Miscarriage refers to the premature end of a pregnancy before the developing baby is able to survive outside the uterus. Miscarriage can occur during the first or second trimester, before 20 weeks. Most occur in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. They often are unexpected and isolated events. About 15%-20% of recognized pregnancies end this way.
Fetus in First Trimester
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Miscarriages often occur for the following reasons:
In some cases, the cause of miscarriage is unknown.
Miscarriages are more common in women 35 years and older. Other factors that may increase your chance of having a miscarriage include:
A miscarriage during your first pregnancy may place you at a higher risk for complications during your next pregnancy. These complications may include:
Miscarriage may cause:
While miscarriage usually is a one-time occurrence, up to 1 in 20 couples experience 2 miscarriages in a row, and 1 in 100 have 3 or more. In some cases, these couples have an underlying problem. Couples who have experienced two or more miscarriages should have a complete medical evaluation to learn the cause and how they can prevent another one from occurring.
Cause of repeat miscarriages may include:
You will be asked about your symptoms, the length of your pregnancy, and when you first noticed a change in your condition. Physical and pelvic exams.
Prior to miscarriage, tests may include:
After miscarriage, tests may include:
Imaging tests may be used to evaluate the uterus and surrounding structures. These may include:
Immediate care usually involves observation only, especially in early or first trimester miscarriages. Medication may be indicated in the event of heavy bleeding or cramping.
A dilation and evacuation (D&E) may be needed if uterine contents are not spontaneously passed through the vagina. During a D&E, the doctor dilates the cervix, inserts a tool into the uterus, and suctions out remaining material.
To help you deal with your loss, the doctor may refer you to a counselor. You may also benefit from participating in a support group .
Before you start to plan your next pregnancy consider the following regarding your health:
If a specific cause of the miscarriage was found, certain treatments may help prevent future miscarriages. Treatments may include:
March of Dimes
The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists
The Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada
Women's Health Matters
First trimester pregnancy loss. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T113658/First-trimester-pregnancy-loss. Updated September 15, 2016. Accessed September 28, 2016.
Miscarriage. American Pregnancy Association website. Available at: http://americanpregnancy.org/pregnancy-complications/miscarriage. Updated August 2015. Accessed October 7, 2015.
Miscarriage. March of Dimes website. Available at: http://www.marchofdimes.com/loss/miscarriage.aspx. Updated July 2012. Accessed October 7, 2015.
Second trimester pregnancy loss. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T904101/Second-trimester-pregnancy-loss. Updated February 5, 2016. Accessed September 28, 2016.
Recurrent pregnancy loss. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T116364/Recurrent-pregnancy-loss. Updated February 5, 2016. Accessed September 28, 2016.
12/2/2008 DynaMed Plus Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T904411/Risk-factors-for-first-and-second-trimester-pregnancy-loss: Winther JF, Boice JD Jr, Svendsen AL, Frederiksen K, Stovall M, Olsen JH. Spontaneous abortion in a Danish population-based cohort of childhood cancer survivors. J Clin Oncol. 2008;26:4340-4346.
4/16/2009 DynaMed Plus Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T113658/First-trimester-pregnancy-loss: Bhattacharya S, Townend J, Shetty A, Campbell D, Bhattacharya S. Does miscarriage in an initial pregnancy lead to adverse obstetric and perinatal outcomes in the next continuing pregnancy? BJOG. 2008;115:1623-1629.
6/25/2010 DynaMed Plus Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T904411/Risk-factors-for-first-and-second-trimester-pregnancy-loss: Nakhai-Pour HR, Broy P, Bérard A. Use of antidepressants during pregnancy and the risk of spontaneous abortion. CMAJ. 2010;182(10):1031-1037
Last reviewed September 2016 by Michael Woods, MD, FAAP
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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