What is a Molar Pregnancy?

Team Peanut8 months ago5 min read

A molar pregnancy is a complication very early on in pregnancy. Sadly, it results in an abnormality in the growth of placenta tissue when the egg implants itself in the uterus. Medically, it’s also known as a hydatidiform mole and in almost all cases, it means that the developing baby cannot be carried to term.

Woman upset after molar pregnancy

It can be incredibly traumatic to undergo a pregnancy complication of any sort and, whether you’re trying to get pregnant or not, can leave you feeling emotionally and physically spent. Remember, it’s OK to feel however it is that you feel.

Table of Contents 📝

  • What are the chances of a molar pregnancy?
  • What causes a molar pregnancy?
  • Molar pregnancy symptoms

What are the chances of a molar pregnancy?

If you experience a molar pregnancy, know that you are not alone. In fact, 1 in every 1000 pregnancies turn out this way.

Risk factors for a molar pregnancy include:

  • How old you are: Being younger than 20 and older than 35 puts you in a higher risk category.
  • Previous molar pregnancy or miscarriage: Yes, if it’s happened once, the likelihood of it happening again is higher—but don’t let this deter you. It’s also completely possible to have a pregnancy without complications.
  • Where you’re from: Stats show that there are higher rates of molar pregnancy in different parts of the world. That being said, a molar pregnancy can happen to anyone and it is never your fault.

Give yourself the permission to meet yourself where you’re at, acknowledge that it can take some time to feel normal again, and reach out for help and support on Peanut when you need it.

What causes a molar pregnancy?

So what causes molar pregnancy? Essentially, it results from chromosomal abnormalities that halt the process early on. This can be the result of an egg with no genetic info being fertilized, or an egg being fertilized by multiple sperm.

The result is that instead of a baby and placenta forming, fluid-filled cysts form in its place.

Complete vs partial molar pregnancy

There are two types of molar pregnancy. A complete molar pregnancy is all placental tissue with no sign of a fetus, while with a partial molar pregnancy both placental and fetal tissue can be detected. The key difference between the two is that in complete molar pregnancy, the anomaly occurs at fertilization, whereas with a partial molar pregnancy, the anomaly occurs with the growth of the placenta.

To better understand this, let’s go back a little to the process of fertilization and what can result if things take a detour.

From the top…

When an egg is fertilized, it goes on a trip from the fallopian tubes to find itself a home in the lining of the uterus. This last part is called implantation. At implantation, the placenta begins to develop so that it can carry out its job of providing nutrients and oxygen. (It also moonlights as a waste management system. It’s quite impressive!)

When it comes to a molar pregnancy, however, things don’t quite go this way. With a complete molar pregnancy, the egg that is fertilized has an abnormal chromosomal makeup and therefore can’t develop into a fetus. With a partial molar pregnancy, a fetus does develop but the placenta doesn’t.

The most important thing to remember is that you didn’t do anything wrong. There is nothing you could’ve done to change this. OK?!

Molar pregnancy symptoms

So what does a molar pregnancy feel like? Is there anything you should be looking out for?

Symptoms of a molar pregnancy can be hard to detect. You may just feel as though you are in the early stage of pregnancy. Having said that, certain warning signs are useful to look out for:

Signs of molar pregnancy

  • Vaginal bleeding. Bleeding is a tricky one during early pregnancy because it can stem from a variety of sources. In the early phase of pregnancy, you might experience implantation bleeding, which is pinkish-brown in color. If, however, your blood is of a darker red or brown and if you see what looks like tissue or clots in the blood, reach out to your healthcare provider.
  • Intense nausea and vomiting. Again, a tricky one because this can be a typical symptom of early pregnancy. However, if you’re thinking it’s a little more intense than it should be, it’s not a bad idea to check in with your doc.
  • Pain in the pelvic area. If you’re feeling any sort of intense pain in your abdomen, give your healthcare provider a call. And know that it’s okay to be overly cautious.

How soon can you detect a molar pregnancy?

In most cases, you’ll know if it’s a molar pregnancy in the first trimester as it’ll show up in a routine ultrasound. Again, however, if you suspect that complications have arisen, check in with your doctor. As with all health issues, the sooner you know, the better.

Can you die from a molar pregnancy?

These days, it’s extremely unlikely that you will die from a molar pregnancy. Your doctor will remove the tissue in a procedure called a D&C (Dilation & Curettage) and most women heal quickly. In some rare cases, further complications can arise, with persistent tissue continuing to grow after the first lot of tissue has been removed - but this is unlikely.

Your doc will monitor you for a few months after you’ve had your procedure, to make sure that you don’t experience any further issues.

Beyond these physical effects and symptoms, experiencing a molar pregnancy can be a source of stress, anxiety, and depression. If you’re currently living through this reality, know that all of your feelings are valid. Remember to reach out for support on Peanut if you need it - there are thousands of women who share your story.