By now we know that you need a sperm (from the father) and an egg (inside the mother) to fuse to form an embryo which lies inside a gestational sac. Then implantation occurs releasing human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) and confirms your pregnancy. As the baby is 6 weeks, you will be able to detect the little one under an ultrasound. The embryo keeps developing as your pregnancy progresses over the coming weeks. But, in some cases, the growth of the embryo is stopped in the initial stages, this leads to a type of miscarriage known as “blighted ovum or anembryonic pregnancy”. This leads to a condition in which the sac grows but would be empty.
Why does blighted ovum or anembryonic pregnancy occur?
A blighted ovum is when the embryo stops growing in the early stages of pregnancy. It could happen due to two main reasons:
- When the fertilized egg (sperm fusing with the ovum/egg) never develops into an embryo but manages to implant into the uterus either way
- When the embryo stops developing after the first few days post-implantation
How is it diagnosed?
- Some cases (if the miscarriage is early) the blighted ovum fails to get diagnosed. In the case when the embryo stops developing post-implantation, the HCG released would still show as a false positive for a few days. Hence this type of early miscarriage is also called “chemical pregnancy”.
- Post-conception after 6-7 weeks, the blighted ovum is detected in your routine ultrasound as an empty gestational sac. Hence the name “anembryonic pregnancy”(without an embryo growing inside).
Why is a blighted ovum caused?
A blighted ovum is caused because of chromosomal defects in the fertilized egg. That is if the embryo has a missing chromosome or an extra chromosome. Some cases, genetic mutations may also be a cause for the cessation of growth of the embryo.
What are the symptoms that you will experience of a blighted ovum?
If the fertilized egg embeds itself into the uterus, it will release hCG which leads to the occurrence of early pregnancy signs and symptoms (nausea, breast soreness, bloating etc). Eventually, as your body recognizes that the embryo is not growing, you will miscarry naturally experiencing spotting, heavy bleeding, and/or severe cramping.
Some women without having the knowledge of being pregnant experience blighted ovum miscarriage, thinking it may be a heavy period.
How long does it take your body to recover from a blighted ovum?
Generally, your body miscarries naturally in a blighted ovum miscarriage and it’s like your period only heavier and longer with passing clots. Your body may take some time for the effects of early pregnancy to wear off and you are most likely to still show a faint positive sign as your hCG levels may take few weeks to become 0.
If the blighted ovum does not miscarry naturally (few weeks), medication or surgery would be suggested. Chemical abortion ( using misoprostol) and in some cases surgical abortion (dilation and curettage (D&C)) is performed.
When can you get pregnant again?
There is no study that says that you can’t plan your pregnancy immediately after having a blighted ovum miscarriage. But, this decision is best discussed with your family and doctor. Some women undergo an emotional turmoil after a miscarriage, so give some time for yourself to bounce back. When you are emotionally and physically ready, go ahead and plan for your next one!
There is nothing wrong with a miscarriage, it is a normal process, just how birthing is. Situations like these make you appreciate the whole journey of pregnancy even more. So, be easy on yourself and take things as they come.