Understanding Early Pregnancy Loss: A Blighted Ovum

Blighted ovum is a common cause of early pregnancy loss

The loss of an early pregnancy is devastating no matter the cause, but for women that experience a blighted ovum, one of the most common causes of early pregnancy loss, the confusion and possible delay in knowing if the pregnancy is viable can add to the emotional pain. Understanding the causes and the impact on future pregnancies can ease some of the fear and worry.

What is it?

A blighted ovum, also known as an anembryonic gestation, occurs when the body develops a pregnancy sac without an embryo. The fertilized egg will implant itself into the uterine wall; however, the cells will only form into a placenta and an empty pregnancy sac. The condition usually occurs during the early stages of pregnancy, which may be before a woman even knows she has become pregnant.


Blighted ovums cause about 50 percent of first trimester miscarriages, and the condition is usually caused by chromosomal abnormalities. A woman’s body may recognize that the fertilized egg has a chromosomal abnormality, causing the body to stop the pregnancy since the resulting fetus would not be healthy. This causes the embryo to stop developing very early or not to develop at all. Chromosomal abnormalities may be the result of low quality sperm or eggs, as well as improper cell division.


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