What Is a Blighted Ovum?


What is a blighted ovum?

According to Melissa Goist, MD, an ob-gyn at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, in Columbus, Ohio, a blighted ovum (also referred to as an embryonic pregnancy), is when a fertilized egg attaches itself to the uterine wall, however, only a pregnancy sac develops; an embryo never forms.  It results in a miscarriage that usually occurs during the first trimester.

What causes a blighted ovum?

According to Health Research Funding blighted ovums account for about 50 percent of all miscarriages and are no fault of the woman. It could be caused by abnormal cell division, or sperm or egg quality. Once the body realizes there are chromosomal abnormalities it will end the pregnancy.

Do women with a blighted ovum have normal pregnancy symptoms?

Symptoms may include regular period pain, spotting and/or a regular menstrual cycle, or very heavy bleeding (in which case you should see your doctor). It’s also possible to pass the empty sac naturally; it’s tiny — roughly half an inch long — so chances are you won’t even be aware that you’ve passed it.

How is a blighted ovum diagnosed?

If you have a blighted ovum, your doctor will be able to see it via ultrasound at your first prenatal appointment. Dr. Goist explains that the ultrasound finding would be suggestive of pregnancy, but that if a fetal pole cannot be seen once the gestational sac is greater than 28 millimeters in size, then there is no embryo. Your doctor would then advise you on letting the sac pass naturally or opting for a D&C procedure to remove any remaining tissue from the uterus.

Can a blighted ovum be prevented?

Probably not, although take heart in knowing that a blighted ovum is usually a one-off and will not happen to you again. However, if you do experience several miscarriages, speak to your healthcare provider about having the remaining tissue examined to establish the cause of recurring miscarriages.

More on Pregnancy & Fertility:

  • 11 Factors that Affect Your Fertility
  • How Long Does a Miscarriage Last?
  • 11 Early Signs of Pregnancy You’ve Never Heard Before
  • Photo: Getty

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