Complications in pregnancy can be a scary thing. Most women take every necessary precaution to protect their baby when he or she is still in the womb, because fetal development is a fragile process and even the most seemingly harmless medications can have a negative effect. However, most women don’t prepare for complications early in the pregnancy. When you become pregnant, there is a small chance you could have a blighted ovum.

Blighted ovum is also known as early pregnancy failure. It occurs when an egg has been fertilized and plants itself in the uterus, but then stops developing. Technically, a woman is pregnant as soon as the egg is fertilized, but fetuses developing in women with a blighted ovum rarely make it to the end of the first trimester. It only occurs in 15% of pregnant women, and unfortunately there is no way it can be predicted or prevented.

Women who aren’t trying to conceive often don’t even realize that they’ve become pregnant by the time they find out about the blighted ovum. They might have symptoms of early pregnancy such as nausea and fatigue, but if they dismiss these they’ll only realize that something has gone wrong when they start spotting. As with any other miscarriage, a blighted ovum will cause heavy spotting when the fetal material leaves the uterus.

Women who are carefully calculating their conception will probably know that they’ve become pregnant, and the blighted ovum will be as disappointing as any other miscarriage. Luckily for women trying to conceive, a blighted ovum happens completely by chance, so there is no increased chance of having one again in the future.

If you’ve had a blighted ovum, your doctor might have you take medication to speed the miscarriage process and release the birth material that built up in your uterus. However, many women decide that this process is too invasive, and they opt to pass the materials on their own over time. Either method is fine.

Blighted ovum can certainly be devastating for women who have been trying to conceive for a long time, because it offers a false sense of hope and excitement. However, experts agree that you can try conceiving again after your menstrual cycles have returned to normal, and your chances of becoming pregnant are the same as before you had the early pregnancy failure.

Source: Kurt Benirschke et al: Abortion, Placentas of Trisomies, and Immunological Considerations of Recurrent Reproductive Failure. Pathology of the Human Placenta pp. 657-658 2012