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Blighted Ovum: Can You Be Pregnant Without Seeing It via Ultrasound?

Medically reviewed by Regina Victoria Boyles, MD · Pediatrics

Written by Fiel Tugade · Updated May 13, 2022

    Blighted Ovum: Can You Be Pregnant Without Seeing It via Ultrasound?

    You may believe things to follow through, especially when signs already lay it out for you. In and out experiences of morning sickness, fatigue, as well as a missed period, are common early signs of pregnancy. And when you get to feel all these things (and more), a pregnancy test check is the thing to do. The revelation of two lines can be the happiest moment for you and your partner. However, when you get to the doctor, the baby doesn’t show up on the ultrasound screening, even after several attempts. Could you be really pregnant or this is a blighted ovum situation? This article tells you all about it. 

    Blighted Ovum, Explained

    A blighted ovum refers to a type of early miscarriage wherein a fertilized egg implants in the uterus but fails to grow into an embryo. The embryo fails to develop, but the gestational sac may continue to expand. The placenta and empty gestational sac will produce pregnancy hormones (human chorionic gonadotropin or hCG) despite the absence of an embryo. Hence, a pregnancy test may indicate a positive result.

    It frequently develops during the early stages of pregnancy, often before you even realize you are pregnant. 

    Some people refer to it as anembryonic pregnancy.

    What Are Blighted Ovum Symptoms?

    As mentioned, it may look and feel like the typical onset of pregnancy, showing symptoms such as a missed period or a positive pregnancy test. Others may also experience nausea and vomiting, fatigue, and even breast tenderness.

    On another note, some signs and symptoms may be comparable to those of a miscarriage:

    • Spotting or vaginal bleeding
    • Cramping (pelvic and abdominal cramps may vary from mild to moderate)

    It is only your obstetrician who can confirm it through a transvaginal ultrasound screening. While navigating the handheld equipment called the transducer, the screen may display the gestational sac with a missing embryo.

    Some may also incorporate a series of blood tests to determine the levels of hCG in your body. Early in pregnancy, the level of hCG in your blood rises quickly and peaks around 8-10 weeks. It could signify a miscarriage or other concerning issue if it does not rise soon as expected. Your doctor may decide to test your hCG levels over the course of several days to see how it is progressing over time.

    What Are Blighted Ovum Causes?

    Studies show that many women who had experienced the same miscarriage case are caused by an error in the chromosome. It can either be due to such deficiency or extravagance in the chromosomal development of the fertilized egg. Consequently, affecting the usual development process. 

    Furthermore, genetic mutations can also cause blighted ovum. There are limited cases in which it specifically takes place because an early embryo stops developing after attaching to the uterus.

    Other causes may include:

    • Maternal infection
    • Autoimmune disease in the mother
    • Endocrine disease in the mother
    • Presence of abnormal tissue that divides the inside of the uterus into sections (septum)

    Researchers believe that these particular cases account for one-third of miscarriages taking place before eight weeks of pregnancy.

    What Happens Next? How Can You Treat It?

    It might take a while for the pregnancy hormones to subside through the natural process of miscarriage. At the same time, the placenta and gestation sac may also take several weeks before it leaves the body entirely. But, there are also other ways to treat and speed up the process.

    Your doctor may administer medical therapy through the help of drug intake (misoprostol) or a surgical procedure called Dilation & Curettage (D&C). This procedure allows the doctor to widen the opening of your cervix to take out the remaining contents in the uterus. Like any type of surgery, you may need the help of anesthesia.

    Regardless of the discussion of treatment you and your attending physician have, it is advised that you follow through with scheduled appointments 4-6 weeks after it.

    Key Takeaways

    It is never easy to accept a miscarriage whether it is from a blighted ovum or another reason. You may end up questioning if there is something wrong with you, but know that it is not your fault. It is hard to lose a baby you are already expecting. Take some time to grieve  until you feel better. Speak to a counselor or a support group if you need to. 
    Miscarriages are a normal aspect of pregnancy and may have little to do with your fertility. You can still try conceiving with your partner after this experience. Who knows, a normal and healthy pregnancy is just waiting for you around the corner at the right time.

    Learn more about being pregnant here


    Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

    Medically reviewed by

    Regina Victoria Boyles, MD


    Written by Fiel Tugade · Updated May 13, 2022

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