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Blighted Ovum an Early Miscarriage

Reviewed by James Brann, M.D.

What is a Blighted Ovum?

Learn about a blighted ovum or early pregnancy miscarriage.

Experiencing a miscarriage or pregnancy loss can be devastating, especially for women who desperately want a baby. Over 80 percent of miscarriages occur in the first 12 weeks of gestation, and 50 percent of all pregnancy losses in the first trimester are due to a blighted ovum – a pregnancy complication that occurs very early in the conception process.

With a blighted ovum, the fertilized egg implants into the lining of a woman's uterus, but the embryo either doesn't develop or it stops forming early on. Cells from the fertilized egg attach to the uterus, and they form the gestational sac but the embryo is missing.

Your body naturally stops the progression this pregnancy, since a healthy baby can't grow. As a result, you will miscarry. You may experience an early miscarriage, even before you realize you're pregnant. Some women discover they have this complication when an ultrasound confirms an absence of an embryo within the gestational sac.

Even after you know you have a blighted ovum, you may have to wait weeks before your body discharges the gestational sac and related tissues. This can be emotionally draining, and it may even be painful (especially for women who experience cramping during this time).

What Causes a Blighted Ovum?

In most cases, early pregnancy miscarriages caused by a blighted ovum are due to chromosomal problems. Abnormal cell division following conception can also lead to a blighted ovum.

Although it is heartbreaking to lose a pregnancy so early, the fertilized egg would not have been able to develop into a healthy, normal baby.

What are the Signs and Symptoms of a Blighted Ovum?

When you have a blighted ovum, a home pregnancy test will give you a positive result. Even though the gestational sac doesn't contain an embryo, the placenta is secreting human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) – the special hormone that home pregnancy tests measure.

As a result of this increase in hCG, you might begin to notice common signs of pregnancy, like sore breasts, nausea, and fatigue or excessive tiredness. In a few weeks, when your hormonal levels begin to decrease, you will start to feel better.

Common signs of a blighted ovum include spotting and bleeding. Since spotting can also be normal in early pregnancy, you cannot diagnose this pregnancy complication without the help of a doctor and an ultrasound exam.

If you have a miscarriage due to a blighted ovum, you might also have uncomfortable abdominal cramps and vaginal bleeding.

What Are the Chances of Another Blighted Ovum?

Try not to worry about having another blighted ovum. For a majority of women, a blighted ovum only occurs once. Their next pregnancy goes on to be normal, and they have a good chance of carrying a healthy baby.

Experiencing this complication does not mean that anything is wrong with you. You should probably only be worried if you suffer two or three consecutive miscarriages. If you have multiple miscarriages, your doctor or healthcare provider may recommend genetic testing or special blood tests to figure out what's causing your miscarriages.

After a blighted ovum, it's advisable to wait four to six weeks (when you'll have your next period) before trying to conceive again. Because it is possible for you to ovulate two weeks after you miscarry, you'll want to use birth control to avoid another pregnancy so soon.

Since losing a pregnancy can be emotionally difficult, make sure that you don't rush into conceiving right away. You may need some extra time – whether this is weeks or months – before you start thinking of getting pregnant again. Take your time and make sure you are 100 percent ready before trying for pregnancy again.

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