If you’ve received a positive pregnancy test result, you’re likely experiencing a range of emotions.
You also know you have some important decisions to make, such as whether to continue the pregnancy or have an abortion. But while you may feel a sense of urgency, it is a good idea to take the time to be well-informed before making a decision about a medical procedure.
One of the first things you need to know is whether your pregnancy is viable. If a non-living pregnancy is discovered, women who were considering termination are able to avoid the expense and potential trauma of abortion.
In this article, we’ll talk about what a viable pregnancy is, some common types of nonviable pregnancy, and how to find out if your pregnancy is able to continue for a full nine-month term.
Pregnancy Viability and Miscarriage
Your pregnancy is viable if the baby is alive, developing properly, and the pregnancy is able to continue all the way until your baby is ready to be born.
A miscarriage is any unintentional loss of your child before he or she is able to survive outside of the womb. The March of Dimes estimates that as many as 50% of all pregnancies end in miscarriage, and most miscarriages occur very early on, before you even know you are pregnant.
Of known pregnancies, as many as 25% end in miscarriage, and 80% of all miscarriages happen in the first trimester, or within 12 weeks of the mother’s last menstrual period.
What causes miscarriage? There are many potential factors that increase your risk, according to WebMD:
- Hormonal abnormalities
- A compromised immune system
- Maternal health conditions such as diabetes
- Uterine abnormalities
- Age — women over 35 are more likely to miscarry
- A history of past miscarriages
- Having had an abortion
Women who have a miscarriage may experience one or more of the following symptoms:
- Unexpected bleeding that may be light or heavy
- Abdominal pain
- Back pain
Three common forms of nonviable pregnancy include ectopic pregnancy, molar pregnancy, and blighted ovum.
With a normal pregnancy, one of your ovaries releases an egg, which is then fertilized in one of your fallopian tubes by a sperm from your baby’s father. Your baby then travels down the fallopian tube and implants in your uterus where he or she will grow for the next nine months until he or she is ready to be born.
In the case of ectopic pregnancy, also called a tubal pregnancy, the baby implants in the fallopian tube instead of the uterus. This is a life-threatening condition that requires immediate medical attention once discovered. It is usually discovered by the 8th week after your last menstrual period.
A woman’s risk of ectopic pregnancy increases with the following factors:
- Use of intrauterine devices or other forms of birth control
- Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID)
- STDs such as gonorrhea, chlamydia, or syphilis
- Congenital abnormalities of your fallopian tubes
- Scarring from pelvic surgery
- Previous ectopic pregnancies
- Unsuccessful tubal ligation
- Use of fertility drugs
- Having had an abortion
Signs of ectopic pregnancy can include one or more of the following symptoms:
- Vaginal bleeding
- Nausea and vomiting
- Abdominal pain, especially on one side of your abdomen
- Dizziness or weakness
- Pain in your shoulder, neck, or rectum
- Internal bleeding if your fallopian tube ruptures
A molar pregnancy occurs when a fertilized egg develops into an abnormal growth instead of a baby. There are two types of molar pregnancy:
- Complete molar pregnancy is when an abnormal egg containing no genetic information gets fertilized by a sperm. When the fertilized egg lacks genetic information from the mother, it cannot develop into a baby and instead becomes an abnormal growth in the uterus. The growth often resembles a cluster of grapes in appearance.
- Partial molar pregnancy is when two sperm fertilize a single egg. This causes abnormal placenta development, which prevents the baby from growing properly.
Several factors increase a woman’s risk of molar pregnancy:
- Age — women over 35 are more likely to have one
- Prior molar pregnancies
- Prior miscarriages
- Insufficient Vitamin A, also known as carotene
- Having had an abortion
Molar pregnancy can also lead to trophoblastic disease, in which abnormal tissue continues growing inside the woman’s body even after the initial molar pregnancy ends. Trophoblastic disease can turn into cancer if it is not successfully treated.
Any of the following symptoms could be signs of molar pregnancy:
- Vaginal bleeding
- Larger than normal uterus
- Nausea or vomiting
- Feeling nervous or tired
- Irregular heartbeat
- Sweating abnormally
- Pelvic discomfort
- Vaginal discharge of tissue shaped like grapes
About half of all first trimester miscarriages are caused by a blighted ovum. Also called anembryonic pregnancy, this condition happens when a fertilized egg fails to develop into a baby.
By about 5 to 6 weeks after your last menstrual period, your baby should be clearly visible on an ultrasound. With a blighted ovum, the placenta and pregnancy sac will appear, but no baby will be present.
This heartbreaking condition is usually caused by chromosomal abnormalities or improper cell division immediately after fertilization.
Symptoms of a blighted ovum include the typical symptoms of early pregnancy, along with abdominal cramping, vaginal bleeding, and a heavier than normal period when your body expels the placenta and pregnancy sac.
How Do You Know if Your Pregnancy Is Viable?
If you have a positive pregnancy test result, it’s time to schedule a free ultrasound appointment with Mosaic.
The ultrasound will determine the viability of your pregnancy — primarily whether your baby is present, alive, and developing properly for his or her gestational age.
An ultrasound can also detect any developmental abnormalities affecting you or your baby, along with conditions such as ectopic pregnancy, molar pregnancy, or blighted ovum. If any of these conditions appear, we can refer you to the appropriate medical services for treatment and recovery.
All ultrasounds at Mosaic are performed by licensed sonographers, free of charge and completely confidential — which means your appointment will not show up on insurance documents or be reported to anyone else such as your parents. Your ultrasound can often be performed the same day as your free pregnancy test and initial counseling session.
Only after the viability of your pregnancy is determined can you then consider potential options.
If you’ve recently had a positive pregnancy test, or suspect you may be pregnant, contact Mosaic to schedule a free appointment — we’re here to provide the help you need during this challenging time in your life.