Misdiagnosis of a Blighted Ovum: A Firsthand Account
My Misdiagnosed Blighted Ovum
Hi. My name is Kay, and I am the mother of a beautiful, not-so-blighted ovum. Yes, I had a misdiagnosed miscarriage.
With my last pregnancy, I was told at my 5-1/2- and 6-week ultrasounds that I most likely had a blighted ovum. After my 7- and 8-week ultrasounds, my doctor strongly recommended a D&C due to an empty gestational sac, which meant there was no hope for a viable pregnancy.
Thankfully, I refused the procedure. I say thankfully—because at nearly nine weeks, we saw my baby for the first time on the ultrasound, beating heart and all!
In this article, I hope to provide you with more information so you can determine if your "blighted ovum" is, in fact, actually blighted—or if you may have received a misdiagnosis.
I believe every woman deserves to have no doubt before having her pregnancy ended.
I also believe a blighted ovum should not be diagnosed before nine weeks.
Hope means hoping when things are hopeless, or it is no virtue at all... As long as matters are really hopeful, hope is mere flattery or platitude; it is only when everything is hopeless that hope begins to be a strength.— G. K. Chesterton
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My Misdiagnosed Blighted Ovum Story
I've been sharing my story for several years online. If you're researching blighted ovum information, you may have already come across my story. For those who have not, let me tell you the tale of my own little misdiagnosed blighted ovum.
Hey, I'm Pregnant!
Back in September 2002, I found out I was pregnant. Because there was only one possible date of conception, I knew exactly how far along I was. At 5-1/2 weeks, my ob-gyn wanted to do an ultrasound because I had been high risk during my first pregnancy. Well, the tech kept looking and looking, commenting on my tilted uterus several times, but she could only find the sac. The sac looked much smaller than it should have by that point.
I was not concerned because that happened during my first pregnancy, as well—and that doctor had not been concerned. Well, apparently, this doctor was concerned, because when he came in he started discussing the possibility of a blighted ovum. He said I needed to come back in a few days when I was 6 weeks to check again. He said we'd know more then.
In the meantime, they took my hCG levels, and the nurse called me later to tell me they should be higher. This didn't sound very good, but I was not panicked yet. I must admit that I was a bit worried, though.
At my 6-week exam, my doctor did not sound optimistic about my hCG levels, even though I had looked online and learned that they fell within the normal range. He came in for the ultrasound. Again, he had to contort a bit for the trans-vaginal ultrasound because of my tilted uterus.
The sac was growing appropriately—but no baby. My doctor believed this was a blighted ovum. He explained that hCG levels can and will rise with a blighted ovum, and that the gestational sac will grow, as well. He again raised the possibility of my not being as far along as I thought, but I reminded him that was impossible. My husband and I were in different states the day after I conceived (thanks to Uncle Sam).
The doctor said he was concerned because the sac looked a week and a half behind. I told him that the same thing had happened during my first pregnancy; i.e., I had looked two weeks behind during the first trimester. I also emphasized that my first doctor had not been concerned at all. This doctor, however, was very worried. And because I was pregnant and hormonal, I began to get very worried, as well.
I spent the next week scouring the web looking for anyone who had experienced the same thing. The women I found online were very kind but didn't give me much hope. I had already begun to experience pregnancy symptoms, but they were beginning to fade. Even my tummy, which had seemed a little harder, suddenly seemed soft again.
At my 7-week appointment, long story short, my hCG levels had risen and the gestational sac had also grown appropriately. However, I still looked a week and a half behind. Again, I explained to the doctor that I knew the conception date with certainty.
Again, there was no baby and no heartbeat. Not even a yolk sac to give us hope.
Because my hCG levels were much higher at this point, in the tens of thousands, a baby should have been visible according to the ultrasound literature. According to the same literature, my gestational sac was large enough that a baby, or at the very least, a yolk sac should have been visible. When I told my doctor about my loss of pregnancy symptoms, that seemed to cinch it for him. He diagnosed a blighted ovum and strongly recommended a D&C.
I have a fear of D&Cs, and maybe this fear is a good thing because I just absolutely refused. I begged for any sort of hope, and he very skeptically but kindly gave me a 95% chance of miscarriage at this point. I grabbed onto that 5% chance. By this time, I was an emotional wreck.
During the next week, I continued to rip apart the web looking for hopeful stories. Women on the pregnancy and miscarriage sites I visited very kindly told me I needed to accept my loss and should have the D&C in order to move on and heal.
I suspect that if I hadn't had such a fear of D&Cs (due largely to two women I know who had serious complications from the procedure), I would have considered it. I was an absolute wreck. I spent much of that week in tears.
By week 8, my physician was pretty much just monitoring me to see if I was about to miscarry. Again, the ultrasound showed a larger gestational sac that was growing appropriately, but it was still small for 8 weeks. And still no baby.
The tech did say she thought she saw something unusual in the sac, but after searching and searching, she could not find what she thought she'd seen. My doctor again tried to convince me to have a D&C due to the risk of infection and all sorts of complications—but I couldn't do it. At this point, I was so upset I was beginning to feel numb.
By this time, I'd found two women online who were kind enough to email me. They encouraged me not to give up entirely. If I was going to miscarry, so be it—but I could deal with that grief when it happened. For the time being, they told me to hold on to faith and hope. Because of these women, I began reaching out to other women later, but that is another story for another time.
Ultrasound Just Before 9 Weeks
At almost 9 weeks, my doctor was stunned when the tech found my baby with a very strong heartbeat. We'd completely skipped over the yolk sac and fetal pole and went straight to a wonderfully formed, if not small looking, one-and-a-half-weeks-behind baby!
To say my doctor was stunned was an understatement. He began to say again that I must have conceived later, but when I reminded him (again!) about how I knew the exact date of conception, he said that maybe the sperm were just really slow. He did not even want to consider that according to his dating, I had turned up positive on an HPT a day or so after conception. Now, you know that is impossible. I know that is impossible, but try telling that to the doctor who uses the ultrasound literature as his guide. By those guidelines, my baby is officially a "blighted ovum" baby.
I'll leave my story at that for now. I will just say that I had one more ultrasound somewhere around 20 weeks, and my dates were more accurate by that point. Interesting to note that the tilted uterus was no longer an issue either, but I'll discuss that in more detail later.
Today my "blighted ovum" is a happy, healthy four-year-old girl. She's bright and feisty and loves life. Thankfully, a D&C did not change that.
Thank you for reading. No matter what, if you are going through this same scare, I hope you can find some comfort in knowing you are not alone.
This information is meant to supplement the information given you by your doctor. If you feel your doctor is not doing enough for you or not willing to listen to your concerns, I strongly encourage you to take what you've learned here and get a second opinion.
If a physician wanted you to have a D&C and you had no miscarriage symptoms, would you consider getting a second opinion?
Have You Been Misdiagnosed?
Misdiagnosed miscarriages are not as uncommon as you might be led to believe. It is not unusual for me to receive several emails each week from women who are misdiagnosed. Often, they had been told by their doctor there was no hope, and they had been advised to have a D&C. Each and every misdiagnosed story provides comfort to women who are going through their own miscarriage scare. Please consider taking the time to share your story in the comments section below.
If you have been diagnosed with a blighted ovum before 9 weeks (even if you've had IVF), you are being diagnosed too soon!
Important New Guidelines for Diagnosing a Miscarriage
The UK is the first country to acknowledge that misdiagnosed miscarriages are indeed a problem. The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists has revised its guidelines. If your gestational sac is more than 25mm, and/or the CRL is 7mm or more, you should wait a week to verify (if there are no complications). If the measurements are less, you are too early to diagnose. For more information (and something to take to your doctor), please see my article: New Blighted Ovum Guidelines! You ARE Being Diagnosed Too Soon!