ZocdocAnswersWhat is a blighted ovum?

Question

What is a blighted ovum?

My daughter just lost a pregnancy due to 'blighted ovum', and I'm struggling to understand what happened. Can you explain in plain language what a blighted ovum is and whether it's likely to make her lose futher pregnancies? She's in her 30s, if that matters at all...

Answer

Miscarriage, or spontaneous abortion, is defined as the end of a pregnancy at a stage where the embryo or fetus is incapable of surviving, usually 20 weeks gestation. Miscarriage is a common, although very frustrating, condition affecting 15-20% of recognized pregnancies. A blighted ovum, or anembryonic gestation, is a common cause of miscarriage. It occurs when a fertilized egg implants into the uterine wall (lining of the womb) and forms a gestational sac (the structure that surrounds the embryo and amniotic fluid) but the embryo either stops developing or doesn't develop at all. However, the placenta continues to grow so the body often does not recognize that the pregnancy is gone and the women can still have some early pregnancy symptoms and a positive pregnancy test because the placenta secretes HCG, which is the hormone that causes both. When the level of the hormone starts to fall, spotting or bleeding and sometimes cramping will occur. A blighted ovum can be detected on ultrasound when the technician fails to see a heartbeat or there is an empty gestational sac. Having one early miscarriage does not affect chances of future fertility. Most doctors will wait until a woman has suffered two or three consecutive miscarriages before starting a workup for infertility or sometimes sooner if the woman is older than 35. It is important for your daughter to talk to her OBGYN about her specific situation as every woman is different.

This answer is for general informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice.

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