I had a blighted ovum

I had a blighted ovum. What the heck is that anyway? This isn’t actually a medical term, but is used commonly to describe what happens when sperm meets egg and…nothing. A little egg sac develops, but nothing inside. I can’t say it was a baby, because it most definitely wasn’t. No heartbeat. No growth. Nothing but my body merrily going about its business thinking it is pregnant while a small clump of cells sits there in my uterus fooling everyone. The first time it happened, I didn’t know. They still hadn’t classified me as high risk, so I wasn’t getting the early ultrasounds, just the usual 12 week scan. The ultrasound was scheduled for Monday when I started to bleed on the Friday before. I panicked and raced to the emergency room.

young african nurse comforting female patient in doctor’s office

Emergency Room Doctors Suck

What happened next was a disaster. As my husband and I sat there, crying inconsolably, eventually the ER resident came in. He was awful. The jerk made a joke about not being very good with the ultrasound machine. Then, he did a quick scan of my stomach and said: “Either you’re having a miscarriage, in which case there’s nothing we can do to stop it. Or you’re not, in which case you’re fine and can go home. Try and have a relaxing weekend and you’ll find out more at your ultrasound on Monday.” Did I mention this was the Mother’s Day weekend, just six months after our twins were stillborn?

I didn’t find out more at my ultrasound – ultrasound technicians are told they can’t disclose any information. I had to wait a couple days more for the confirmation that I was having a miscarriage from my family doctor. Telling me I had a blighted ovum was actually a huge relief! I realized that I hadn’t done anything to kill my baby, which is not logical but makes total sense to any mother who’s had multiple losses.

The next time I was pregnant, it was another blighted ovum, but this time I found out much sooner because I had an ultrasound at 7 weeks. I can’t say it was a ‘good’ experience, but it was definitely better for my mental health because I didn’t invest myself emotionally until I heard that heartbeat. I waited until I was sure there was a baby in there. There was plenty of time to be anxious later.

Time to fix health care for miscarriage

Today, I’m working on fixing that experience for other women. I’m part of a group of health care professionals and patients who are setting standards for care of early pregnancy loss. Doctors like that unfeeling ER resident won’t be able to treat other women like that again. Are you in Ontario? Find out more about the Early Pregnancy Loss Standard through Health Care Quality Ontario. They’ll be looking for your feedback, so please check back frequently!

Image credit: James Palinsad on flickr.com used under Creative Commons License

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About the Author:

Amanda Ross-White
Amanda Ross-White’s first pregnancy ended in the stillbirth of her twins, Nathaniel and Samuel, in 2007. Since then, she has had two miscarriages, and two successful pregnancies, her daughter born safe in 2009 and her son in 2012. She is also the author of Joy at the End of the Rainbow: A Guide to Pregnancy After a Loss.

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