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Screening for molar pregnancy

Read about how routine ultrasound during pregnancy picks up molar pregnancy.

What molar pregnancy is

A molar pregnancy occurs when the fertilisation of the egg by the sperm goes wrong and leads to the growth of abnormal cells or clusters of water filled sacs inside the womb. This condition is a type of gestational trophoblastic disease (GTD).

What screening is

Screening means testing people for early stages of an illness before they have any symptoms. For screening to be useful the tests:

  • must be reliable at picking up the illness
  • must be simple and quick
  • overall must do more good than harm to people taking part

Checking for molar pregnancy

The best way to pick up a molar pregnancy early is to have the routine antenatal care provided by your doctor and midwife during pregnancy. They closely monitor you and do various tests to make sure your baby is developing normally.

Early in your pregnancy you have an ultrasound scan to look for any abnormalities. This means that most molar pregnancies are picked up at a very early stage. Ultrasound scans are a good way of diagnosing a complete molar pregnancy, but they are not so good at picking up partial molar pregnancies.

Partial molar pregnancies are still likely to be picked up by other routine tests, such as blood tests. Your doctor will also do tests for molar pregnancy if you have any abnormal symptoms, such as being very large for your dates or small for dates.

Tests after miscarriage or abortion

If you have a miscarriage or abortion, doctors also check the foetal tissue and placenta for any abnormalities. This is a common way for a partial molar pregnancy to be diagnosed.

Talk to your GP if you think you are at higher than average risk of molar pregnancy.

Information and help

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