I had two chemical pregnancies quite early on in my secondary infertility journey and looking back and knowing what I know now, I really feel that they should have been big red flags for my care providers.
So what is a chemical pregnancy anyway?
A chemical pregnancy is essentially a miscarriage around 6-7 weeks before the embryo can be seen on a scan. Basically, the egg fertilises and you will get a positive pregnancy test result but a short while after that positive test you will probably either notice the line get lighter if you are the serial tester type, notice your symptoms disappear or get your period. If you didn’t test right on your due date you might even put it down to a late period and not even know it is happening.
What does it all mean?
These early losses are thought to occur due to a chromosomal abnormality in the embryo so it self-aborts as it cannot develop to become a healthy functioning baby. Nature at its finest I guess and it can happen to anyone but it probably shouldn’t be happening frequently. And if it does then we should be asking the question ‘Why?’.
What it meant for me
As well as the two early chemical pregnancies I went on to have 3 full IVF cycles, collecting 45 eggs in total. The first time my specialist told me he expected me to get great numbers and 5 or 6 day-5 embryos. I did get great numbers at my egg collection but only got one highly-fragmented day-3 embryo transferred. None of the others made it much past fertilisation if they got that far at all. BEEP BEEP – RED FLAG.
The second time they decided to do ICSI instead (where they choose a sperm that they manually fertilise the egg with to “force” fertilisation) and we opted to do genetic testing. I had 3 embryos sent for testing and all were found to be ABNORMAL. This is actually statistically improbable. BEEP BEEP – ANOTHER RED FLAG.
The third time we did the same thing again because we were crazy and desperate. I actually wish we’d never done this cycle. We should have taken a break here and sought a second opinion. We got 3 embryos again, and again they all tested abnormal. More red flags and no attempt by the FS to dig around the issue.
Questioning my egg health
He simply accepted my poor egg quality as a reality of advanced age (I was 37 at the time) despite the fact that my egg levels tested well.
I basically had the egg levels of a younger woman but it was presumed the quality was simply poor. I always found this to be strange and I’m sure it happens but again, knowing what I know now, I wish I’d pushed harder on this.
Time for a second opinion
It was at this point we sought a second opinion and the very first thing the new FS did was to recommend a minor op called a laparoscopy (lap) to determine whether or not I had endometriosis, despite the fact I did not present with any of the usual symptoms…besides infertility of course.
The lap is a small op that is a day surgery and while slightly painful in the days recovering it is not altogether too bad a procedure. We finally had a Dr who was interested in the cause of the problem, rather than just pumping another person repeatedly through IVF.
What we found out
It turned out that I did actually have endometriosis – the silent kind! Who knew?! – and on the removal of it, I immediately fell pregnant. I sadly miscarried that child but I fell pregnant again, naturally, the month following and that little tiny embryo is now my baby girl.
I truly believe those chemical pregnancies and genetically abnormal embryos were a sign of something bigger going on and urge anyone experiencing something similar to seek medical investigation. I’d rather that than spending thousands of dollars on unnecessary IVF any day and wish we had been given the option of this procedure at the beginning of our journey.
Hope this story helps you and may prompt you to dig a bit deeper if you’re experiencing the same kind of things. I wish you only luck and strength on this difficult journey.
Blogger, Infertility Survivor and Mum of 2
Rachael is a blogging, potty-mouth mum of two from the beautiful Far North Coast NSW, Australia. She is an Infertility Survivor, VBAC warrior and founder of Stories for Strength where she will blog regularly in the very near future so please check in and say hello. She is passionate about giving back to the infertility community which virtually carried her on her journey to a second baby. She loves a lounge room dance party with her kids and believes with everything that she has that we are all stronger than we realise.