HomePregnancyWhat is a Blighted Ovum? Anembryonic pregnancy symptoms

What is a Blighted Ovum? Anembryonic pregnancy symptoms


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Pregnancy brings about distinct hormonal and bodily changes within a woman. Many women also develop early pregnancy symptoms that start even before their missed period date. These pregnancy symptoms start after implantation, indicating embryo and foetal development.  

Blighted ovum, anembryonic pregnancy, occurs when an early embryo never develops or stops developing, is resorbed and leaves an empty gestational sac. Researchers believe the reason for this may be the chromosomal or genetic anomalies in the fertilised egg. The symptoms of blighted ovum are similar to that of a miscarriage- vaginal bleeding with mild to moderate abdominal cramps. 

The first-trimester ultrasound scan is the most common diagnosis of this condition, and treatment includes eventual miscarriage that may or may not require medications and surgery. This article explores everything you need to know about a blighted ovum, its signs, and treatment options.   

What is a Blighted Ovum?

A blighted ovum is medically termed an “Anembryonic gestation”. Commonly known as a missed miscarriage, blighted ovum occurs when the fertilised egg that implants itself into the uterus halts its growth. 

The gestational sac and the placenta continue to grow like a normal pregnancy, releasing the essential pregnancy hormones but empty without the embryo. Hence, in a blighted ovum condition, a woman can experience early pregnancy symptoms or even have a positive pregnancy test. 

Sometimes, it can occur very early in pregnancy, even before your missed menstrual date. More than half of the miscarriages of the first trimester are attributed to a blighted ovum condition, making it the leading cause of first-trimester pregnancy loss. 

What causes a Blighted Ovum?

After the gamete fertilisation, the embryo that forms develops into a blastocyst. At approximately four weeks of pregnancy, the blastocyst gets implanted into the uterine wall post, which the embryo further develops. In a blighted ovum, the implanted embryo does not grow. 

However, the gestational sac and the placenta grow and release pregnancy hormones. And so, it occurs very early in pregnancy, even before you realise that you are pregnant. The early signs of pregnancy and the pregnancy test that tests the human chorionic gonadotropin (Hcg) levels in blood or urine can also be positive. 

In a normal conception, the fertilised egg divides continuously, and the embryo does not stop its process of division and differentiation of cells. However, in a blighted ovum, the embryo, during a cell division, can have chromosomal or genetic issues that can curb the embryo growth or further cell division. And so, the embryo stops growing further. 

Sometimes, the early pregnancy signs can be followed by a miscarriage indicating a blighted ovum. A blighted ovum can only be detected through a vaginal ultrasound or first-trimester ultrasonography. 

Blighted Ovum Symptoms to Look Out For

As we have mentioned above, a blighted ovum can occur very early in a pregnancy, even before pregnancy is realised. In some cases, one may experience early pregnancy signs, such as missed periods, light cramping, light vaginal discharge, mood fluctuations, breast tenderness, frequent urination, fatigue, nausea, and vomiting. And for other cases of blighted ovum, symptoms may resemble a miscarriage that includes.

  • Bleeding (light or heavy) or passing light grey tissue and blood clots,
  • Mild pelvic or abdominal cramps that can aggravate

A miscarriage is more intense than the regular period, and vaginal bleeding can extend for a few weeks, even after a miscarriage. It is better to avoid lifting heavy weights or strenuous activities that can increase bleeding. 

Blighted Ovum: Diagnosis and Treatment

A blighted ovum condition may show a positive pregnancy test. And many are not even aware of experiencing a blighted ovum. If you have a positive pregnancy test even one of the above miscarriage symptoms, you may have to need a vaginal ultrasound.

Even so, the blighted ovum is ideally diagnosed through a vaginal ultrasound that typically shows a gestational sac with a missing embryo in it. A transvaginal ultrasound is usually done in the first trimester of pregnancy, i.e., between six to nine weeks of pregnancy.

The image shows an anembryonic pregnancy – The gestational sac has no embryo, appearing like an empty sac or bubble.

For some, a blighted ovum may require no treatment, and the embryo naturally miscarries out of the vagina. If the body does not miscarry the embryo, your doctor may eliminate the embryo through one of the following procedures. 

  • Natural miscarriage: It is a safe procedure, where the body eventually passes the pregnancy tissues through the vagina. The process of miscarriage can take a few weeks or days to begin. However, during this process, you are likely to experience abdominal cramping and bleeding. 
  • Medication-induced miscarriage: Sometimes, miscarriages may need to be induced through medications. These medications stimulate the body to pass off the embryo and start the miscarriage process without giving much waiting time for a miscarriage to start on its own. Medications induce miscarriage process within 30 minutes of medicine administration with abdominal pain and bleeding that can last for days or weeks. 
  • Dilation & Curettage (D&C): This is a surgical procedure done to remove the pregnancy tissues in the uterus. The surgeon performs this procedure under sedation, where the cervix is dilated, and the uterine contents are suctioned out. 

If having a D&C or medications for a miscarriage, a follow-up after four to six weeks post-miscarriage is essential. You may need another ultrasound to confirm the empty uterine status and check for possible infections or complications. 


For many, getting pregnant is like music to their ears experience. And losing a pregnancy through a blighted ovum can be disturbing, saddening, and confusing. It is taxing both emotionally and physically. A takeaway tip after a blighted ovum miscarriage is that the chances of having another blighted ovum are very low. 

And most women, after a blighted ovum, are likely to have a healthy pregnancy. Take your time to grieve and learn from your doctor how to go about after a blighted ovum pregnancy loss. 


Are there any complications post-D&C for a blighted ovum case?

Complications after a D&C of a blighted ovum are rare. However, some of the uncommon complications include:

  • Excessive bleeding or haemorrhage
  • Infections
  • Scarring
  • Cuts or tears in the uterus.

At what stage of pregnancy do blighted ovum usually miscarry?

A blighted ovum usually causes a miscarriage between week 7 to week 12 weeks of pregnancy. Once the body realises that the embryo is not developing, the uterus bleeds and sheds the tissues.

Can stress cause a blighted ovum?

Indeed, excessive stress is not good for a healthy pregnancy. However, there is no significant evidence showing stress can cause blighted ovum.

Can I get pregnant soon after a blighted ovum?

Obstetricians and gynecologists recommend having one or two menstruations before getting pregnant after a miscarriage.

What is the recovery process after a blighted ovum miscarriage?

Physical recovery from a blighted ovum miscarriage and D&C can take anywhere from 1-2 weeks to a month. Abdominal pain or cramping can last a week, but bleeding can stay for many weeks. 

One can get back to normal activities when they feel comfortable. It is good to avoid strenuous activities and lift the heavy weight until fully recovered or bleeding is completely stopped. However, most people take a long time to recover emotionally. 

Somapika Dutta (B.Sc Physiology, Honours)
Somapikar holds Bachelors Degree in Physiology from University of Culcutta. She has 6+ years of experience writing in different niches, including health, tech and lifestyle. An animal enthusiast and a raging foodie, experiencing life - one day at a time.


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