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Molar Pregnancy: Everything you need to Know


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Pregnancy comes with its complications and challenges in all shapes and sizes. While some affect the growth of the fetus and others have to do with the expecting mother’s physiological health. Amidst them, one that often results in a fatal outcome is Molar Pregnancy.

Also, known as hydatidiform mole, Molar pregnancy is a very rare type of pregnancy complication that contributes to excessive or uncontrolled growth of trophoblasts – the type of cells that are majorly responsible for developing the placenta.

It has been seen that most cases of molar pregnancy end up in an unexpected fetal death, it can further take a turn for the worse and lead to an aggressive form of cancer that needs immediate surgical intervention. This article will explore everything there is to know about molar pregnancy and what you can do to prevent or treat it.

What is Molar Pregnancy?

Molar pregnancy is a rare type of complication that results from improper fertilization of the egg and the sperm, leading to abnormal growth of non-cancerous tumors from trophoblasts – the cells that develop into the placenta later into the pregnancy.

The uncontrolled tumor growth often inhibits the healthy growth of the embryo, leading to complications of premature fetal death or miscarriage. Most of the tumors caused in a molar pregnancy resemble the shape of a cluster of grapes and are composed of fluid-filled cysts.

Molar pregnancy is typically of two types:

Complete molar pregnancy – growth of placental tissue is abnormal and forms fluid-filled cysts.

Partial molar pregnancy – involves the growth of a mixture of healthy and abnormal placental tissues in the uterus, alongside the formation of the fetus.

Both cases result in a miscarriage down the line, since the fetus isn’t able to grow in a healthy environment, and get the nutrition and support they need. Less than 1% of pregnant women are at risk of developing or experiencing this condition.

What are the Symptoms of a Molar Pregnancy?

Molar pregnancy doesn’t always start off on a bad note. Most women get a diagnosis for the condition almosr right after they confirm their conception.

The diagnosis typically comes through after one is experiencing the following symptoms:

  • Dark brown or red-colored vaginal bleeding (in the first trimester)
  • Discharge of grape-like cysts through the vagina
  • Severe nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Pelvic pressure
  • Abdominal pain
  • Extremely high blood pressure
  • High hCG levels
  • Lack of fetal movement or heartbeat

If you are experiencing one or multiple of these symptoms, it is better to consult your OBGYN immediately. Some of these symptoms could also be an early sign of other pregnancy complications that needs immediate medical intervention.

What Causes a Molar Pregnancy?

You have just gotten the report of molar pregnancy in ultrasound but the question still remains, what triggered the condition? Was it due to external factors or poor reproductive health?

The primary factor that causes a molar pregnancy is an abnormally fertilized egg. It is a direct result of genetic errors during the fertilization process.

While a healthy pregnancy witnesses the gradual development of the embryo, which supplies the baby with the nutrition and oxygen they need, the same doesn’t occur in a molar pregnancy, making it difficultf for both the baby and the mother.

Instead of forming a placenta, the trophoblast cells develop into tumors inside the uterus. This either obstructs embryo formation or prevents embryo development, leading to a miscarriage.

A history of molar pregnancy suggests that a patient has a high risk of experiencing it again. It is thus ideal to be very cautious in that case.

How is a Molar Pregnancy Diagnosed?

The diagnosis of a molar pregnancy typically starts with the symptoms. If you are experiencing symptoms that are off the bat unfavorable or unpleasant, it is ideal to discuss the issues with the doctor.

Based on the symptoms, your doctor will prescribe a bunch of tests, including blood tests and an ultrasound to find out the problem.

Ultrasound imaging is what confirms the diagnosis of a molar pregnancy. Simultaneously, a blood test to monitor the hCG levels can provide further confirmation about the condition.

Your doctor will confirm that you are suffering from a molar pregnancy if:

  • There are no signs of embryo or fetus
  • There is no amniotic fluid
  • The appearance of a thick, cystic placenta in the uterus
  • Presence of ovarian cysts
  • Abnormal appearance of the placenta

Besides confirming a molar pregnancy, your OBGYN might also run thorough testing to rule out additional pregnancy complications like pre-eclampsia, anemia, and hyperthyroidism.

What is the Treatment for a Molar Pregnancy?

Most molar pregnancies end up in a miscarriage and spontaneously end by themselves. However, in a few cases where the situation takes a turn for the worse, your OBGYN might have to intervene to remove the abnormal placental tissue growth in the uterus.

Doing so is crucial so that the abnormal cell growth doesn’t end up forming cancerous cells in the reproductive tract of the patient.

Some of the standard treatment options for molar pregnancy include:

Dilation and curettage (D&C) – involve the usage of a vacuum device, inserted through the vagina, to remove the abnormal uterine tissue.

Hysterectomy – this is a very rare form of treatment for a molar pregnancy and is typically done in patients with heightened risks of gestational trophoblastic neoplasia (GTN). It involves the complete removal of the uterus from the reproductive tract of the patient.

In some cases, your doctor might closely monitor the hCG levels after the surgical procedures until the levels revert to normal. If it doesn’t, you might have to undergo further treatments for the same.

What are the Complications Associated with a Molar Pregnancy?

Now that you know the molar pregnancy meaning, you’d understand that it is an extremely painful and tragic experience for a woman.

Although the condition by itself is quite complicated, the persistence of this condition can result in other health complications, including:

  • Choriocarcinoma in the uterus
  • Gestational Trophoblastic Disease
  • Sepsis
  • Uterine infection
  • Preeclampsia
  • Shock or hypotension (in rare cases)

Being mindful of these complications enables you to navigate through the issue well. If you are faced with the problem, we’d recommend that you consult your healthcare provider immediately without any further thoughts.


  • Can I prevent molar pregnancy from happening?

Unfortunately, the development of a molar pregnancy is beyond the control of the patient or the doctor. It results from abnormal fertilization of the egg and a genetic error, which can’t be controlled or managed externally.

  • How many women have a molar pregnancy?

Molar pregnancy isn’t a very common complication and typically affects 1% of the world’s pregnant women.

  • What is the prognosis after a molar pregnancy?

Molar pregnancies might be recurring but it isn’t the case every time. There are reports where women with a history of molar pregnancy have had a healthy pregnancy following the experience. Also, most pregnant women receiving treatment for molar pregnancy don’t experience any further complications down the road.


Molar pregnancies can affect women of any age, race, and ethnicity. Despite the lacking prevalence, it is a complication that can be extremely taxing on the patient’s physical and mental health. It is important to surround yourself with supportive people during such times. Also, don’t hesitate to get immediate medical help if you are experiencing symptoms that are out of the ordinary.

Srujana Mohanty
She is the Managing Editor of Cogito137, one of India’s leading student-run science communication magazines. She's been working in scientific and medical writing and editing since 2018, also associated with the quality assurance team of scientific journal editing. Majored in Chemistry with a minor in Biology at IISER Kolkata, Srujana loves doodling and watching series.


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