Pregnancy is a very beautiful aspect of life that a lot of people hope to one day experience with their significant other. Although a lot of pregnancies that happen do not encounter a problem, sometimes a medical condition can occur in the unborn child. When a medical condition during pregnancy occurs, it can be devastating to both the people involved. A molar pregnancy is one medical condition that can result in the loss of a fetus and is a very rare abnormality you might have to face if you become pregnant.
A molar pregnancy occurs when there is an abnormality in the placenta which is caused by a problem when the egg and sperm come together. Molar pregnancy occurs during the fertilization process and they are very rare occurring only once in every thousand pregnancies. Molar pregnancy is also known as gestational trophoblastic disease, hydatidiform mole or a mole. A genetic error during fertilization leads to the abnormal growth of tissues inside the uterus. A molar pregnancy does not reach a level of maturity beyond the fertilization stage and will not usually develop into an embryo. Normal fetal growth is not seen during molar pregnancy and the tissues develop at a faster rate. When you have a molar pregnancy you will have a cluster of tissues and cells that resemble grapes instead of normal developing cells and tissues. Molar pregnancy consists of two types of pregnancies which are known as complete and partial.
A complete molar pregnancy is when there is no real baby involved and there are only placental parts. A complete molar pregnancy occurs when the sperm ends up fertilizing an empty egg, which is why there is no baby formed during this process. The placenta will grow and you will produce the pregnancy hormones which will make you think you are pregnant. This means that a pregnancy test will show you are pregnant but when you go to an ultrasound you will find out there is no baby in the placenta.
A partial mole pregnancy happens when there is a mass that contains both abnormal cells and an embryo. The embryo will have severe defects and the masses will take over the fetus at a very rapid rate. Sometimes twins can be conceived in this manner where one fetus will develop normally and the other one will be taken over by the abnormal masses. The abnormal masses will consume the baby with the defects which means the fetus will die in the placenta. Molar pregnancy is a very rare occurrence but there are some risk factors that can increase your odds of getting this condition.
The United States does not have a lot of molar pregnancy cases and it is more commonly found in Southeast Asia and the Philippines. In the United States, a Caucasian woman is more likely to develop a molar pregnancy than an African-American woman. Having a prior molar pregnancy or being over 40 years old after conception also increase your risk. Having a previous miscarriage can also be a risk factor for developing a molar pregnancy. If you have a molar pregnancy you will also have some abnormal pregnancy symptoms and will have a lot of warning signs that something just is not right.
During a molar pregnancy you will experience bleeding or spotting as well as nausea and vomiting, which are a common pregnancy symptom. Rare conditions such as thyroid disease will also develop in someone carrying a molar pregnancy. High blood pressure is common in pregnancy but during a molar pregnancy it will be much earlier than it should be. The levels of the pregnancy hormone will be higher than in a normal pregnancy and there will also be no heart rate or movement of the fetus. Sometimes knowing these symptoms is not enough to know whether you have a molar pregnancy. A molar pregnancy might not be detected until you go to the doctor.
At the doctor you will have a pelvic exam and it can reveal whether or not you have a small or large uterus. The ovaries will be enlarged and the pregnancy hormone levels will be higher which are usually tested at the doctor’s office. A grape-like cluster will also be seen on the sonogram which will alert the doctor to an abnormal placenta. Once you go to the doctor and get a confirmed diagnosis of a molar pregnancy, you can then proceed with treatment.
Treatment for a molar pregnancy sometimes does not have to happen because the pregnancy will terminate itself. Most of the time a molar pregnancy will abort itself before it reaches embryo stage so there usually is nothing to treat. A molar pregnancy can also be treated at the doctor’s office where they will do a procedure while you are under anesthesia. Suction and curettage might be an option or dilation and evacuation will be used. Medications might also be used to treat the molar pregnancy which will allow your body to naturally end the pregnancy. Most women do not require any treatment after the molar pregnancy is removed although follow-up with your doctor might be needed to monitor the hormone levels. Your doctor might also want to do a follow-up evaluation to make sure the mole is removed so that another does not appear. Sometimes a mole can appear and be cancerous which might infect other parts of the body. Most women however do not experience any abnormal symptoms after it is removed and they do not need any other treatments.
Molar pregnancy is something that you should not feel guilty about ending because it occurs before the embryo stage of development. Although molar pregnancy terminates before a fetus is actually developing, it might be something you need help getting through. Molar pregnancy is a rare medical condition that can affect anyone but knowing the risk factors can greatly decrease your odds of developing it. It is always a good idea to talk with a medical professional if you think you are pregnant so you can get tested for medical conditions like molar pregnancy. A molar pregnancy is different than an abortion because it can seriously risk your health and cause a continuing risk to your health and fertility. Having a continued risk to your health or fertility is why you need to keep all follow-up appointments with your doctor.
Sandy Jocoy, RN, “Molar Pregnancy”, WebMD