Navigating a pregnancy loss can be difficult, no matter how early in the pregnancy it has occurred. Chemical pregnancies are miscarriages that occur before the fifth week of pregnancy, and they can be just as distressing as any other type of pregnancy loss. 

According to the American Pregnancy Association, these early miscarriages are called "chemical" pregnancies because the pregnancy hormone hCG can be detected in the urine or blood, but the fetus cannot yet be seen on an ultrasound. Often, a person will have a positive home urine pregnancy test, only to have period-like (or heavier) bleeding shortly thereafter.

woman in distress looking at the results of a pregnancy test

Chemical pregnancies can be difficult to process emotionally. A person may have already experienced the excitement and anticipation of a positive pregnancy test, only to have it end abruptly. It can be a highly emotional experience, and it's important to acknowledge and honor the grief and sadness that may come with a chemical pregnancy. It can also be triggering to continue to have a positive pregnancy test after experiencing a miscarriage. While everyone’s body is different, there is some comfort in knowing the facts, especially when to expect a pregnancy test to stop showing positive following a chemical pregnancy. 

What Happens During a Chemical Pregnancy?

A fertilized egg will implant itself in the uterus during a chemical pregnancy, just as in a healthy pregnancy. However, in a chemical pregnancy, something goes wrong – something out of anyone's control – and the pregnancy does not progress as it should. According to the Cleveland Clinic, a chemical pregnancy may happen for similar reasons to many other miscarriages, most commonly due to problems with the developing embryo's genetic makeup or DNA. These are usually random, “one-off” problems, and they do not imply that you will have any issues getting pregnant again. In fact, you may be able to get pregnant again right away. Regardless of the reason, know that a chemical pregnancy is absolutely not your fault and has nothing to do with anything you did. 

couple relaxing enjoying the vista during a hike

How Long Will a Pregnancy Test Show Positive After an Early Miscarriage?

Pregnancy tests detect the hormone hCG (human chorionic gonadotropin), a hormone that is produced during pregnancy. Home urine pregnancy tests are very sensitive, so they can detect even very low levels of hCG, often before you usually get your period. 

After a chemical pregnancy, it may take some time for hCG levels to completely disappear, so it is possible to have a positive pregnancy test after a chemical pregnancy – for as little as a few days or as long as several weeks. 

A study conducted in 2013 that tested the hCG levels of 443 women who experienced a miscarriage found that there was a 35% to 50% reduction in hCG two days after a miscarriage and a 66% to 87% reduction in hCG seven days after a miscarriage. Essentially, as long as hCG remains detectable in a woman's body,  a pregnancy test may still read “positive.”

It's important to note, though, that some women may have detectable levels of hCG for longer than others, depending on certain factors like how far along the pregnancy was before it ended, according to the National Library of Medicine. If you continue to have positive home urine pregnancy tests or other symptoms for a week or more, it is recommended to discuss this with your doctor. Your doctor or fertility specialist can perform additional tests to ensure you are healing as you should.

When Is It Safe to Try to Get Pregnant Again After a Chemical Pregnancy?

If you have experienced a chemical pregnancy, it's always advised to talk to a doctor before trying again. According to the Cleveland Clinic, you can start ovulating (and get pregnant) as soon as two weeks after a chemical pregnancy.  

woman clutching in her head in distress

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How to Care For Yourself After Early Miscarrriage

It can be difficult to receive a positive pregnancy test result only to have the pregnancy end shortly thereafter, whether the pregnancy was planned or unplanned. Know that it’s common and normal to have feelings of loss and grief, even if you were only pregnant for a short time. You may also have other emotions, including relief. Whatever your feelings, they are normal. You may need some time to heal following any type of pregnancy loss, and prioritizing self-care during this time is crucial. Seeking support from loved ones, your community, a healthcare provider, or even online can be extremely helpful.   

If you have experienced a chemical pregnancy, know that you are not alone. While this kind of early loss can be difficult for some, it's important to remember that it’s still very likely for you to have a successful and healthy pregnancy in the future. 

Jennifer “Jay” Palumbo is a freelance writer, infertility and women’s rights advocate, former stand-up comic, author of the blog, “The 2 Week Wait,” and proud IVF Mom. Her articles have been featured in Time magazine, Huffington Post, and ScaryMommy. She has been interviewed on news outlets such as CNN, NPR, and BBC, where she has demonstrated her ability to make even reproductive issues fun and educational. You can follow her "infertility humor" on Instagram at @jennjaypal.

Medically reviewed by Kate Stewart, MD.