Overcoming a ‘pseudo pregnancy’: Blighted ovums can cause miscarriage
Suffering the loss of a child is difficult enough, but learning there was never an embryo can cause women an additional level of grief. A common cause of miscarriage early in pregnancy, a blighted ovum , also called an anembryonic pregnancy or anembryonic gestation, occurs when a pregnancy begins and the sac forms but a baby is not created in the gestational sac.
“A woman will experience increased pregnancy hormone levels and symptoms of pregnancy, but there is no baby,” explains Octavia Cannon, DO, an osteopathic obstetrician and gynecologist in Charlotte, N.C.
Although there often isn’t a clear explanation, many times a blighted ovum occurs due to a chromosomal abnormality, Dr. Cannon says. Because it happens within the first few weeks of pregnancy, many women might not even know it happened.
An ectopic pregnancy, which is different from a blighted ovum, is a pregnancy that occurs anywhere outside the uterine cavity. Often women will experience irregular bleeding and/or some type of pelvic pain. Dr. Cannon says the drug methotrexate is often used to stop the pregnancy from continuing, particularly if it’s in a place that may be hard to surgically remove.
Focusing on preventive care, Doctors of Osteopathic Medicine, or DOs, look beyond your symptoms to consider how environmental and lifestyle factors impact your health. They are trained to listen and partner with you to help you not only get healthy, but stay well.
In some cases, women may experience bleeding similar to a heavy period if their body expels the undeveloped egg. If the body doesn’t naturally pass the blighted ovum, then a woman could have an outpatient D&C (dilation and curettage) or take oral medications to avoid surgery.
“I carefully counsel patients on what to expect when there is no need to stay in the hospital. Many times it helps to recover at home,” Dr. Cannon says.
Coping with loss
For women who experience a blighted ovum, the grief process could be more difficult upon learning there wasn’t a baby in the first place.
“I always stress to my patients that although there was no embryo, it was still a pregnancy. They have every right to grieve,” Dr. Cannon says.
Some women may even experience postpartum depression. Dr. Cannon suggests watching for signs of depression.
“I reassure my patients that a blighted ovum does not necessarily mean that she cannot conceive and have a normal, healthy pregnancy and baby. If it happens more than once consecutively, I urge my patients to allow additional testing to try to find a reason for the recurrent miscarriage,” Dr. Cannon says.