A molar pregnancy can happen when something goes wrong in the early stages of fertilisation that means that the baby and placenta don’t develop properly. We don’t yet fully understand all the reasons but we do know that molar pregnancies are not caused by anything you or your partner have or haven’t done.
There are two main types of molar pregnancy
Complete molar pregnancy
The fertilised egg of a healthy pregnancy is made up of 23 chromosomes from the mother and 23 chromosomes from the father.
In a complete molar pregnancy, genetic material from the mother is lost at the time of fertilisation. The egg contains only 23 chromosomes from the father and no chromosomes from the mother at all. This means that there is no baby.
The placenta develops rapidly with abnormal cells that grow as cysts. These cysts grow in clusters and can be seen on ultrasound. They are referred to as a mole.
Partial molar pregnancy
In a partial molar pregnancy the egg has the usual 23 chromosomes from the mother but is fertilised by two sperm, each with 23 chromosomes which makes 69 chromosomes in total rather than the normal 46.
Some normal placental tissue forms among the abnormal cells and a baby may begin to develop[FM3] , but it will be genetically abnormal and unable to live beyond 3 months.
Symptoms of a molar pregnancy
In many cases there may be no signs of a molar pregnancy and it may go undetected until your routine ultrasound scan at 11-13 weeks.
However, if you’re pregnant, these symptoms can be a sign of molar pregnancy:
- Bleeding from the vagina which is dark and irregular
- Severe morning sickness
- Quicker growth around the tummy
- Some tummy pain
Factors that increase the risk
- If you’re younger than 20 or older than 35
- A previous history of molar pregnancy, particularly if you’ve had more than two
- A low intake of carotene (a form of vitamin A)
- Ovulatory disorders such as Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)
- Living in or coming from certain areas – molar pregnancies are more common for women in Southeast Asia but we still don’t know why
Treatment for molar pregnancy
If a molar pregnancy is suspected, it is likely that you will be referred to a specialist centre to manage the condition.
An ultrasound scan and a blood test will be carried out to confirm the diagnosis.
Once diagnosed, it may be necessary to remove the abnormal cells with a surgical procedure under general anaesthetic. The procedure is sometimes called SMM (Surgical Management of Miscarriage) or D&C (Dilatation and Curettage) or ERPC (Evacuation of Retained Products of Conception.)
If you need surgery, you will be taken into a quiet room and the treatment options will be explained to you in detail.
After the treatment, you will experience bleeding that may continue for up to six weeks after surgery and may be heavy and red at first. Some of the cells removed during treatment will be sent to the laboratory for testing and your pregnancy hormones (hCGs: human chorionic gonadotropins) will be monitored for at least six months in case they do not return to normal. Around one in ten women see no reduction in pregnancy hormones, and suffer a condition called persistent gestational trophoblastic disease, which means that abnormal molar cells continue to grow inside the womb. Fortunately treatment is available.
Will I still be able to have a baby in the future?
Yes, you have every chance of going on to have a normal pregnancy next time. The risk of another molar pregnancy is only about 1-2 percent.
With treatment and routine follow-ups, a molar pregnancy shouldn’t cause any problem to your long-term physical health.
However, likely to have to wait a while after your pregnancy hormones return to normal before trying again. You’re advised to avoid pregnancy for six months from the end of treatment if the initial surgery is successful, or 12 months from the end of treatment if you had additional medical therapy.
How you may feel about a molar pregnancy
Whilst all miscarriages are distressing, a molar pregnancy is unusual in that it brings shocks and anxieties over many months. Waiting for confirmation that any abnormal molar cells are eliminated and your pregnancy hormones are returned to normal, can make you feel like you’re in limbo. You may feel unable to grieve properly for the loss of your pregnancy. The process of finding out how things are progressing stage by stage can feel like a series of blows and the wait to conceive again can be stressful.
It’s important you don’t feel alone in your sadness or anxiety. Remember that most patients with successfully treated molar pregnancies subsequently go on to conceive healthy babies without any problems.
It’s important you don’t feel alone in your sadness or anxiety. Remember that a molar pregnancy doesn’t impact on your future fertility and the vast majority of women go on to have a healthy pregnancy afterwards.
Letting your miscarriage happen naturally is also called ‘expectant management.’
If the medical option hasn’t been completely successful, or if you are bleeding heavily or have an infection, you may be advised to have surgery.
If you have a missed or incomplete miscarriage, you will be offered the option to take some medicine to help the miscarriage to get underway.
Katie sadly lost two babies before falling pregnant with her third child. In this piece, Katie speaks of the heartbreak she faced, and reflects on her road to recovery.
Our journey is ongoing but I hope maybe it can help people to see that it's not all bad. We only experience grief if we loved and that is to be celebrated!
What do you say to someone who's just lost a baby, even if it was never and could never have been a baby?
Certainly not things like "maybe it was for the best" or "Maybe your not ready for another just yet".
- Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, Management of gestational trophoblastic disease, guideline 38, London RCOG, 2010
- Trophoblastic Tumour Screening and Treatment Centre, Information for patients with molar pregnancies or choriocarcinoma, London Charing CrossHospital, 2013. Also available at: http://www.hmole-chorio.org.uk/index.html (accessed 22 April 2014)
ℹLast reviewed on August 1st, 2016. Next review date August 1st, 2019.
By OBP85 (not verified) on 2 Sep 2019 - 16:41
Just commenting generally on the unfairness of molar pregnancy. When you’re still reeling from the news of your miscarriage, to find out you’re potentially being considered for chemotherapy left me blindsided. I want a baby but I have zero excitement about being pregnant again! Wishing all the women and their partners looking at this page luck for the future and courage to complete their monitoring programmes or treatment and carry on.
By Anonymous (not verified) on 26 Aug 2019 - 18:39
I recently had a molar pregnancy got a d&c done last Monday I just ready to have a baby again should I be concerned about ttc again
By Eleanor (not verified) on 29 Sep 2019 - 23:50
Oh Honey, I feel your pain. I had a molar pregnancy (incomplete) diagnosed at 12 weeks following an horrendous early pregnancy with morning sickness off the scale. I underwent ERPC and had follow up for 12 months or so. This was 20 years ago. I went on to have 2 healthy daughters. You never forget but you do get to appreciate the small things in life like the fact that no health professional will ever dismiss your concerns because you have had one of the really rare and awful things happen. You will always worry I think, more than most but the outcome will hopefully be worth the worry. The very best of luck to you.
By Anonymous (not verified) on 22 Jun 2019 - 14:06
l was diagnose of molar pregnancy after the treatment am still feeling pain out d corner side of my left Tommy l went for scan they said that they can't find any thing that my womb is okay and am still feeling the pains pls what will I do
By Lydia (not verified) on 23 May 2019 - 10:49
Hi my name is Lydia two months ago I had amolar pregnancy please help me the folic tablets to use so that I can get ababe please
By Anonymous (not verified) on 15 Dec 2018 - 21:42
I had a d&c due to a missed miscarriage on 9th Nov. I got negative pregnancy test within two weeks and used condoms as contraception. Got called in for an appointment 3 weeks after d&c to be told it was partial molar. I was still having strings of negative tests. 12th Dec, morning of first hcg testing for charing cross, i did a test for myself too and i had a very faint positive. And now the positives are getting darker by the day. I know i ovulated on 30th Nov and was expecting my first period yesterday. Im so scared it might be the molar returning or scared its a new accidental pregnancy and it will end in a miscarriage again. Dont know what to do!
By Midwife @Tommys on 20 Dec 2018 - 10:25
I think it is more likely that this is a new pregnancy. Just make sure that you are looking after yourself and taking folic acid. You can get all the information you need for early pregnancy on this site.
By BEE (not verified) on 12 Oct 2018 - 21:20
I Like to ask a question about a molar pregnency, Woman can become Molar pregnent Although did not do sex? The reason Why Im asking that It because my Partner Have A Molar Pregnent but we do not do sex? Please Help
By Midwife @Tommys on 15 Oct 2018 - 15:26
No, A molar pregnancy involves a fertilised egg which doesn't form correctly.
By Anon (not verified) on 10 Sep 2018 - 06:15
I had a miscarraige at 5 weeks, what was considered a chemical pregnancy. I was told because the physical effects we're very moderate in that early stage it was ok to start trying again right away. I got pregnant right away. I'm now around week 5 again and this morning I had a little bleeding. Very light and it stopped on it's own. My belly feels sensative, almost like cramps but more of just a consistent tenderness. What does this mean? Am I having another miscarraige? Thank you for your help
By Midwife @Tommys on 12 Sep 2018 - 12:45
If you have any bleeding or pain I would advise that you contact your local early pregnancy unit or A+E as soon as possible for further advice-they may recommend that you go to the hospital for further assessment and exclude any serious problems
By Anonymous (not verified) on 6 Nov 2017 - 15:48
Have been bleeding since Thursday, woke up with pains abdominal pains nd a lil blood used pain relief, but by the following day I was having this blood flow. Dark and having small small particles.
By Midwife @Tommys on 6 Nov 2017 - 15:57
I would need a little more information in order to help you. Please feel able to call us on 0800 0147 800 to speak to a midwife. We are here during the week 9-5pm