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Tests for molar pregnancy

Men and women discussing gestational trophoblastic tumours

This page tells you about diagnosing molar pregnancy. There is information about

 

A quick guide to what's on this page

Blood and urine tests

In pregnancy your placenta produces a hormone called human chorionic gonadotrophin (hCG). In a molar pregnancy hCG levels are higher than normal. Measuring the hCG in your blood and urine can help diagnose a molar pregnancy. It also plays an important part in monitoring your treatment for molar pregnancy.

Ultrasound scan

An ultrasound scan can diagnose many women with a molar pregnancy.

Surgery to remove the molar pregnancy (D and C)

If an ultrasound scan shows that you have a molar pregnancy, you will probably need to have an operation to remove the abnormal tissue from your womb. This operation is known as a dilatation and curettage (D and C). A diagnosis of a molar pregnancy is confirmed by looking at tissue from your womb under a microscope.

Checking your placenta

It is routine after the birth of a baby to look at the placenta carefully to check that it is healthy. A doctor also routinely examines the tissue under a microscope if you’ve had a miscarriage or ectopic pregnancy.

If you need further tests

Most women will not need further tests, but your doctor might want you to have more tests to see if there is any spread of the abnormal cells to other parts of your body.

 

CR PDF Icon You can view and print the quick guides for all the pages in the diagnosing molar pregnancy section.

 

 

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. It is a type of gestational trophoblastic tumour.

 

Blood and urine tests

When you are pregnant, the placenta produces a hormone called human chorionic gonadotrophin (hCG). It helps the baby to develop. It isn’t normally present in women who aren’t pregnant. The placenta releases hCG into your bloodstream and your body gets rid of the rest in your urine.

HCG is also produced by a molar pregnancy and can be at higher levels than normal. So measuring the levels of hCG in your blood and urine can sometimes help to diagnose a molar pregnancy. It also plays an important part in monitoring your treatment for molar pregnancy and in picking up any abnormal cells that come back after treatment.

Your doctor may also do blood tests to check for signs of anaemia and to see how well your liver and kidneys are working.

 

Ultrasound scan

An ultrasound scan can diagnose many women with a molar pregnancy. With a normal pregnancy, your scan will show a picture of the baby developing inside your womb. But with a complete molar pregnancy a scan can show the typical grape like shape of a molar pregnancy. In a partial molar pregnancy the ultrasound may look nearly normal or show a failing pregnancy.

 

Surgery to remove the molar pregnancy (D and C)

If an ultrasound scan shows that you have a molar pregnancy, you will need to have a simple operation to remove the abnormal tissue from your womb. This operation is known as a D and C. This stands for dilatation and curettage. A diagnosis of a molar pregnancy is confirmed by looking at tissue from your womb under a microscope. There is information about a D and C in the section about surgery for molar pregnancy.

If your doctors suspect that you have a partial molar pregnancy, they may sometimes suggest that you take a tablet, instead of having surgery to empty the womb. The tablet makes your womb contract and empty. Medical staff call this a medical evacuation.

 

Checking your placenta

It is routine after the birth of a baby to look at the placenta carefully to check that it is healthy. A doctor also routinely examines the tissue under a microscope if you’ve had a miscarriage or ectopic pregnancy.

 

Further tests

Most women will not need any other tests but your doctor might want you to have more tests to see if there is any spread of the abnormal cells to other parts of your body. There is information about these further tests in the persistent trophoblastic disease and choriocarcinoma section.

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Updated: 15 June 2016