eli5: Is a chemical pregnancy the same thing as a miscarriage?


eli5: Is a chemical pregnancy the same thing as a miscarriage?

In: 1

It’s a specific type of very early miscarriage, usually in the first 4-5 weeks or so. Many people who have them didn’t realize they were pregnant, and some don’t even realize they’ve miscarried.

They’re called chemical pregnancies because they happen so early that body chemistry provides pretty much the only clue that you were ever even pregnant. Ultrasounds, for example, can’t see anything, and no other physical signs show.

Technically, miscarriages during the first 20 weeks of pregnancy have traditionally been referred to as “[spontaneous abortions](https://www.aafp.org/pubs/afp/issues/2005/1001/p1243.html)”. Miscarriages are reserved for the next few months. And in the third trimester they’re stillbirths. But people usually just call most pregnancy loss “miscarriage” as a general term. So a chemical pregnancy is a spontaneous abortion, which is a miscarriage, but spontaneous abortion is the term traditionally used. They’re sort of a recent discovery in that until we had easy at-home pregnancy tests, it was more of an ordeal to determine if one was pregnant, so we didn’t necessarily notice that around 50% or more of fertilized eggs do not implant or are flushed out quickly. Women might have only a slight delay in their period, perhaps, so we didn’t realize those were actually fertilizations. So “chemical pregnancy” is a recently determined concept