A Question of Health

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Q. I have just had a miscarriage and been told that I had a "molar pregnancy" that couldn't have survived. As this is my first pregnancy, I am concerned the same thing will happen again. Can you explain what causes a "molar pregnancy"?

Q. I have just had a miscarriage and been told that I had a "molar pregnancy" that couldn't have survived. As this is my first pregnancy, I am concerned the same thing will happen again. Can you explain what causes a "molar pregnancy"?

A. In a molar pregnancy (sometimes called a hydatidiform mole) something goes seriously wrong at the time of fertilisation of the egg by the sperm. Although the pregnancy seems to be progressing normally at first, in fact the placenta is growing abnormally, but the foetus is either not present at all, or not developing. Once a molar pregnancy is discovered - usually at the time of an ultrasound scan - the abnormal placenta has to be removed. Because there is a small risk of the abnormal placental tissue continuing to grow within the uterus, or even to spread to other parts of the body, every woman who has a molar pregnancy is followed up for at least six months with regular blood and urine tests. If the mole disappears quickly, you can try for another pregnancy after six months. There is a small chance (about 1 in 75) of the same thing happening in a future pregnancy, so you will need careful monitoring. You can find out more by getting in touch with the Hydatidiform Mole & Choriocarcinoma UK Information and Support Service (www.hmole-chorio.org.uk).

Q. How can I arrange to donate my body to medical research? I am worried that if I put my request in my will, no one will read the will until after I am buried.

A. If you want to donate your body to medical research, you should get in contact with HM Inspector of Anatomy, Department of Health, Wellington House, 133-155, Waterloo Road, London, SE1 8UG. Not all bodies are accepted. Consideration is given to the place and cause of death and the condition of the body at the time of death. When a body is used for teaching purposes, it may be kept for up to three years. The medical school will pay for a simple funeral, or relatives can do this themselves.

Q. My last blood-pressure reading was 140/80, but my pulse is uneven. The nurse at my practice is concerned, but the GP says so long as the pressure is OK, the pulse is not important. I recently had an episode of extreme pallor, feeling very unwell, with a very slow pulse. I am 84. Should I seek further advice?

A. I have to agree with your nurse, and I disagree with your doctor. Your blood pressure is fine, but an irregular or uneven pulse, together with episodes of pallor and a slow pulse, makes me think that all might not be well with your heart. I would suggest that you ask to see either a heart specialist or a physician who specialises in the medical problems of older people. One of the possible complications of an irregular pulse is a stroke, so it is important to do everything possible to try and prevent this.

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