Last Updated: March 28, 2019

Definition - What does Miscarriage mean?

A miscarriage is the loss of a pregnancy prior to 20 weeks gestation. A miscarriage is a common occurrence. It is estimated that 10-25% of all ultrasound verified pregnancies, called clinical pregnancies, end in a miscarriage. Miscarriages typically occur with the first 13 weeks of a pregnancy.

A miscarriage is also known as a spontaneous abortion, primarily within the medical community. A spontaneous abortion happens involuntarily within the body as opposed to a medical abortion or a surgical abortion, which are elective procedures to terminate a pregnancy.

FertilitySmarts explains Miscarriage

Signs that a miscarriage is occurring include lower back pain, cramp-like contractions, vaginal bleeding, passing blood clots or tissue from the vagina, and an abrupt absence of pregnancy symptoms. If a pregnant woman experiences any of these symptoms, she should contact her physician for immediate evaluation. However, once a miscarriage has begun, there is no way to save the pregnancy.

There are multiple causes of miscarriage, however the most common explanation for the loss of an early pregnancy is a genetic complication. When this occurs it indicates the fetus was developing with abnormal chromosomes, which can be caused by hereditary problems, or issues with the egg or sperm cell that initiated the pregnancy. Other causes of miscarriage include:

  • Anatomic development, such as a misshaped uterus, or the presence of fibroids (growths in the uterus) can prevent a fetus from developing properly.
  • Medical conditions, such as diabetes, autoimmune diseases, thyroid diseases, or infectious diseases.
  • Lifestyle or environmental factors, such as smoking, high body mass index (BMI), drug use, and caffeine or alcohol intake.

Treatment during a miscarriage focuses on reducing the risk of infection or heavy bleeding. In some cases, the body will expel all of the fetal tissue. However, in other cases, such as an incomplete abortion, the woman may need to undergo a dilation and curettage (D&C), a minor surgical procedure to remove the remaining tissues.

A miscarriage is an emotionally challenging incident that may take time to mentally recover from. Women or couples who experience a miscarriage should be provided support and resources to address the emotional complications of the experience.

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