A blighted ovum is a very common type of miscarriage that occurs in the early weeks of pregnancy. Also known as an embryonic pregnancy, a blighted ovum occurs when a fertilized egg attaches successfully to the wall of the uterus, but contains no embryo.
Instead, all that forms is a placenta and membrane. Most cases of blighted ovum will be miscarried naturally by the body, but sometimes the tissues inside of the uterus needs to be removed by a health care provider.
Blighted ova are actually fairly common in pregnancy. In fact, they account for at least 60% of all first-trimester miscarriages. However, because they occur so early on, many women are not even aware of the fact that they are pregnant when they suffer from a blighted ovum. As a result, many women are not even aware of the condition.
Causes of a Blighted Ovum
Though a blighted ovum can sometimes be the result of low hormone levels in the body, the major cause of the condition appears to be chromosomal.
A blighted ovum is thought to occur when the chromosomes making up the fetus become defective or disordered, resulting in severe genetic defects. Your body recognises these chromosomal abnormalities and chooses to end the pregnancy.
Chromosomal abnormalities can occur for many reasons. Sometimes, the egg or sperm that are joined during fertilization have defective cells. Othertimes, chromosomes can become improperly arranged during division of the fertilized egg.
Who's At Risk for Blighted Ovum?
Any couple can experience a blighted ovum and, unfortunately, there is simply no way of telling whether or not you will experience this type of miscarriage.
Your risk for experiencing a miscarriage in general does appear to rise with age (this is because the quality of your eggs declines over time). However, age is by no means a decisive indicator that you will experience a blighted ovum.
Signs of Blighted Ovum
The majority of women who experience a blighted ovum miscarriage are not even aware that they are pregnant at the time.
Symptoms can be mild or even non-existent, and you may simply notice that your menstrual period is a little bit later than usual. Women who do receive a positive pregnancy test will likely experience many of the common pregnancy symptoms, including:
- nausea and vomiting
- tender breasts
You will also likely suffer from additional symptoms unassociated with a typical pregnancy, including:
- reddish-brown vaginal spotting or bleeding
- abdominal cramps
- slow growth of the uterus