Pregnancy: What Is A Molar Pregnancy?

One in a thousand women may find out they have a molar pregnancy? What is it, and what are the symptoms and effects?

As I was getting my first sonogram during the eleventh week of my first pregnancy, my husband and I waited anxiously to see our new baby on the screen. My husband had already pressed record on the video camera to capture this moment, and as my doctor pressed down on my stomach, I saw the look on her face change. She asked if we knew anything about molar pregnancies. As this was to be our first baby, we had heard nothing of the sort, and I struggled to think back on all the things I had read about in one of the dozen or so pregnancy books I had purchased. From the look on her face, I had gathered that a molar pregnancy was not exactly desirable. What is it, and what are the symptoms and risks?

Although rare, molar pregnancies do occur once in every thousand births in the United States, and there is a higher risk with those of Mexican, Southeast Asian or Filipino descent. A molar pregnancy can be one of two types. The first type of molar pregnancy is called a complete molar (this is what I had). In this case, a sperm attempts to fertilize an egg that is empty. No baby is ever created because you need both a sperm and an egg to procreate. During my sonogram, my obstetrician showed me that the sac which should have held the baby was extremely small and empty, and surrounding the sac was a placenta. It is this growing placenta, in fact, that begins to emit HCG, otherwise known as the pregnancy hormone. This is what caused my pregnancy test to come back positive, and this is what also caused me to experience common pregnancy symptoms like sore breasts and nausea. The second type of molar pregnancy is called a partial molar. In this scenario, two sperm actually fertilize a normal egg. What usually occurs when this takes place is a twin pregnancy. However, in a partial molar, what occurs is the creation of a placenta and fetus, both of which are abnormal. Since the fetus accrues more chromosomes than it needs, it usually dies.

When one is diagnosed with a molar pregnancy, it is not uncommon to think, "What did I do wrong?" Molar pregnancies are not a result of a pregnant woman's lifestyle. They sometimes just happen. The symptoms of a molar pregnancy include bleeding or spotting, nausea and vomiting. Thus, this makes a molar pregnancy hard to distinguish for some women since these are often the signs of a normal pregnancy. A molar pregnancy is often discovered during an ultrasound. The uterus will either be too large or too small. The ovaries will appear larger than normal, and the placenta will also appear abnormal.


In order to treat a molar pregnancy, the patient will have to get a D & C, otherwise known as dilation and curettage. This procedure requires the patient to undergo anesthesia while the uterus is cleaned out. The tissue that is removed during this procedure will then be sent off to a lab to get tested. Before the procedure, you will more than likely get blood work done to test your current HCG level. Your doctor will schedule several visits with you after this procedure to continue testing your levels to make sure that a molar pregnancy does not occur again. For women who still wish to try having children, the chances of having another molar pregnancy are only one in one hundred. Also, your doctor will probably do an ultrasound earlier in the next pregnancy to make sure it is not another molar pregnancy.

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