I have been asked this question a few times. “When it comes to a blighted ovum, is it a baby or not? I was told I shouldn’t grieve the loss because it wasn’t really a baby, it had no soul.” This can be quite controversial but no matter what you believe, this loss is very real and worthy of grieving.
Let’s talk about what a blighted ovum is first. The official definition from American Pregnancy is: “A blighted ovum (also known as “anembryonic pregnancy”) happens when a fertilized egg attaches itself to the uterine wall, but the embryo does not develop.” Many times, a blighted ovum occurs because of a chromosomal abnormality. The loss will typically occur before a woman knows she is pregnant but with advanced technology, more and more women are discovering they are pregnant very early and may learn they will experience a miscarriage due to a blighted ovum.
A blighted ovum IS a miscarriage. You were pregnant but something happened and the baby didn’t continue to develop. You might experience all the same pregnancy symptoms as any other woman with a normally developing pregnancy. It is okay to feel the loss and grieve.
First, explore what you feel. When you peed on the stick, you imagined a baby. That baby would turn into a child and your life would look very different with that baby/child within it. To have someone tell you that the baby didn’t exist can be very hurtful. It doesn’t matter if an actual embryo formed, the baby was very real in your mind and all the physiological processes that create a baby, had begun but there was a problem which stopped that growth.
Are you hurting?
Do you feel confused?
Are you unsure what to feel?
All of these feelings are normal and some of them can be compounded by a care provider that is less then empathetic to your situation.
IMAGINE, LOVE, HOPE
That is what you had for this baby. A blighted ovum is worthy of grief.
But let’s talk briefly about blighted ovum and the diagnosis. It is very important to ensure that you have several ultrasounds to confirm there is no development of an embryo. Even with our advanced technology which allows us to peek inside the uterus very early and see our baby grow, some doctors may diagnose a blighted ovum when it is really too early to see much.
If you are uncertain of your conception date, this can make diagnosis even more troubling. Being off a few days can mean your baby hasn’t had a chance to grow enough to be seen on the ultrasound. If you are 5 weeks pregnant, you may likely only see the gestational sac which can be mistakenly diagnosed as a blighted ovum. Even though this is very hard, wait a week and return for another ultrasound. Ensure the ultrasound tech or doctor is utilizing the same machine at the same resolution. If there is still not evidence of a yolk sac and/or fetal pole, you may wait another week and try another ultrasound to confirm.
Blood HCG levels may not help you in determining the viability of this pregnancy as they may rise normally. Ultrasound is the best way to determine viability and growth of your baby. If there is no fetal pole by week 7, you have most likely experienced a blighted ovum. Your body may miscarry on it’s own or may need some help. I have a great post that helps explain all your miscarriage options. In addition, my book “It’s Not Just a Heavy Period; The Miscarriage Handbook,” can be extremely helpful.