I'll never forget that moment. Laying alone on the ultrasound table waiting to see a tiny little bean with a strong heartbeat inside of a sack confirming my pregnancy just as easy as it did with my previous two. I was excited and nervous all at once. Within moments, I knew that something wasn't as expected. I'm not an ultrasound technician, but I could see clear as day on the screen that there in fact was a very good looking perfectly round sac, but it was empty. I immediately started to tear up. The tech was amazing and explained that it was possible everything was very early on and a fetal pole and yolk sack code appear in the next few days or week. She took several pictures and measurements and left to give them to one of the doctors. Then she returned to explain that the doctor wanted to explain what was likely happening to me.Just ten minutes after I walked in, I was being told that since the sac was measuring around 6 weeks, they should see something, anything. She then used a term I had never heard before, Blighted Ovum (BO). Here's a quick explanation from Mayo Clinic: "A blighted ovum, also called an anembryonic pregnancy or anembryonic gestation, occurs when a gestational sac develops without an embryo — often due to chromosomal abnormalities in the fertilized egg."
Some of the characteristics of a blighted ovum can include:
-Presence of normal gestational sac that is either empty or only contains a yolk sac (no fetal pole).
-Strong pregnancy symptoms
-Light spotting and/or cramping.
-HCG increases (rarely doubles) until removed or body realizes it's not a viable pregnancy (as long as the sac is growing, your body thinks the pregnancy is viable until it receives the "signal" that it's not viable or the placenta (that doesn't exist) should be taking over creation of HCG around 12 weeks.
-Tendency to be "extra-sticky" requiring intervention for removal sac and termination of pregnancy.
-Reputation for causing excessive bleeding during natural miscarriage that requires emergency intervention.
I was unable to obtain an ultrasound photo of my own blighted ovum, but here are few images provided for this post by some gracious women from a Facebook support group.
I waited..two very long weeks. It those two weeks, I did experience some very light spotting and cramping, but nothing otherwise. I spent time online researching and came across sites where people had a misdiagnosed BO and went on to have healthy babies. There were way more like me holding onto hope that this was also the case for me. I was a complete emotional wreck. At the end of the two weeks, I went back and while the sac had grown by a week, it was still there and completely empty. I then met with my regular doctor and she and I agreed that based on the known fact that blighted ovums have a higher history of natural miscarriages that cause too much blood loss (they are called "extra sticky"), a surgery to remove it was the best option. I scheduled it for a week or so later with the agreement the the night before my surgery I would receive a final ultrasound just to be sure. My doctor and the ultrasound tech happily obliged. They said they would give me as many as I needed to feel okay about proceeding.
On November, 28, 2012 I went in for my surgery. This was the very first time in my life I have ever been put "under" or had "surgery" so I was really nervous. The ultrasound the night before confirmed that the sac was already starting to breakdown and the pregnancy was not viable. That was at least reassuring that I was in fact making the right decision. The surgery was really quick and successful. My husband was there waiting with Reese Cups and a stuffed puppy afterward. I recovered physically over the next week with the help of pain medication and rest.
I was very lucky to have a very good support system, especially my husband, to help me recover emotionally. We spent lots of time just enjoying the two children we did have and the upcoming Christmas holiday.
Looking back over the last 2+ years, I still remember the pain I felt during this experience. Emotionally, I will never be the same, but I have learned that this was part of a life and that, if only briefly, I carried a baby that couldn't survive and a part of me will always love them.
During that difficult time and since then I have been a part of a Facebook group called Angel Moms via Blighted Ovum. When I was going through it, this group of women was absolutely amazing in providing me with support and answers. Since then, I have watched women come into the group who are currently or have experienced the same as me and I have returned the same support to all of them. I have heard stories about how people around them have said "You weren't actually carrying a baby" and made them feel like they shouldn't be sad or grieving. This is why I'm writing this, to spread awareness. No matter what, a baby was conceived and a baby was lost and a woman (and her family) are learning to cope with the reality of this loss. As humans, compassion is what binds us and during this time that's what we should be showing each other.
Angel Moms via Blighted Ovum Facebook Group
Somewhere Over the Rainbow Facebook Group (This is for those that are ready to move on and are TTC, pregnant, or have had children after experiencing a blighted ovum).