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
Diagnosing a Blighted Ovum
Unlike with a chemical pregnancy, a blighted ovum cannot be diagnosed by measuring hCG levels. This is because the placenta that is present with a blighted ovum will continue to release hCG for a short period of time.
This can often lead many women to mistakenly believe that they are still pregnant. The only sure way to diagnose a blighted ovum is through an ultrasound. An abdominal or transvaginal ultrasound will reveal whether or not a fetus is developing within your uterus.
Should You Wait for a Miscarriage?
Many health care providers encourage their patients to wait for their bodies to expel the blighted ovum naturally.
Though this does prevent you from having to undergo invasive treatment procedures, it can also be very emotional and painful to wait for a natural miscarriage. For this reason, many women opt to have a dilation and curettage (D&C) in order to remove the tissues inside their uterus.
During a dilation and curettage, your cervix is carefully dilated. A spoon-shaped instrument is then used to remove any tissues from within the uterus. This procedure is performed under anesthetic by your health care provider.
Dealing with Blighted Ovum
As with all miscarriages, a blighted ovum can be very difficult to have to deal with. You may experience feelings of anger, worry, or regret, or you may even blame yourself for what has happened.
It is important to keep in mind that there is nothing that you can do to prevent this type of miscarriage. Moving on will take time and you may require some additional support. Look to family, friends, and support groups to provide you with the help that you need.
Future Pregnancies: Should You Worry?
The vast majority of women who have suffered from blighted ovum go on to experience healthy pregnancies in the future.
Though it is possible to suffer from multiple miscarriages, this is highly unlikely unless there is some reproductive issue.
To give your body time to heal, it is advised that you wait for one to three menstrual cycles before attempting to conceive again. Use birth control during this time to prevent any possible pregnancies.
If you have experienced more than two consecutive miscarriages, you may want to make an appointment to speak with a reproductive specialist.
You or your partner may be suffering from underlying issues that are complicating pregnancy. There are a number of treatments that can help you to prevent future miscarriages and carry a healthy baby to term.