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What is a Blighted Ovum?

My first pregnancy ended in a blighted ovum miscarriage and because I hadn't heard of that term before I did a lot of research on it.

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.

First scan of a blighted ovum at 7 weeks 4 days. The gestational sac only measured 5 weeks. The sac was near the fallopian tube but thankfully not ectopic.

First scan of a blighted ovum at 7 weeks 4 days. The gestational sac only measured 5 weeks. The sac was near the fallopian tube but thankfully not ectopic.

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.

It may take a few weeks before a pregnancy test will go back to saying 'not pregnant'.

It may take a few weeks before a pregnancy test will go back to saying 'not pregnant'.

Why Me?

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


Jackie Grant (author) from UK on April 13, 2012:

Hi sheryll and I'm so sorry you had to go through this 3 times. I hope this time is different but from what you say it may not be :-( I haven't heard anyone say it was caused by a missing vitamin so that is interesting for sure. It would be good to know more about that. I had been taking prenatals before my BO so I'm not sure if there is anything else I can do. I hope you get some good news at your appointment next week xx

sheryll on April 13, 2012:

Thanks for the info about blighted ovum. I just want to share my experience. I had 2 blighted ovums. The first pregnancy I had the D&c and 2nd I miscarried the after a week. After 2 months of not having my period after the MC I went back to have another scan. I thought I didnt pass all what is inside but on the scan they saw that I was 9 wks along. The dr said it was a miracle. Now I have a 5 yr old daughter. We've been trying for 2 yrs now to get pregnant and luckily we did. Did 2 preg test positive and scheduled my first scan on my 7th week. Unfortunately its another blighted ovum it measured 5 weeks only without any sign of fetal pole. The dr ordered me to have blood work that day which resulted to an HCG of 4000 and after 2 days another blood work with an HCG of 6000. The dr said its 50/50 if it goes through or not. I was supposed have a scan after a week but I cancelled my appointment coz I don't want to through D&C again. Now its been 3 weeks since I went to the dr and still no MC. I still have the symptomps morning sickness, cramping and bloating. And sometimes I could feel a light heartbeat on my stomach but I don't know if its just my imagination or hope that I'm still pregnant. Im planning to have my drs appt nxt week and hope for the best. I know that blighted ovum rarely happens to women only 1 time but for me it happened 3 times! I still continue to take my prenatal vit coz I think that's the reason why we got lucky for our daughter. As my advice, if your trying to conceave take prenatal vitamins coz the dr told me that one of the reason for blighted ovum is that there's a missing vit on a womens body that causes this. She said its vit S I really dont know what it is but she said the vit has it. Im so sorry for the long post but just want to share my story.

Jackie Grant (author) from UK on April 13, 2012:

Hi peachygirl, thanks for your comment and so sorry for your loss too. Your miscarriage experience sounds very similar to mine - yes, there was no way I could have walked anywhere at the time and it certainly felt longer than it lasted. But in hindsight I am glad that it was natural and I could move on without medical intervention which I know a lot of people need to have. It is really sad that with a blighted ovum you can still get all of the pregnancy signs and not realise anything is wrong unless you have an ultrasound. Thanks for your good wishes too x

peachygirl on April 13, 2012:

Thanx for posting about your experience & i am sorry for your loss. I too had a miscarriage a few years ago due to a blighted ovum. At the time, like many others i had never heard of such a thing. I had all of the pregnancy symptoms, nausea, 2 pos preg tests, extreme tiredness, morning sickness, weight gain, growing belly, etc. At the 10wk mark i noticed slight spotting. Within a couple of days that spotting turned into heavy bleeding almost like a normal period so i went to the doc. Got another preg test done in office & my hgc levels also showed i was preg. An ultrasound was done next & that's when i found out what was really going on. The very next day i miscarried, which was a very scary experience if u don't know what to expect. The bleeding was nonstop. the nausea & cramping was excrutiating to the point where walking was out of the question. I could only crawl across the floor to the bathrm. It probably lasted about 6 or 7 hrs. which seemed like a lot longer when i was going thru it!! Luckily, just like you i didn't need a d&c. And just like you said, it was also explained to me by my doc that women who have experienced this are not likely to have a second blighted ovum. They go on to have successful normal pregnancies afterwards so i wish you nothing but the best as u continue to try and conceive(:

Jackie Grant (author) from UK on March 05, 2012:

Thanks thebookmom, I think the one thing when we suffer something like this is that we want to know that we are not alone and that there are others that know what we are going through.

thebookmom from Nebraska on March 05, 2012:

So very sorry for your loss. How brave of you to share your story so others can learn too. Best wishes for the future.

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