Updated on 15 May 2023
A blighted ovum is when a fertilized egg implants in the uterus lining but does not grow into an embryo. This is also known as anembryonic pregnancy and results in a miscarriage during the first trimester of pregnancy.
In this article, we will understand in detail what a blighted ovum means, its symptoms, causes, treatment and most importantly if it can be prevented.
A blighted ovum, also known as anembryonic pregnancy, is a type of early miscarriage caused when the fertilized egg implants into the uterus but does not grow into an embryo. The gestational sac (where the embryo usually develops) continues to grow but the embryo ceases to develop.
The placenta and empty gestational sac continue to release pregnancy hormones even though the embryo isn’t there anymore, resulting in early pregnancy symptoms. Some women may get a positive pregnancy test and later find out that they have miscarried and some may not even know they are pregnant.
Certain chromosomal or genetic problems during cell division can lead to a blighted ovum. During conception, the egg starts to divide once it has been fertilized by the sperm. Nearly ten days later, the cells divide to form an embryo. But in the case of a blighted ovum, the embryo either doesn’t form or stops to grow after being formed.
Sometimes a blighted ovum can happen so early in pregnancy that the woman may never even know she was pregnant. Whereas, some women may experience the early signs of pregnancy such as a positive pregnancy test, a missed period, breast tenderness etc. In either case, the woman upon experiencing a blighted ovum will notice the following signs.
Blighted ovum symptoms resemble those of a miscarriage such as:
Spotting or vaginal bleeding
Mild to moderate abdominal cramping
Ultrasound is the only way to confirm a blighted ovum as it will be able to show a gestational sac with a missing embryo inside.
Some women may pass the embryo through their vagina and not need treatment. However, some women’s body may not miscarry the embryo and need treatment to remove the contents of their uterus.
Here are some options for blighted ovum treatment:
If it’s safe, the doctor may allow you to wait and release the pregnancy tissues on your own. It can be days or weeks before the miscarriage begins. You may experience abdominal cramping and pain and bleeding during the miscarriage.
The doctor may give you a medication called misoprostol to trigger miscarriage. This helps to accelerate the process and eliminate the waiting time. You will experience abdominal cramping and pain and bleeding within 30 minutes to 10 hours after taking the medication.
D&C is a surgical procedure to remove the contents of the uterus. The doctor will dilate or open the cervix and using medical tools and suction remove the pregnancy tissues. You will be sedated or given general anesthesia for the procedure.
The doctor will schedule a follow-up appointment 4-6 weeks after the procedure and confirm if the uterus is empty using an ultrasound.
Sadly, there’s no way to prevent a blighted ovum. Some couples may opt for genetic testing on the tissue inside the uterus to check for an underlying cause. Knowing what caused the pregnancy loss may help you cope with it.
Most doctors recommend waiting for at least one or two menstrual cycles before you begin trying to conceive again after any type of miscarriage. Your chances of suffering another blighted ovum are extremely low and most women go on to have full-term healthy pregnancies.
Losing a pregnancy can be tough and it may take you some time to overcome it. Finding support from loved ones can make the journey easier. Most women who suffer a blighted ovum go on to have a full-term healthy pregnancy.
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