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Chemical Pregnancy: Everything You Should Know About Recovery

Chemical pregnancies result in very early miscarriages. They are referred to as "chemical" pregnancies because they can only be detected with a blood or urine test, versus a clinical pregnancy, where the fetal heartbeat can be seen on an ultrasound. As with miscarriages that occur later in pregnancy, the physical recovery for a miscarrying a chemical pregnancy is typically quick, while emotional healing can take much longer. Recovery from a chemical pregnancy is typically short, provided there are no complications.

Pregnancy Versus Period

As with a miscarriage that occurs later on in a pregnancy, bleeding is usually a primary sign of miscarriage stemming from a chemical pregnancy. Because these miscarriages happen so early in the pregnancy -- usually within two or four weeks of conception -- they are sometimes mistaken for a late period, the Mayo Clinic notes. Women who are or who are undergoing fertility treatments, though, are more likely to be aware of chemical pregnancies because they are avidly monitoring their menstrual cycles, the Center for Human Reproduction observes.

If your pregnancy has been confirmed with a blood test, you can expect bleeding that is similar to a menstrual period, although it may last longer, says Dr. Zev Williams, director of the Program for Early and Recurrent Pregnancy Loss at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in the Bronx, New York. "Usually, the bleeding will be moderately heavier than a typical period and may last for an extra day or two," Williams says.

Watch for Possible Complications

Most women who endure an early miscarriage will recover with no further complications. Some women, though, may experience what is referred to as a missed or incomplete miscarriage, where the pregnancy has ended but fetal or placental tissue still remains in the uterus. If this tissue is not removed, it can create lead to a uterine infection, requiring immediate care.

"The important things to look out for would be very heavy bleeding, fevers or chills, severe pain or bleeding that persists for weeks," Williams says. If the tissue does not pass naturally on its own, you may need a minor surgical procedure known as a dilation and curettage or D&C, in which a physician dilates your cervix and scrapes any remaining uterine tissue from the uterine wall.

Attempting to Conceive Again

Women who experience a chemical pregnancy may want to know when it is safe to attempt to conceive again. For most women, their periods will return within four to six weeks of a chemical pregnancy, meaning ovulation during the menstrual cycle following the miscarriage, states the Mayo Clinic. In the past, physicians used to recommend waiting several months before attempting to conceive again, but recent research has shown that this is not necessary.

"We usually recommend that the woman has one normal menstrual cycle," advises Williams, pointing out that patients should wait until the levels of the pregnancy hormone human chorionic gonadotropin, or HCG, return to zero before attempting to conceive following a miscarriage.

Getting Back to Normal

Most women can return to physical activity -- except sexual intercourse -- immediately after a miscarriage, Williams says. "Assuming the miscarriage was uncomplicated and complete, and the bleeding not excessive, she can resume normal activities immediately," he says.

Avoid sex or putting anything in your vagina, including tampons, for two weeks following the miscarriage, the Mayo Clinic advises. While you may feel physically better shortly after your miscarriage, emotionally, you may need more time before you feel "normal" again. It's important to recognize that a chemical pregnancy is a real pregnancy, and that you may need time to grieve and to heal. If you need help coping with your pregnancy loss, or if you are experiencing intense feelings of sadness, contact your health care provider for support.

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