What is a Blighted Ovum?
Suffering a Blighted Ovum Miscarriage
Recently I was fortunate enough to get pregnant at what would be termed and Advanced Maternal Age (AMA) - age 44. I had been trying to get pregnant for almost a year and to be honest I think I was very lucky, at 44, to get pregnant after only 10 months. It can be quite difficult for women of AMA to get pregnant so I was not sure what to expect, even though I knew quite a few women who had had successful pregnancies in their 40's.
However, there is always the risk in early pregnancy of having a miscarriage, and especially as you get older the risk becomes even higher, so in my case it was probably not too surprising that my pregnancy ended in miscarriage and it was with a blighted ovum (although a blighted ovum can happen at any age).
I will go on to explain what I discovered about a blighted ovum miscarriage below as it is not something that everyone is aware of until it happens to them.
What is a Blighted Ovum?
A blighted ovum is essentially a pregnancy that occurs when the egg is fertilized by the sperm and implants in the uterus but where the embryo does not go on to develop successfully into a fetus (see the NCBI definition). A gestational sac is formed but no embryo is held within it.
The sac can continue to grow for some time and often there are no symptoms to indicate that the pregnancy is not viable. The woman may suffer normal pregnancy symptoms and the HCG levels may appear normal but the only way to tell if you have a blighted ovum is to have an ultrasound scan so that you can actually see what is going on.
In fact for some people they may get to their 12 week scan without knowing they have a blighted ovum but it is much more common to start having some signs that things may be wrong earlier than that.
When you have the ultrasound the sonographer may only be able to see the gestational sac. It depends on how far along you are as to whether they will need to confirm this with another scan but the sac itself will likely measure smaller than it should at your pregnancy gestation. If you do not know the gestation of your pregnancy then it can be harder to confirm and that is one reason why you may need a second scan to confirm.
Can You Be Sure it is a Blighted Ovum?
I think if you search for information about blighted ovum then you will find some rare cases when the blighted ovum has been misdiagnosed. This can lead people to believe that there may be more hope than there actually is that the diagnosis is wrong.
One thing to take note of is how early you have a scan. If you have the scan at less than 7 weeks pregnant then it can be difficult to confirm the diagnosis, because you generally will only get a heartbeat on a scan at after 6 weeks gestation. This means that if you are out in your dates by only a few days then you could be on the borderline of a heartbeat being seen or not.
Also, if you have a tilted uterus it can be difficult to get a good scan.
So if you have a very early scan you will likely be offered another one a week or two later to confirm the diagnosis.
It may well be that you will miscarry in the interim or else you may just continue to have normal pregnancy symptoms.
Blighted Ovum Symptoms
You may not have any symptoms that indicate that you have a blighted ovum. In fact you may be suffering the full range of pregnancy symptoms as it is pretty much impossible to know it is a blighted ovum until you have a scan.
Often though, when you have a blighted ovum, you will have some spotting which may just start off brown. The problem is that many people experience spotting in early pregnancy so you cannot judge this to be a symptom of a Blighted Ovum.
If you have heavy cramping and spotting then you should go and see your doctor. There could still be a good outcome but it is worth getting checked out for your own peace of mind.
What Happens Next?
Once the blighted ovum has been discovered, at some point a miscarriage will occur. It may happen naturally or you may require a D&C, depending on whether any fetal matter is left in the uterus. It could take weeks for the miscarriage to occur or it could happen quite quickly, everyone is different.
You may be offered drugs to hasten the miscarriage. Only go into the treatment when you are sure that you are happy with the diagnosis. It may take 2 or 3 doctors visits over the course of weeks to confirm the diagnosis of Blighted Ovum as the doctors will want to be sure. If you are less than 6 or 7 weeks gestation or you are not sure of your dates then get checked out thoroughly.
For me the miscarriage happened one week after my first ultrasound and was quite violent. I was very sick, vomiting for a few hours and having terrible cramps. However, this is not true for everyone and the positive part was that the worst was over in a few hours. I bled a small amount for about 5 days afterwards and then my HCG levels really started to decline. Luckily it was deemed that I would not need a D&C.
There is really no answer as to why one person will have a blighted ovum rather than another. It is possible that age is a factor but there are plenty of younger people who suffer this kind of miscarriage.
It is nobody's fault and there is not likely to have been anything you could have done to prevent it.
If you have also suffered from a blighted ovum then you have my sympathies. It is terrible to discover that the baby you were carrying has not developed and you will miscarry but if there is any light after it, it is not common to suffer another blighted ovum afterwards.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.
© 2012 Jackie Grant