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Medically, molar pregnancy is called gestational trophoblastic disease or GTD and is known to affect more than 1 million women in India every year. The lump of tissues that develops is at times known as hydatidiform mole and is usually non-cancerous in nature. What is sad here is the fact that there is no preventive measure for a molar pregnancy.
In this article we shall talk about the different types of molar pregnancies and how these are diagnosed and treated.
1. What Is Molar Pregnancy And How Does It Happen?
2. How To Detect Molar Pregnancies?
3. Causes Of Molar Pregnancies
4. Treatment Options
• What Is Molar Pregnancy And How Does It Happen?
In layman's terms we can say that a molar pregnancy is the growth of abnormal mass within the uterus. This mass is a bunch of tissues that tend to grow faster than a normal foetus. In most of the cases, a molar pregnancy does not involve a developing embryo at all. Medical science has categorized molar pregnancies to be of two major types: complete molar pregnancy and partial molar pregnancy.
1. Complete molar pregnancy
This situation occurs when the sperm fertilizes an empty egg. Since the egg is empty, no baby is formed. However, since the fertilization has taken place, the placental part develops like it would normally do and that is why the production of pregnancy hormones would go about normally. In this type of molar pregnancy, an ultrasound at the initial stages itself will be able to confirm the absence of the foetus.
2. Partial molar pregnancy
This is rarer in occurrence as compared to a complete molar pregnancy. Here what happens is that the mass contains both the embryo and the abnormal cells. Due to such a positional alignment, the embryo has severe birth defects.
In most of these cases it is seen that since the growth of the mass of abnormal cells is much faster than that of the foetus, the embryo is soon taken over by the mass and there is abrupt termination of the pregnancy.
In an even rarer version of partial molar pregnancy what happens is that twins are conceived, out of which one of the embryos is a healthy one that develops normally while the other is a mole. Even in this case, due to its accelerated growth rate the mole consumes the healthy embryo and the pregnancy comes to an end.
• How To Detect Molar Pregnancies?
Some of the initial symptoms of molar pregnancy may be very similar to that of a normal pregnancy. This would include hormonal aspects like increased hCG levels as well as the physical aspects like nausea and vomiting.
That is why it is important for you to be on the lookout for more complex symptoms like slight vaginal spotting or bleeding and the complete absence of foetal movement as these are things that will not be associated with a normal pregnancy.
In molar pregnancy you will not be able to detect any heartbeat of the baby. A pelvic examination by the gynaecologist will be able to tell you about the abnormally high amount of hCG in the body. If you have an abnormally small or large uterus (which is again a sign of molar pregnancy) the same can be detected in the course of this test.
Sonogram is another test that is very commonly carried out on pregnant women. If a woman has a molar pregnancy, a sonogram will report the appearance of a 'cluster of grapes' which in turn will signify an abnormal placenta.
• Causes Of Molar Pregnancies
This is a genetic condition and you are at a higher risk of this if you or any of your near relatives have suffered from this condition in the past. Long-term use of birth control pills in the past or having had multiple miscarriages are also known causes of molar pregnancies. Women who are less than 20 years of age or above 35 are also at a higher risk for this condition.
• Treatment Options
There are two ways to treat molar pregnancy. If you do not wish to get pregnant ever again, the best way out would be to go for a hysterectomy wherein the uterus is removed from the female body. However, if you want to get pregnant in the future, you may choose to go for dilation and curettage which is commonly known as D&C.
Here, the gynaecologist will use special tools to cut a small opening in your cervix and the mass of tissues will be removed from the uterus through this. Although this procedure does not usually lead to complications, the doctor may still ask you to go for a routine check-up for a couple of months after the procedure.
During such procedures, blood tests will be conducted on you in order to make sure that your hCG levels are back to normal so that you do not have problems conceiving in the future.
By now you must be well aware of the basics of molar pregnancy. Understand that even if such a thing does strike you it is possible to have a safe and healthy pregnancy after appropriate treatment and start a family. All you have to do is understand this condition, opt for appropriate treatment and never lose hope in the process.