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What is a Blighted Ovum?

Cramping and pain can be symptoms of a blighted ovum

Our blog will explore the unfortunate occurrence of a fertilized egg implanting itself in the uterus but failing to develop into an embryo. This is referred to as a blighted ovum and can happen early in a pregnancy. The condition is also called an ‘anembryonic pregnancy’, and is one of the leading causes of miscarriages. 

Characteristics of a Blighted Ovum

A blighted ovum is when a placenta and gestational sac grow and become attached to the uterine wall, but there is no viable embryo. The blighted ovum will eventually cause a miscarriage approximately seven to twelve weeks into the pregnancy. The body detects that the embryo is not developing and begins to shed tissue and blood from the uterus to rid the body of the perceived foreign substance. The result of this effort is a miscarriage.  

Causes of a Blighted Ovum

There is no definite known cause or any precautions to prevent a blighted ovum. When the egg is first fertilized, cells begin to form to create the embryo, the surrounding placenta, and the protective gestational sac. Occasionally, the placenta and sac are formed, but the embryo simply fails to develop. 

Symptoms of a Blighted Ovum

When a pregnancy becomes anembryonic, there may be mild cramping, pelvic pain and spotting or light bleeding from the vagina. Women who experience this early in their pregnancy should see a doctor.  

Diagnosis of a Blighted Ovum

A blighted ovum is most often diagnosed through an ultrasound treatment. It can be a routine treatment to check on the health of the embryo and reveal the anembryonic pregnancy, or the ultrasound can be used to investigate the cause of bleeding and pain. 

Treatment of a Blighted Ovum

A doctor will tell you the treatments for a blighted ovum

Your doctor will discuss the three options you have in treating a blighted ovum. They are to allow your body to miscarry naturally, take medication to induce a miscarriage or undergo a procedure called a dilation and curettage (D&C). A natural miscarriage can take days or weeks to finish, and all miscarriages can take days or weeks for the bleeding and spotting to stop completely. 


Choosing medication is a way to control the miscarriage and speed up the process. The drugs are absorbed through the cheeks of the mouth or inserted into the vagina. Cramping and bleeding generally begin within a few hours, and the tissue is successfully passed within 48 hours. However, some women may not pass all the tissue and still require a D&C. 

Most women like to have a support person with them and begin the medication treatment early in the morning to lessen the chances of an uncomfortable night. 

Dilation and Curettage (D&C)

One of the most common reasons for a dilation and curettage procedure in gynecology is to remove an anembryonic pregnancy, or blighted ovum, from the uterus. Before undergoing a D&C, an intravenous line may be inserted in your arm or hand, and a catheter may be inserted into the urethra. You may also be placed under either local or general anesthesia, depending on your condition.

The doctor will then insert an instrument called a speculum to spread the walls of your vagina apart and expose the cervix. The cervix will be cleaned with an antiseptic solution. The cervix will be dilated using a series of slender rods, each larger in diameter than the previous rod. The process will gradually enlarge the cervix and enable a spoon-shaped instrument, called a curette, to be inserted into the cervix. The curette will be used to gently scrape away the tissues on the walls of the uterus. Suction can also be used to ensure all the tissues are removed. The suction may cause cramping in those under local anesthesia. 

What to Do After a Miscarriage

Most women physically recover from a miscarriage very quickly. They can resume their daily activities within a day or two of passing the tissue or undergoing a D&C. There may be spotting or light bleeding occasionally for a few weeks after the miscarriage. You’ll be instructed not to have vaginal sex or put anything into your vagina for a week, including tampons or menstrual cups. You can use pads to absorb any bleeding. Your first period usually occurs about two to three weeks after the light bleeding stops, about two to three months after the tissue has been passed. 

Visit The V-Fertility Center

The V-Fertility Center at Vejthani Hospital is one of the best IVF clinics in Bangkok. We provide treatment for a blighted ovum, as well as IVF/ICSI programs, infertility screening, preimplantation diagnosis, intrauterine insemination, surgical sperm removal and cryopreserve freezing methods.

If you have any signs or symptoms of a blighted ovum, please make an appointment at the V-Fertility Center today.  

Article by Dr.Worawat Siripoon

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