The Dreaded Biochemical Pregnancy

Here I will tell of a typical story about a woman who has been suffering from infertility, and finally becomes pregnant. After the relief of a positive pregnancy test her doctor repeats the test and says, "Well Lisa, it looks like your pregnancy is biochemical".

Now I can't completely describe what Lisa is saying to herself, but it's probably something like this.

"What is he talking about? A biochemical pregnancy? Did I get pregnant? Am I pregnant? Biochemical? It's bad enough I have felt like a science experiment, now I'm biochemical?"

Let me try to straighten this out. The definition of a biochemical pregnancy is a pregnancy that stops growing before it is large enough to be seen on ultrasound. It's a very early miscarriage. The causes are the same as for any miscarriage. By far, the most common reason is that the embryo is genetically abnormal, that is it doesn't have the right number of chromosomes. And although it has the tools to grow for a while, as the embryo grows and needs to become more complex, the tools run out and the embryo can grow no more. There are other causes of miscarriage and that will be topic of a later blog.

The word "biochemical pregnancy" is a terrible term. It's very cold and scientific and inhumane. I try not to use it, I just say it's a very early loss. I thing the fertility community should throw out the word. I'm going to ask them if they will.

By Fred Licciardi, M.D., author of the Infertility Blog

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