A biochemical pregnancy produces positive pregnancy test results, but the pregnancy is not viable.
What is a biochemical pregnancy?
For couples longing for a baby, biochemical pregnancy can be both heartbreaking and confusing. How can a pregnancy not be a pregnancy?
A biochemical pregnancy is not a false pregnancy. Technically, it is a very early miscarriage that occurs in the first few days of pregnancy. The embryo produces sufficient amounts of hCG for the pregnancy hormone to be detected on the initial pregnancy test, but does not progress into a clinical pregnancy.
Today’s high-sensitivity pregnancy tests are capable of detecting even trace amounts of hCG that are released one to two weeks after a missed period. Many biochemical pregnancies go undetected, but in women who are undergoing active monitoring for pregnancy due to ART, early testing may reveal elevated pregnancy hormone levels.
Following embryo transfer, the embryo secretes hCG, but fails to implant or does not develop normally. Ultrasound does not reveal a yolk sac or fetal heartbeat and the reproductive endocrinologist is unable to detect any clinical signs of pregnancy.
Cause of biochemical pregnancy
Genetic abnormalities are the primary cause of biochemical pregnancy. Chromosomal abnormalities in the embryo prevent implantation and halt embryonic development.
Treatment of biochemical pregnancy
There is no treatment for biochemical pregnancy. However, blood and urine testing may be continued until hCG levels are not detectable,so that ectopic pregnancy can be ruled out.
Psychological support may also help patients deal with the emotional impact of pregnancy loss.
Despite the disappointment of biochemical pregnancy, the fact the embryo progressed and attempted to implant is an encouraging sign that future successful pregnancy is possible.