Despite the fact that it is a fairly common complication, few people have heard of blighted ovum, also known as an anembryonic pregnancy. Simply put, a blighted ovum is when normal conception, implantation, and growth of the placenta happen but no fetus develops. A blighted ovum always ends in a miscarriage within the first trimester and is in fact the cause of 50% to 60% of all first trimester miscarriages. Unfortunately, there is nothing that can be done to prevent it.
So What Happened?
Since the implanted egg is fertilized, it is natural to assume that everything should progress normally with the pregnancy. With a blighted ovum though, the body can detect that something is wrong with the fertilized egg and therefore stops developing it. It is your body's own way of ensuring you have a healthy pregnancy and baby.
While it is not known exactly what causes a blighted ovum, most experts believe that some sort of chromosomal abnormality with either the egg or the sperm prevents the normal development. However, this abnormality is not indicative of future problems. Although a blighted ovum is common, it usually happens no more than once. Therefore, your health care provider will not refer you for genetic testing. If you experience two or more consecutive miscarriages though, then you may be referred for genetic testing.
It is also possible to have a blighted ovum with a twin pregnancy. In this case, one of the fertilized eggs does not continue to develop while the other does. The blighted ovum does not affect the second fertilized egg. In a twin pregnancy, blighted ovum may also be referred to as blighted twin.
Even though there is no growing fetus, it is common to feel as though you are pregnant since hCG levels with a blighted ovum are present. You may even have implantation spotting. Because fertilization and implantation occur, the placenta begins to develop. As the placenta grows, it will begin to produce hCG. As your hCG levels rise, you will begin to feel the typical symptoms of pregnancy such as nausea and breast swelling. A pregnancy test will probably confirm a pregnancy since your hCG levels are rising, albeit very slowly and will eventually begin to fall. This may be one of the first signs that something is wrong.
Typical signs of a blighted ovum include spotting, cramps, vaginal bleeding as your hCG levels begin to fall, and/or no fetal heartbeat detected by the 12th week of pregnancy. An ultrasound can confirm for certain whether or not you have a blighted ovum. It you do, the ultrasound will show an empty gestational sac since there is no fetus.
Quite often, your body will take care of the blighted ovum itself. You will either naturally miscarry or your body will simply reabsorb the fertilized egg. If it is reabsorbed, you may have a heavier than usual period or clots in your period. The majority of health care providers agree that it is best to let a woman's body deal with the blighted ovum naturally. This also helps to ensure that there is no scarring, thereby allowing for optimal future fertility health.
However, for some women it is simply too upsetting to just wait for a miscarriage. For women who have a medical problem, such as an infection or heavy bleeding, or who just simply find it uncomfortable because they are having a lot of cramps, a surgical procedure may be done to remove the products of conception.
The most common medical procedures done for a blighted ovum are suction curettage and dilation and curettage (D&C). These involve either sucking out the products of conception or scraping them off. Although these procedures are not dangerous, there is an increased risk of scarring, which may affect your fertility.
A blighted ovum does not affect your fertility. The vast majority of women go on to conceive after a blighted ovum miscarriage with no problems. It is recommended, though, that you wait anywhere from one to three months after miscarrying before you conceive again.
Even if you are physically ready to conceive, you may not be emotionally ready. Take your time and grieve if that's what feels right for you.
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