Gestational Trophoblastic Disease – Know the Signs and Symptoms

Gestational trophoblastic disease (GTD) is a group of conditions related to pregnancy that develop within a woman’s uterus (womb). The abnormal cells begin in the tissue, which would usually be the placenta. 

A woman’s body prepares for pregnancy after birth by covering the newly fertilized egg or embryo with a layer of cells called the trophoblast. It helps to implant the embryo onto the uterine wall itself. In GTD, the trophoblast cells are undergoing abnormal changes that enable tumors to grow. 

During these types of pregnancies, a baby may or may not develop. Read on to know the signs and symptoms of GTD.

Gestational Trophoblastic Disease - Know the Signs and Symptoms
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Signs and Symptoms

Tell your doctor about any unusual signs you encounter during pregnancy. Your doctor may suspect you have GTD based on a standard set of signs and symptoms.

Vaginal Bleeding

Nearly all women with complete hydatidiform moles experience frequent vaginal bleeding during pregnancy. With partial moles, it occurs much less frequently. Bleeding usually begins during the first trimester of pregnancy (13 weeks). 

Women with GTD often pass through blood clots or watery brown vaginal discharge. More often, parts of the mole that resemble a grape cluster get dislodged from the uterus and released through the vagina. 

This bleeding also prompts the doctor to prescribe an ultrasound that can help diagnose a molar pregnancy.

Abdominal Swelling

In a complete molar pregnancy, the uterus and abdomen (belly) may get bigger faster than they do in a healthy pregnancy. 

Abnormal uterine enlargement happens in around 1 out of 4 women with complete moles but only in women with partial moles. Also, this may not be seen early in pregnancy and can be seen in the second trimester more frequently. 

HCG, a tumor-made hormone, may cause the formation of fluid-filled cysts (called theca lutein cysts) in the ovaries, which may be large and may also lead to abdominal swelling.

Severe Vomiting

During a typical pregnancy, many women experience nausea and vomiting. However, with GTD, the vomiting may be more frequent and more intense than usual. 

Most signs associated with complete moles, such as excessive vomiting or an overactive thyroid gland, seldom happen with partial moles, if ever.

Pain and Mass in the Pelvic Area

Some of the tumor cells may die in larger tumors, creating an environment where bacteria can develop. It can develop an infection that can cause vaginal discharge, pelvic cramps, and fever. 

These tumors can also spread to the vagina at times, causing vaginal bleeding or pus-like discharge. During a pelvic exam, the doctor can also find a cancerous growth on the vagina.


Gestational Trophoblastic Disease - Know the Signs and Symptoms

Pre-eclampsia (toxemia pregnancy) can happen as a risk of normal pregnancy (generally in the third trimester). It can be a sign of full molar pregnancy when it arrives earlier in pregnancy (like during the first or early second trimester). 

It can cause conditions such as high blood pressure, headache, abnormal reflexes, swelling in the hands or feet, and excessive leakage of protein in the urine. It affects a small percentage of women with complete moles but is unusual in women with partial moles.


Many of GTD’s signs and symptoms may also be related to other conditions. The symptoms enumerated above are also associated with many other conditions relating to gynecology and pregnancy. 

But, if you have any of these, it’s vital to see the doctor right away so that, if possible, the cause can be identified and handled. GTD diagnosis requires checking the medical history and taking a general physical examination. Your health during pregnancy should always be monitored.