a fertilized egg implants in the uterus, cells that would become the placenta begin to produce levels of the pregnancy hormone hCG.

These hCG levels are high enough that they’re able to be detected on a blood or urine test and can create a positive result on a pregnancy test.

However, at this point, an ultrasound wouldn’t be able to detect a gestational sac or placenta developing, and an ultrasound couldn’t detect a heartbeat.

During a chemical pregnancy, the fertilized egg doesn’t complete implantation, and loss of pregnancy occurs, resulting in bleeding about a week after your regular period was due.

Signs of Chemical Pregnancy

Because chemical pregnancy occurs early in a pregnancy, women may not even realize that they’ve conceived when they experience a chemical pregnancy.

Light spotting or bleeding following a positive pregnancy test can be signs of pregnancy rather than a miscarriage.

However, the following may be signs of a chemical pregnancy:

  • Heavy bleeding
  • Menstrual-like cramps
  • Passing clots from the vagina

Call your doctor immediately if you have heavy bleeding and/or cramping after a positive pregnancy test.

Chemical Pregnancy Causes

The reasons for miscarriage vary, but most occur because the fetus isn’t developing normally.

Errors with genes or chromosomes usually occur by chance as the embryo divides and grows.

Other causes may include the following:

  • Inadequate uterine lining
  • Low hormone levels
  • Luteal phase defect
  • Infection

When Can I Become Pregnant Again?

You can ovulate and become pregnant as soon as 2 weeks after an early miscarriage, according to the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG).

However, you may want to discuss what’s best for you with your doctor.

What is Chemical Pregnancy?


Getting a positive pregnancy test is an incredibly emotional experience. But what if, one or two weeks later, a follow-up test reads negative? Chances are you’ve experienced a chemical pregnancy.

According to Lauren Averbuch, M.D., a doctor at OBGYN Westside in New York City and a clinical instructor at Mount Sinai Hospital, a chemical pregnancy (also known as biochemical pregnancy) is a very early miscarriage. It happens before evidence of an intrauterine or extrauterine pregnancy shows up on ultrasound. “The earliest ultrasound findings are seen at five or six weeks, where we can see a gestational sac. Biochemical pregnancies happen prior to that,” Dr. Averbuch explains.

Since chemical pregnancies aren’t clinically diagnosed, many women simply believe they had a false positive pregnancy test. But chemical pregnancies are more common that most people realize: Dr. Averbuch says that 30-50% of women have had one, and anywhere from 50% to 75% of all miscarriages are believed to be chemical pregnancies.

Although having an early miscarriage can spur feelings of grief and sadness, it won’t impact your fertility or future pregnancies. Read on for more about the causes, symptoms, and risk factors of chemical pregnancies.

Doctors don’t know what causes chemical pregnancy, but it’s thought to stem from chromosomal abnormalities that lead to improper development of the embryo. Dr. Ashley Storms, M.D., an OBGYN at Spectrum Health in Grand Rapids, Michigan, says other possible chemical pregnancy causes include infection (like chlamydia or syphilis), implantation outside of the uterus, clotting disorders, and anatomic problems. “Another theory involves problems with the endometrial lining, which prevents proper implantation and growth of the embryo,” adds Dr. Averbuch.

Any women can experience chemical pregnancy, but a handful of risk factors may increase your chances. These include maternal age (women over 35 have a greater chance of any type of miscarriage, says Dr. Averbuch), thyroid and blood clotting disorders, and other medical issues.

  • RELATED: Miscarriage: Causes, Signs, and What to Expect

While undergoing IVF treatment doesn’t increase your risk of chemical pregnancy, it allows more possibility for diagnosis. “Women who undergo IVF have frequent blood tests and monitoring for HCG (a hormone produced after implantation). Therefore a positive HCG will be detected in IVF patients, whereas other women may miss the relatively short-lived positive hormone level,” says Dr. Averbuch.

Can You Prevent Chemical Pregnancy?

Wondering how to prevent chemical pregnancy? Dr. Michael Silverstein, M.D., an OBGYN at Maternal Fetal Medicine Associates in New York City and clinical faculty member at Mount Sinai School of Medicine, says prevention is impossible. “Once you had a positive pregnancy test, only your pregnancy knows whether it will be healthy or result in miscarriage,” he says. In other words, the pregnancy will play out however it’s intended, depending on the circumstances surrounding fertilization.

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Chemical Pregnancy Symptoms and Signs

Chemical pregnancies usually happen within five weeks of implantation. More specifically, they occur one or two weeks after ovulation, around the time your period is expected to come, says Dr. Storm. But although 30-50% of women experience a chemical pregnancy, most don’t know they had one.

“Usually the pregnancy hormone never rises enough to give women nausea, fatigue, breast tenderness, and other pregnancy symptoms,” says Dr. Silverstein. The only telltale sign is a late period, although that could have various other causes as well (like stress, starting or stopping birth control pills, and dietary changes). Blood tests can confirm whether you’ve actually had a chemical pregnancy.

  • RELATED: Top 7 Causes of Miscarriage

Some women claim they experience bleeding or cramping as chemical pregnancy signs, but Dr. Averbuch points out that these are also common side effects of a menstrual period. “It’s very hard to know retrospectively, but if you had a positive pregnancy test followed by delayed menstrual-like bleeding, you may have had a chemical pregnancy,” she says. “These symptoms can also mean many different things, so it is very important to be evaluated by a doctor. They may want to rule out ectopic pregnancy (a pregnancy outside of the uterus) which can present similarly but can be life threatening.”

It’s also important to understand the difference between implantation bleeding and chemical pregnancy. While the latter is an early miscarriage without many symptoms, implantation bleeding is light pink or brown spotting that happens when the fertilized egg attaches to a uterus. “Implantation bleeding can be present in successful pregnancies, chemical pregnancies, and later miscarriages,” explains Dr. Storm.

Getting Pregnant After Chemical Pregnancy

Understandably, experiencing a chemical pregnancy is a traumatic experience, and many women need time to grieve. But Dr. Silverstein says you shouldn’t let one or two chemical pregnancies disillusion you, since they generally don’t impact fertility levels or future pregnancies. Having one chemical pregnancy also doesn’t increase your risk of having another.

Some women struggling with infertility may find solace in their chemical pregnancy. According to Dr. Averbuch, “Having a chemical pregnancy can be reassuring for the possibility of future conception, and many people find this to be a silver lining. While it’s sad to have lost an early pregnancy, you are likely to conceive again without issue.” She encourages women who have recurrent and consecutive early pregnancy losses to talk to their doctor. He or she might find an underlying issue (such as an undiagnosed infection or uterus problem) that requires treatment.

  • By Nicole Harris

What is a Chemical Pregnancy & Why Does It Happen?

A chemical pregnancy is a miscarriage that happens that occurs before the fifth week of gestation, or within about one week of when you would have expected your period.

Is a chemical pregnancy a miscarriage?

A chemical pregnancy is definitely still a miscarriage—it’s just the name used to describe a very early miscarriage.

Why do chemical pregnancies happen?

Miscarriages, even when they happen very early, can feel like monumental losses. It’s normal to get attached to a vision of the future as soon as you see that positive pregnancy test. But in the case of chemical pregnancies, the embryo was likely predestined to miscarry even before the first cell division.

Typically we think of pregnancy as beginning from the moment of conception—when the sperm enters the egg and fertilizes it. But recent research suggests that conception is not actually a rare event, and that when sperm are present at the time when ovulation occurs, most eggs will be fertilized. However, only about one third of these fertilized eggs will be fit enough to complete implantation.

If the embryo does not manage to successfully implant, you would never know that conception had occurred. Chemical pregnancies are, in many ways, a cruel trick of nature, because they are strong enough to make it to implantation and turn a pregnancy test positive, but not strong enough to progress beyond that point.

Will my period be heavier after a chemical pregnancy?

With most chemical pregnancies, your period should be approximately normal because there is about the same amount of uterine tissue built up to shed as with a normal period.

Related: can you be pregnant and still get your period?

How do you know if you had a chemical pregnancy?

The only way to know if you had a chemical pregnancy is if you get a positive pregnancy test. Since chemical pregnancies do not usually affect the heaviness or consistency of menstruation, having an unusual period cannot be considered a sign of a chemical pregnancy in absence of a positive pregnancy test.

Due to the advent of highly sensitive home pregnancy tests, more chemical pregnancies are detected today than they were in the past.

Is it implantation bleeding or a chemical pregnancy?

Implantation bleeding isn’t a medical term, and studies have not found any evidence that the process of implantation causes bleeding.

Bleeding is common in early pregnancy, however (though it usually does not occur on the day of implantation). About 20 percent of women experience spotting during the first trimester, and the majority of them go on to have full-term pregnancies. Spotting or bleeding following a positive pregnancy test does not necessarily mean that you are having a miscarriage.

Do you need to see a doctor after a chemical pregnancy?

Very early pregnancy losses do not usually require medical intervention, but if you experience sharp or stabbing pain, unusual vaginal bleeding, weakness, dizziness, or fainting, you should see your medical provider to rule out ectopic pregnancy.

Usually, having one or two chemical pregnancies is not a sign of any underlying problem. If you have three chemical pregnancies in a row, your healthcare provider may want to do testing to rule out medical problems that may be causing them. If a health condition is contributing to your early pregnancy losses, treatment should help you conceive a healthy baby.

What causes chemical pregnancies?

While it’s usually not possible to determine the reason for an individual chemical pregnancy, most miscarriages—including chemical pregnancies—are a result of chromosomal abnormalities.

After egg and sperm combine chromosomes, the resulting zygote grows through rapid cell division. This is the time when chromosomal abnormalities have the potential to occur. These abnormalities are random and can happen to anyone. In most cases, nothing you did caused—or could have prevented—the miscarriage.

If you had a chemical pregnancy, chances are very high that you will be able to conceive a healthy pregnancy in the future. But several factors do increase the risk for chemical pregnancies, including advanced maternal age (over 35), clotting disorders, and thyroid conditions.

What will I experience if I have a chemical pregnancy?

The typical chemical pregnancy experience goes something like this: you get a faint positive pregnancy test around the time your period is due. If you take another test the next day, you may notice that the second line is lighter or no longer there. Within a week, your period starts.

What will my cycle be like after a chemical pregnancy?

Medically, a chemical pregnancy is considered more like a normal cycle in which pregnancy did not occur than a “true” miscarriage. Your next cycle will likely be just like any other cycle, with ovulation at your usual time.

By Lindsay Meisel | Oct 10, 2017 Tags: chemical pregnancy, miscarriage, trying to conceive, ttc

Lindsay Meisel

Repeated Miscarriages

Chemical Pregnancy vs. Miscarriage

Pregnancies that are confirmed only by a blood test (hCG) are considered “chemical pregnancies,” because the gestation is confirmed through chemical means, instead of ultrasound visualization of the fetus. “Clinical pregnancy” refers to a pregnancy that has reached a stage where the gestation can be seen on ultrasound. Miscarriages refer to losses of pregnancies that reached this “clinical” stage, past the chemical stage.

Chemical Pregnancy Miscarriage
Very early pregnancy loss, characterized by a positive pregnancy test (hCG) that is not maintained. A chemical pregnancy never reaches the stage where a gestational sac is seen on ultrasound examination. Loss of a clinical pregnancy, i.e., a pregnancy loss after the fetus has reached a stage that is visible on ultrasound examination.

In life outside of fertility treatment settings, most women do not know they had chemical pregnancies, since most women do not take a pregnancy test so early in their pregnancy. During infertility treatments, however, we do diagnose these very early pregnancy losses routinely, because every treatment cycle is followed up with a very early pregnancy test. (Honest fertility programs do not consider chemical pregnancies as part of their IVF success rate statistics. Those statistics should exclusively include clinical pregnancies.)

The miscarriage of a clinical pregnancy can take place either before or after the ultrasound show a fetal heart rate. In a normally progressing pregnancy, a fetal heart should be present sometime between approximately 5.5 and 6 weeks from the first day of the last menstrual period. If a pregnancy stops growing before fetal heart, or if no heart is seen by the expected time (which is usually a sign of an abnormal pregnancy), then the pregnancy is generally considered to be a “blighted ovum” or missed abortion. Whether a pregnancy loss occurs before or after fetal heart activity is quite important, because the timing of the miscarriage can provide a hint at the underlying cause (for details, continue reading.)

Read more about Repeated Miscarriages


Roughly 60% of all pregnancy losses are genetic in nature–in these cases, genetic abnormalities…


One of the reasons why immunological pregnancy loss has remained such a controversial and divisive subject…

Last Updated: August 28, 2019

Signs & symptoms

If you have acute, sharp abdominal pain, pain in your shoulders and/or pain on moving your bowels, contact your GP, EPU or midwife or if necessary, go to A&E (Casualty department). Tell them that you are pregnant and describe your symptoms so they can arrange an emergency scan.

If you have previously had an ectopic pregnancy, ask your GP or EPU for an early scan to make sure the baby is in the right place.

My GP won’t refer me for a scan…

If your GP won’t refer you for a scan, it might be because it is too early to be able to see even a healthy pregnancy on scan (see our section on ultrasound scans). But it might be that s/he takes a “wait and see” approach and advises you to stay home and put your feet up, or to stay in bed – or just to go about your normal routine.

You might find this very frustrating and even frightening, especially if you are feeling very anxious:

  • If it’s your first pregnancy, you may worry because you don’t know what is normal and what isn’t.
  • If you have had a previous healthy pregnancy, you may worry because this pregnancy is not progressing in the same way.
  • And if you have previously lost a baby, you are likely to be particularly anxious because of what happened last time.

But I really want a scan…

If you want a scan because of bleeding or spotting, and you can’t get an appointment at an Early Pregnancy or Emergency Gynaecology Unit, you could go to your nearest Accident & Emergency Department. Bear in mind that you might have a long wait and that they may not be able to scan you there and then.

If you want a scan for reassurance, you might decide to go for a private scan (try putting “early pregnancy scan” and the name of the nearest town into your search engine). It is best to ensure that they are registered with the Care Quality Commission (CQC) if in England, or adhere to the same standards if in other countries.

What should I do?

Whatever you do – have a scan, stay in bed or continue your usual routine – it’s very unlikely to make a difference to the outcome of your pregnancy. Sadly, if the bleeding is because the pregnancy is miscarrying, it is very unlikely indeed that anything can be done to stop this. (The only exception might be if the bleeding occurs in the last few months of the pregnancy).

Resting in bed might slow down any bleeding, but when you get up, perhaps to go to the toilet, it’s likely to start again. That’s not your fault – it’s just because of gravity. (Again, the only exception might be in the later months of pregnancy.)

Some people prefer to rest, others to continue their usual routine. It makes sense to do what feels right for you.

Other symptoms – or lack of…

It’s common for women to have certain symptoms in early pregnancy: feeling or being sick, tiredness, breast tenderness, a need to go to the toilet more often etc. But if you don’t have any of those symptoms – or if you do and then they suddenly disappear – it doesn’t necessarily mean that you are likely to miscarry.

On the other hand – and this is confusing – having all of those symptoms doesn’t guarantee that all is or will be well. It can be very difficult to make sense of symptoms or their absence.

If you are not sure, or something doesn’t feel right for you, speak to your doctor or get in touch with us to talk things through.

Grant A., 1997, A study of the psychological responses of women immediately after spontaneous and threatened miscarriage Leeds University Hospital, St James’s, Unpublished dissertation

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