Blighted Ovum FAQs

What is a Blighted Ovum?
A blighted ovum (aka anembryonic gestation) is a common cause of early pregnancy loss. This happens when a fertilized egg attaches itself to the uterine wall developing a placenta and membrane, but the embryo fails to develop. This usually occurs in the first few weeks of pregnancy, normally before a woman even knows she's pregnant. This type of pregnancy loss is often due to chromosomal abnormalities in the fertilized egg and is an example of a spontaneous abortion.

An ultrasound will show an empty gestational sac (the yolk and fetal pole will not be present), while in a normal pregnancy, an embryo should be visible on an ultrasound by six weeks after the last menstrual period.

So, there never was a baby?
A lot of times women will hear that there never was a baby. I heard this when I went through my miscarriage. The truth is an egg was fertilized, just like any other pregnancy, the baby just didn't develop beyond implantation. If the pregnancy would have developed normally, the baby would have grown and developed throughout that pregnancy.

What are the symptoms?
A diagnosis is usually made during an ultrasound which will show either an empty womb or an empty birth sac. Many woman will assume that their pregnancy is right on track because they received a positive pregnancy test, they have pregnancy symptoms and the hCG levels are increasing. The placenta can continue to grow and support itself without a baby for a short period of time, along with a rise in the pregnancy hormones. Once your body recognizes that the pregnancy cannot continue, then the miscarriage should start to begin.

What causes a Blighted Ovum?
Nobody knows the true cause of it. It can be due to chromosomal abnormalities (too many or too few chromosomes), while small studies suggest enzyme deficiencies in placental tissues. When the egg is fertilized by the sperm, the cells begin to divide. Some of those cells develop into the baby and the other cells develop into the placenta and membranes. Sometimes the cells that are supposed to become the baby fail to develop, but the other cells are successful in becoming the placenta and membrane, so the pregnancy continues due to the pregnancy hormones that are being produced.

How long before I miscarry?
It really depends on your body. Once the placenta stops growing and your body recognizes that there is no baby devloping, your body will miscarry. Some women may miscarry early while others may have to wait a week to a few weeks. I miscarried at 13 weeks and 2 days. I found out I had a blighted ovum an 10 weeks and 1 day. So my wait was about 2 weeks and a day.

Will this happen again?
The majority of women who have had one miscarriage go on to have successful pregnancies in the future. I've read that a blighted ovum rarely happens more than once, but I have also heard of women who have had more than one. So it's so hard to determine.

What should I do if I have one?
The pregnancy will eventually end in a miscarriage. Waiting to have the miscarriage can be very distressing. Some doctors may offer medications to help begin the process of the miscarriage or they may offer a procedure called a D and C (dialation and curettage) which is a minor surgical procedure to remove the placental tissue. Or you can decide to let your body handle it naturally. Your body knows what to do, it's all up to you and what you feel is best.

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