Blighted Ovum: Symptoms & Support

Blighted Ovum: Symptoms & Support

If you’re trying to conceive, experiencing a blighted ovum can feel lonely, exhausting, and devastating. But you’re not alone.

While many people choose to hide this very real aspect of trying to conceive (TTC), miscarriages, unfortunately, happen.

They happen a lot, and sometimes, with little to no reason at all.

You did absolutely nothing wrong.

And however you feel right now, it’s totally valid.

A blighted ovum is usually caused by some sort of chromosomal abnormality that results in the embryo not being able to grow.

Whether you were very stressed, had a vaccination, had wild sex after conceiving, drank too much green tea, or did too much extreme scrapbooking has no bearing on the occurrence of a blighted ovum.

So one more time: You did nothing wrong.

Now let’s take a look at what a blighted ovum is and what it means when TTC.

Content warning ahead: We discuss some difficult topics, so if you don’t feel ready to read about pregnancy loss or blighted ovum miscarriage, you don’t have to.

In this article: 📝

  • What is a blighted ovum?
  • How is a blighted ovum diagnosed?
  • How long can you carry a blighted ovum?
  • Is a blighted ovum considered a miscarriage?
  • What is the main cause of blighted ovum?
  • How common are blighted ovums?
  • What are the symptoms of a blighted ovum?
  • Blighted ovum treatment
  • Can you have a misdiagnosed blighted ovum?

What is a blighted ovum?

A blighted ovum is a very early loss of pregnancy in which the embryo never developed.

Heard the terms “empty gestational sac” or “anembryonic pregnancy”?

That’s exactly what we’re talking about here.

What happens is:

  • Your egg gets fertilized by a winning sperm
  • The fertilized egg attaches to the wall of the uterus
  • The embryo, however, doesn’t grow
  • The gestational sac still develops to keep its contents safe, but the embryo itself doesn’t

As for where the term comes from, an ovum is an egg cell that’s released from your ovaries (also called an oocyte).

As for blighted, this is intended to imply something has been damaged in some way, but HCPC specialist biomedical scientist and women’s health expert Kellie Leonard assures this is entirely misleading.

“The word damaged is misleading as the reproductive process isn’t damaged it’s just abnormal, so didn’t work properly,” Leonard explains.

“Also, the term blighted, I think, is a really horrible one to describe a miscarriage—as it literally means damaged and derelict—so I would stay away from its meaning.”

We wholeheartedly agree—it’s why we included the term blighted ovum in our #renamingrevolution glossary.

Our recommended suggestion? Early pregnancy without an embryo.

But for the purpose of helping couples and individuals find the support and information they need, we will continue using the traditional medical term (for now).

Put simply, a blighted ovum is a fertilized egg cell that sadly doesn’t survive.

How is a blighted ovum diagnosed?

An ultrasound is the best way of diagnosing if you have a blighted ovum.

Basically, the ultrasound will show a pregnancy sac without an embryo and can sometimes be detected during your first ultrasound.

Does a blighted ovum have a heartbeat?

Sadly, because there is no fetus, when a doctor is performing an ultrasound, they will not be able to pick up a heartbeat.

Do you see a yolk sac with a blighted ovum?

Yes, it is possible to see a gestational yolk sac with a blighted ovum or anembryonic pregnancy but without an embryo.

Can a blighted ovum be ectopic?

Sometimes, yes, a blighted ovum can also be an ectopic pregnancy.

However, the two are not necessarily linked—someone could have a blighted ovum without an ectopic pregnancy, and vice versa.

How long can you carry a blighted ovum?

Blighted ovum pregnancies will typically be diagnosed at your first ultrasound.

What’s interesting is that you still may experience some of the hormonal shifts of pregnancy, even though the embryo is not growing.

With a blighted ovum, your levels of the pregnancy hormone hCG, for example, may keep going up as the gestational sac grows.

That’s why you may test positive on a home pregnancy test, even though the sac is empty.

It’s only when you visit your doctor, and they do an ultrasound that you realize that the process is not happening as it should.

Of course, this can feel pretty awful—like the rug has been pulled from beneath your feet as your positive result is taken away from you.

So, to grieve with a blighted ovum is an absolutely natural response.

Do what you need to do to feel safe.

Surround yourself with loved ones, talk to women on Peanut who have been through the same, do all the stress-relieving things that work for you (yoga, meditation, screaming off bridges—that kind of thing).

Most importantly, take the time you need.

Is a blighted ovum considered a miscarriage?

Yes, a blighted ovum is a miscarriage in the very early phases of pregnancy—the first trimester (all the way up to 12 week.

In fact, it may happen before you even know you’re pregnant.

And because a blighted ovum miscarriage happens so early, it may leave you with a bundle of confusing emotions.

How are you actually supposed to feel about this?

But when it comes to feeling emotions, there are no wrong answers.

Whatever’s coming up is completely and utterly correct for you.

What is the main cause of blighted ovum?

It’s difficult to pin down one strict reason for a blighted ovum miscarriage.

As Leonard points out, “there will always be a biological reason for a miscarriage it is just too early to pinpoint why.

A blighted ovum could be due to chromosomal differences, but it’s often too early to tell accurately.

“And while the exact cause of a blighted ovum is scientifically unknown,” explains Leonard, “research suggests a number of potential reasons”:

  • Chromosomal abnormalities within the fetus include sex chromosomal, autosomal trisomy, polyploidy, monosomy X and chromosomal polysomy. Chromosomal abnormalities are considered the most common cause of early pregnancy loss.
  • Embryo abnormalities preventing implantation into the uterus wall
  • Damaged DNA within sperm cells
  • Consanguineous marriages (the union of two blood-related individuals)
  • Obesity
  • Maternal age
  • Infections such as tuberculosis
  • Malformation of the uterus
  • Hormonal factors such as low levels of progesterone
  • PCOS
  • Thyroid dysfunction
  • Alcohol consumption

Can stress cause blighted ovum?

Stress cannot directly cause a blighted ovum.

“A blighted ovum is associated with chromosomal abnormalities,” Leonard explains, “in which no direct link has been made to the mother’s psychological level of stress.”

Chronic stress may not be good for pregnancy, but no, in and of itself, it will not cause a blighted ovum.

At what stage do blighted ovums usually miscarry?

Generally speaking, blighted ovums tend to happen between 7-12 weeks of pregnancy.

This is one of the reasons many mamas-to-be wait until the 12-week rule to announce their pregnancy.

After 12 weeks, the chance of pregnancy loss, like a blighted ovum miscarriage, is significantly reduced.

Can a baby survive blighted ovum?

In this type of pregnancy loss, there’s no baby to survive a blighted ovum since no embryo developed.

It simply was not able to grow.

That’s not to say the sense of loss isn’t significant—it is exactly as it feels for you—but the potential to survive was never really on the table.

The good news is that people who have experienced blighted ovum miscarriages before can go on to have healthy, full-term pregnancies.

And a blighted ovum doesn’t have an impact on any future pregnancies as long as there are no further complications.

If you think you may have a blighted ovum or a blighted ovum is detected during your 8-week ultrasound, speak to your doctor about the next best step.

Depending on how far along you are, your doctor may recommend a procedure to remove the gestational sac.

How common are blighted ovums?

Let’s start by affirming that if you have a blighted ovum miscarriage, you’re not alone.

Many waiting mamas on Peanut have gone through or are going through the exact same thing.

As for the exact percentage of how many miscarriages are blighted ovum, it’s hard to tell.

One small 2018 observational study conducted over three years in Egypt placed the prevalence of blighted ovum at 15.6%.

And according to American Pregnancy, it could account for as many as 50% of first trimester miscarriages—but this isn’t confirmed.

So how common is a blighted ovum?

At best, we can say around 15% of all pregnancies sadly result in a pregnancy loss before 13 weeks.

And a blighted ovum accounts for approximately one in every two miscarriages.

How many times can blighted ovum occur?

Typically, you’ll not have two blighted ovum miscarriages in a row unless they’re caused by another underlying fertility or medical condition.

As we mentioned above, the majority of TTC couples who have experienced a blighted ovum pregnancy go on to have happy, healthy babies.

Can you have a blighted ovum with twins?

Sometimes, yes, a very early twin pregnancy can result in one of the embryos not developing.

However, a blighted ovum may not impact your other embryo—they may continue to grow up to be a healthy baby.

How can I avoid blighted ovum?

We’re sorry to say that there’s nothing you can do to prevent a blighted ovum.

There’s often no real cause for a blighted ovum—it can happen to anyone.

But it doesn’t mean that you won’t have a healthy pregnancy eventually.

What are the symptoms of a blighted ovum?

With the statistics now in your mind, it’s understandable to seek out the signs of a blighted ovum.

But this is a bit of a tricky question to answer because blighted ovum symptoms are pretty similar to what you could experience for other reasons at this early point of pregnancy.

So what will a blighted ovum feel and look like?

Well, like most things pregnancy-related, it depends on your amazingly unique body.

Let’s break down the most common questions into digestible FAQs:

Do you bleed with a blighted ovum?

Yes, chances are that’s going to happen.

Blighted ovum bleeding will be something like a period and last for about a week.

One pro tip? Use pads or period underwear rather than tampons.

By your next period (in about 3 to 6 weeks), all should be back to normal, and you can use tampons again.

Do you feel pain with a blighted ovum?

Yes, pain and a blighted ovum also tend to go hand in hand.

You may feel cramps (from mild to severe) in your lower abdomen.

As with the bleeding saga, this is because your body now needs to get rid of the sac, and this process may be accompanied by some discomfort.

Sometimes the process will just happen naturally, and other times, your doctor will give you some meds to help you along.

Can you still have nausea with a blighted ovum?

Yes, you may still experience pregnancy nausea and morning sickness with a blighted ovum.

This could be due, in part, to rising hCG levels, which may continue to increase a few weeks after a blighted ovum miscarriage.

Blighted ovum discharge

You may have some leukorrhea (pregnancy discharge) before, during, and after a blighted ovum miscarriage.

Sometimes, your body continues as though there is still a viable embryo for a while, which can be mentally and physically difficult.

Blighted ovum hCG levels

You may notice that you continue to test positive on a pregnancy test after having a blighted ovum miscarriage.

This is because your hCG levels may continue to rise for a few weeks after.

So, your body may have all the elements of a pregnancy except the embryo.

But at about 6-8 weeks, or a couple of weeks after a blighted ovum pregnancy loss, you’ll notice your hCG levels returning to pre-pregnancy levels.

Blighted ovum treatment

After a blighted ovum experience, your body is going to have to go through a recovery period.

And the best blighted ovum treatment you could do is let it.

While blighted ovum prevention may not be straightforward, there are definitely steps to take that will help you get better.

First things first, go on your healing journey hand-in-hand with your healthcare provider.

Follow-up appointments matter.

They’ll advise you about how to navigate the next phase, from what pain medication you can take (Advil and Tylenol are usually fine), and whether they want to do any tests.

Healthy diets rich in iron, taking care of your mental health, reaching out to other women for support, and avoiding sex are some of the things that may help you on the road to recovery.

Can you have a misdiagnosed blighted ovum?

They are rare, but there are a few misdiagnosed blighted ovum success stories.

This is because it’s still very early in pregnancy, so a blighted ovum ultrasound can be misinterpreted.

But if you’re after blighted ovum success stories, the main narrative you’ll find is pregnancy after blighted ovum success stories.

All this to say, a blighted ovum does not have to mean the end of your TTC journey.

But you can take all the time you need.

This is hard.

And in case you need to hear it one more time: this is not your fault.

If you have suffered a blighted ovum miscarriage, know that whatever you’re feeling is completely valid and that you’re allowed to take the time to grieve.

Take care of yourself.


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