|Synonyms||Spontaneous abortion, early pregnancy loss|
|An ultrasound showing a gestational sac containing a yolk sac but no embryo.|
|Specialty||Obstetrics and gynecology|
|Symptoms||Vaginal bleeding with or without pain|
|Complications||Sadness, anxiety, guilt|
|Usual onset||Before 20 weeks of pregnancy|
|Risk factors||Older parent, previous miscarriage, exposure to tobacco smoke, obesity, diabetes, autoimmune diseases, drug or alcohol use|
|Diagnostic method||Examination, human chorionic gonadotropin, ultrasound|
|Similar conditions||Ectopic pregnancy, implantation bleeding.|
|Treatment||None, misoprostol, vacuum aspiration, emotional support|
|Frequency||10-50% of pregnancies|
Miscarriage, also known as spontaneous abortion and pregnancy loss, is the natural death of an embryo or fetus before it is able to survive independently. Some use the cutoff of 20 weeks of gestation, after which fetal death is known as a stillbirth. The most common symptom of a miscarriage is vaginal bleeding with or without pain.Sadness, anxiety and guilt often occur afterwards.Tissue and clot-like material may also come out of the vagina. When a woman keeps having miscarriages, infertility is present.
Risk factors for miscarriage include an older parent, previous miscarriage, exposure to tobacco smoke, obesity, diabetes, thyroid problems, and drug or alcohol use. About 80% of miscarriages occur in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy (the first trimester). The underlying cause in about half of cases involves chromosomal abnormalities. Diagnosis of a miscarriage may involve checking to see if the cervix is open or closed, testing blood levels of human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG), and an ultrasound. Other conditions that can produce similar symptoms include an ectopic pregnancy and implantation bleeding.
Prevention is occasionally possible with good prenatal care. Avoiding drugs, alcohol, infectious diseases, and radiation may prevent miscarriage. No specific treatment is usually needed during the first 7 to 14 days. Most miscarriages will complete without additional interventions. Occasionally the medication misoprostol or a procedure such as vacuum aspiration is used to remove the remaining tissue. Women who have a blood type of rhesus negative (Rh negative) may require Rho(D) immune globulin.Pain medication may be beneficial. Emotional support may help with negative emotions.
Miscarriage is the most common complication of early pregnancy. Among women who know they are pregnant, the miscarriage rate is roughly 10% to 20% while rates among all fertilisation is around 30% to 50%. In those under the age of 35 the risk is about 10% while it is about 45% in those over the age of 40. Risk begins to increase around the age of 30. About 5% of women have two miscarriages in a row. Some recommend not using the term "abortion" in discussions with those experiencing a miscarriage in an effort to decrease distress.
Signs of a miscarriage include vaginal spotting, abdominal pain or cramping, and fluid or tissue passing from the vagina. Bleeding can be a symptom of miscarriage, but many women also have it in early pregnancy and don't miscarry. Bleeding during pregnancy may be referred to as a threatened miscarriage. Of those who seek clinical treatment for bleeding during pregnancy, about half will miscarry. Miscarriage may be detected during an ultrasound exam, or through serial human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG) testing.
Miscarriage may occur for many reasons, not all of which can be identified. Risk factors are those things that increase the likelihood of having a miscarriage but don't necessarily cause a miscarriage. Up to 70 conditions, infections, medical procedures, lifestyle factors, occupational exposures, chemical exposure, and shift work are associated with increased risk for miscarriage. Some of these risks include endocrine, genetic, uterine, or hormonal abnormalities, reproductive tract infections, and tissue rejection caused by an autoimmune disorder.
|Description||Percent of total
first trimester miscarriage
|Monosomy X (45, X)||5-20%|
|Structural abnormality of
|Double or triple trisomy||0.7-2%|
Most clinically apparent miscarriages (two-thirds to three-quarters in various studies) occur during the first trimester. About 30% to 40% of all fertilized eggs miscarry, often before the pregnancy is known. The embryo typically dies before the pregnancy is expelled; bleeding into the decidua basalis and tissue necrosis causes uterine contractions to expel the pregnancy. Early miscarriages can be due to a developmental abnormality of the placenta or other embryonic tissues. In some instances an embryo does not form but other tissues do. This has been called a "blighted ovum".
Successful implantation of the zygote into the uterus is most likely 8 to 10 days after conception. If the zygote has not implanted by day 10, implantation becomes increasingly unlikely in subsequent days.
A chemical pregnancy refers to a pregnancy that was detected by testing but ends in miscarriage before or around the time of the next expected period.
Chromosomal abnormalities are found in more than half of embryos miscarried in the first 13 weeks. Half of embryonic miscarriages (25% of all miscarriages) have an aneuploidy (abnormal number of chromosomes). Common chromosome abnormalities found in miscarriages include autosomal trisomy (22-32%), monosomy X (5-20%), triploidy (6-8%), tetraploidy (2-4%), or other structural chromosomal abnormalities (2%). Genetic problems are more likely to occur with older parents; this may account for the higher rates observed in older women.
There is no evidence that progesterone given in the first trimester reduces the risk of miscarriage, and luteal phase progesterone deficiency may or may not be a contributing factor to miscarriage.
Second trimester losses may be due to maternal factors such as uterine malformation, growths in the uterus (fibroids), or cervical problems. These conditions also may contribute to premature birth. Unlike first-trimester miscarriages, second-trimester miscarriages are less likely to be caused by a genetic abnormality; chromosomal aberrations are found in a third of cases. Infection during the third trimester can cause a miscarriage. These include an older parent, previous miscarriage, exposure to tobacco smoke, obesity, diabetes, and drug or alcohol use, among others.
The age of the pregnant woman is a significant risk factor. Miscarriage rates increase steadily with age, with more substantial increases after age 35. In those under the age of 35 the risk is about 10% while it is about 45% in those over the age of 40. Risk begins to increase around the age of 30. Paternal age is associated with increased risk.
Not only is obesity associated with miscarriage, it can result in sub-fertility and other adverse pregnancy outcomes. Recurrent miscarriage is also related to obesity. Women with bulimia nervosa and anorexia nervosa may have a greater risk for miscarriage. Nutrient deficiencies have not been found to impact miscarriage rates but hyperemesis gravidarum sometimes precedes a miscarriage. 
Caffeine consumption also has been correlated to miscarriage rates, at least at higher levels of intake. However, such higher rates have been found to be statistically significant only in certain circumstances.
Disorders of the thyroid may affect pregnancy outcomes. Related to this, iodine deficiency is strongly associated with an increased risk of miscarriage. The risk of miscarriage is increased in those with poorly controlled insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus. Well-controlled diabetes may lower this risk.[needs update]
Amniocentesis and chorionic villus sampling are procedures conducted to assess the fetus. A sample of amniotic fluid is obtained by the insertion of a needle through the abdomen and into the uterus. Chorionic villus sampling is a similar procedure with a sample of tissue removed rather than fluid. These procedures are not associated with pregnancy loss during the second trimester but they are associated with miscarriages and birth defects in the first trimester. Miscarriage caused by invasive prenatal diagnosis (chorionic villus sampling (CVS) and amniocentesis) is rare (about 1%).
The effects of surgery on pregnancy are not well-known including the effects of bariatric surgery. Abdominal and pelvic surgery are not risk factors in miscarriage. Ovarian tumors and cysts that are removed have not been found to increase the risk of miscarriage. The exception to this is the removal of the corpus luteum from the ovary. This can cause fluctuations in the hormones necessary to maintain the pregnancy.
Immunizations have not been found to cause miscarriage. There is no significant association between antidepressant medication exposure and spontaneous abortion. The risk of miscarriage is not likely decrease by discontinuing SSRI prior to pregnancy. Some available data suggest that there is a small increased risk of miscarriage for women taking any antidepressant, though this risk becomes less statistically significant when excluding studies of poor quality.
Medicines that increase the risk of miscarriage include:
Ionizing radiation levels given to a woman during cancer treatment cause miscarriage. Exposure can also impact fertility. The use of chemotherapeutic drugs used to treat childhood cancer increases the risk of miscarriage.
Several intercurrent diseases in pregnancy can potentially increase the risk of miscarriage, including diabetes, polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), hypothyroidism, certain infectious diseases, and autoimmune diseases. PCOS may increases the risk of miscarriage. Two studies suggested treatment with the drug metformin significantly lowers the rate of miscarriage in women with PCOS, but the quality of these studies has been questioned. The use metformin treatment in pregnancy has not been shown to be safe. In 2007 the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists also recommended against use of the drug to prevent miscarriage. Thrombophilias or defects in coagulation and bleeding were once thought to be a risk in miscarriage but have been subsequently questioned. Severe cases of hypothyroidism increase the risk of miscarriage. The effect of milder cases of hypothyroidism on miscarriage rates has not been established. A condition called luteal phase defect (LPD) is a failure of the uterine lining to be fully prepared for pregnancy. This can keep a fertilized egg from implanting or result in miscarriage.
Infections can increase the risk of a miscarriage: rubella (german measles), cytomegalovirus, bacterial vaginosis, HIV, chlamydia, gonorrhoea, syphilis, and malaria.
Autoimmunity is possible cause of recurrent or late-term miscarriages. In the case of an autoimmune-induced miscarriages the woman's body attacks the growing fetus or prevents normal pregnancy progression. Autoimmune disease may cause genetic abnormalities in embryos which in turn may lead to miscarriage. As an example, Celiac disease increases the risk of miscarriage by an odds ratio of approximately 1.4. A disruption in normal immune function can lead to the formation of antiphospholipid antibody syndrome. This will effect the ability to continue the pregnancy and if a woman has repeated miscarriages, she can be tested for it. Approximately 15% of recurrent miscarriages are related to immunologic factors. The presence of anti-thyroid autoantibodies is associated with an increased risk with an odds ratio of 3.73 and 95% confidence interval 1.8-7.6. Having Lupus also increases the risk for miscarriage.
Fifteen percent of women who have experienced three or more recurring miscarriages have some anatomical reason for the inability to complete the pregnancy. The structure of the uterus has an effect on the ability to carry a child to term. Anatomical differences are common and can be congenital.
|Type of Uterine
associated with defect
|Septate or unicornate||34-88%|||
In some women, cervical incompetence or cervical insufficiency occurs with the inability of the cervix to stay closed during the entire pregnancy. It does not cause first trimester miscarriages. In the second trimester it is associated with an increased risk of miscarriage. It is identified after a premature birth has occurred at about 16-18 weeks into the pregnancy. During the second trimester, major trauma can result in a miscarriage.
Tobacco (cigarette) smokers have an increased risk of miscarriage. There is an increased risk regardless of which parent smokes, though the risk is higher when the gestational mother smokes.
Nausea and vomiting of pregnancy (NVP, or morning sickness) are associated with a decreased risk. Several causes are thought to cause morning sickness but there is still no agreement. NVP is generally interpreted as a defense mechanism which discourages the mother's ingestion of foods that are harmful to the fetus; according to this model, a lower frequency of miscarriage would be an expected consequence of the different food choices made by a women experiencing NVP.
Chemical and occupational exposures may have some affect in pregnancy outcomes. A cause and effect relationship almost can never be established. Those chemicals that are implicated in increasing the risk for miscarriage are DDT, lead, formaldehyde, arsenic, benzene and ethylene oxide. Video display terminals and ultrasound have not been found to have an affect on the rates of miscarriage. In dental offices where nitrous oxide is used with the absence of anesthetic gas scavenging equipment, there is a greater risk of miscarriage. For women who work with cytotoxic antineoplastic chemotherapeutic agents there is a small increased risk of miscarriage. No increased risk for cosmetologists has been found.
In the case of blood loss, pain, or both, transvaginal ultrasound is performed. If a viable intrauterine pregnancy is not found with ultrasound, blood tests (serial ?HCG tests) can be performed to rule out ectopic pregnancy, which is a life-threatening situation.
A miscarriage may be confirmed by an obstetric ultrasound and by the examination of the passed tissue. When looking for microscopic pathologic symptoms, one looks for the products of conception. Microscopically, these include villi, trophoblast, fetal parts, and background gestational changes in the endometrium. When chromosomal abnormalities are found in more than one miscarriage, genetic testing of both parents may be done.
A review article in The New England Journal of Medicine based on a consensus meeting of the Society of Radiologists in Ultrasound in America (SRU) has suggested that miscarriage should be diagnosed only if any of the following criteria are met upon ultrasonography visualization:
|Miscarriaged Diagnosed||Miscarriage suspected||References|
|Crown-rump length of at least 7 mm and no heartbeat.||Crown-rump length of less than 7 mm and no heartbeat.|||
|Mean gestational sac diameter of at least 25 mm and no embryo.||Mean gestational sac diameter of 16-24 mm and no embryo.|||
|Absence of embryo with heartbeat at least 2 weeks after an ultrasound scan that showed a gestational sac without a yolk sac.||Absence of embryo with heartbeat 7-13 days after an ultrasound scan that showed a gestational sac without a yolk sac.|||
|Absence of embryo with heartbeat at least 11 days after an ultrasound scan that showed a gestational sac with a yolk sac.||Absence of embryo with heartbeat 7-10 days after a scan that showed a gestational sac with a yolk sac.|||
|Absence of embryo at least 6 weeks after last menstrual period.|||
|Amniotic sac seen adjacent to yolk sac, and with no visible embryo.|||
|Yolk sac of more than 7 mm.|||
|Small gestational sac compared to embryo size (less than 5 mm difference between mean sac diameter and crown-rump length).|||
The clinical presentation of a threatened miscarriage describes any bleeding during pregnancy, prior to viability, that has yet to be assessed further. At investigation it may be found that the fetus remains viable and the pregnancy continues without further problems.
An anembryonic pregnancy (also called an "empty sac" or "blighted ovum") is a condition where the gestational sac develops normally, while the embryonic part of the pregnancy is either absent or stops growing very early. This accounts for approximately half of miscarriages. All other miscarriages are classified as embryonic miscarriages, meaning that there is an embryo present in the gestational sac. Half of embryonic miscarriages have aneuploidy (an abnormal number of chromosomes).
An inevitable miscarriage occurs when the cervix has already dilated, but the fetus has yet to be expelled. This usually will progress to a complete miscarriage. The fetus may or may not have cardiac activity.
A complete miscarriage is when all products of conception have been expelled; these may include the trophoblast, chorionic villi, gestational sac, yolk sac, and fetal pole (embryo); or later in pregnancy the fetus, umbilical cord, placenta, amniotic fluid, and amniotic membrane. The presence of a pregnancy test that is still positive as well as an empty uterus upon transvaginal ultrasonography does, however, fulfill the definition of pregnancy of unknown location. Therefore, there may be a need for e.g. follow-up pregnancy tests to ensure that there is no remaining pregnancy, including an ectopic pregnancy.
An incomplete miscarriage occurs when some products of conception have been passed, but some remains inside the uterus. However, an increased distance between the uterine walls on transvaginal ultrasonography may also simply be an increased endometrial thickness and/or a polyp. The use of a Doppler ultrasound may be better in confirming the presence of significant retained products of conception in the uterine cavity. In cases of uncertainty, ectopic pregnancy must be excluded using techniques like serial beta-hCG measurements.
Recurrent miscarriage ("recurrent pregnancy loss" (RPL) or "habitual abortion") is the occurrence of multiple consecutive miscarriages; the exact number used to diagnose recurrent miscarriage varies. If the proportion of pregnancies ending in miscarriage is 15% and assuming that miscarriages are independent events, then the probability of two consecutive miscarriages is 2.25% and the probability of three consecutive miscarriages is 0.34%. The occurrence of recurrent pregnancy loss is 1%. A large majority (85%) of those who have had two miscarriages will conceive and carry normally afterward.
The physical symptoms of a miscarriage vary according to the length of pregnancy, though most miscarriages cause pain or cramping. The size of blood clots and pregnancy tissue that are passed become larger with longer gestations. After 13 weeks' gestation, there is a higher risk of placenta retention.
Prevention of miscarriage centers on decreasing risk factors. This may include good prenatal care, avoiding drugs and alcohol, preventing infectious diseases, and avoiding x-rays. Identifying the cause of the miscarriage may help prevent future pregnancy loss, especially in cases of recurrent miscarriage. Often there is little a person can do to prevent a miscarriage. Vitamin supplementation before or during pregnancy has not been found to be effect the risk of miscarriage.
Preventing a miscarriage in subsequent pregnancies may be enhanced with assessments of:
Maintaining a healthy weight and good pre-natal care can reduce the risk of miscarriage. Some risk factors can be minimized by avoiding the following:
Women who miscarry early in their pregnancy usually do not need any treatment. Most early miscarriages will complete on their own; in other cases, medication treatment or aspiration of the products of conception can be used to remove remaining tissue. While bed rest has been advocated to prevent miscarriage, this has not been found to be of benefit.
Evidence to support Rho(D) immune globulin after a spontaneous miscarriage is unclear. In the UK, Rho(D) immune globulin is recommended in Rh-negative women after 12 weeks gestational age and before 12 weeks gestational age in those who need surgery or medication to complete the miscarriage.
No treatment is necessary for a diagnosis of complete miscarriage (so long as ectopic pregnancy is ruled out). In cases of an incomplete miscarriage, empty sac, or missed abortion there are three treatment options: watchful waiting, medical management, and surgical treatment. With no treatment (watchful waiting), most miscarriages (65-80%) will pass naturally within two to six weeks. This treatment avoids the possible side effects and complications of medications and surgery, but increases the risk of mild bleeding, need for unplanned surgical treatment, and incomplete miscarriage. Medical treatment usually consists of using misoprostol (a prostaglandin) to contract the uterus, expelling remaining tissue out of the cervix. This works within a few days in 95% of cases. Vacuum aspiration or sharp curettage can be used, though vacuum aspiration is lower-risk and more common.
In delayed or incomplete miscarriage, treatment depends on the amount of tissue remaining in the uterus that was not expelled. Treatment can include surgical removal of the tissue with vacuum aspiration or misoprostol. Some organizations recommend delaying sexual relations immediately after a miscarriage to prevent infection.
An induced abortion may be performed by a physician for women who do not want to continue the pregnancy.Self-induced abortion performed by a woman or non-medical personnel is extremely dangerous and is still a cause of maternal mortality in some countries. In some locales it is illegal or carries heavy social stigma.
Organizations exist that provide information and counseling to help those who have had a miscarriage. Family and friends often conduct a memorial or burial service. Hospitals also can provide support and help memorialize the event. Depending on locale others desire to have a private ceremony.
A miscarriage can result in anxiety, depression or stress for those involved. The impact on a woman life can be underestimated. It can have an affect on the whole family. Almost all those experiencing a miscarriage go through a grieving process. Serious emotional impact is usually experienced immediately after the miscarriage. Some may go through the same loss when an ectopic pregnancy is terminated. In some, the realization of the loss can take weeks. Providing family support to those experiencing the loss can be challenging because some find comfort in talking about the miscarriage while others may find the event painful to discuss. The father can have the same sense of loss. Expressing feelings of grief and loss can sometimes be harder for men. Some women are able to begin planning their next pregnancy after a few weeks of having the miscarriage. For others, planning another pregnancy can be difficult.
Some health organizations recommend that sexual activity be delayed after the miscarriage. The menstrual cycle should resume after about three to four months. Women report that the medical management of their miscarriage can be performed in a manner that can make the experience even worse than the event. Women report that they were dissatisfied with the care they received from physicians and nurses.
Some parents want to try to have a baby very soon after the miscarriage. The decision of trying to become pregnant again can be difficult. Reasons exist that may prompt parents to consider another pregnancy. For older mothers, there may be some sense of urgency. Other parents are optimistic that future pregnancies are likely to be successful. Many are hesitant and want to know about the risk of having another or more miscarriages. Some clinicians recommend that the women have one menstrual cycle before attempting another pregnancy. This is because the date of conception may be hard to determine. Also, the first menstrual cycle after a miscarriage can be much longer or shorter than expected. Parents may be advised to wait even longer if they have experienced late miscarriage, molar pregnancy or are undergoing tests. Some parents wait for six months based upon recommendations from their health care provider.
The risks of having another miscarriage vary according to the cause. The risk of having another miscarriage after a molar pregnancy is very low. The risk of another miscarriage is highest after the third miscarriage. Pre-conception care is available in some locales.
The precise rate is not known because a large number of miscarriages occur before pregnancies become established and before the woman is aware they are pregnant. In addition, those with bleeding in early pregnancy may seek medical care more often than those not experiencing bleeding. Some studies have attempted to account for this by recruiting women who are planning pregnancies and testing for very early pregnancy, although these would also not be representative of the wider population. A systematic review found that the cumulative risk of miscarriage between 5 and 20 weeks of gestation varied from 11% to 22% in studies assessing miscarriage rates. Up to the 13th week of pregnancy, the risk of miscarriage each week was around 2%, dropping to 1% in week 14 and reducing slowly between 14 and 20 weeks.
Miscarriage rates can be related to parental age. The prevalence of miscarriage increases with the age of both parents. In a Danish register-based study where the prevalence of miscarriage was 11%, the prevalence rose from 9% at 22 years of age to 84% by 48 years of age. Another study found that when either parent was over the age of 40, the rate of known miscarriages doubled.
A questionnaire for those who had experienced a miscarriage showed that more than half (55%) presented with significant psychological distress immediately, while 25% did at 3 months; 18% showed psychological symptoms at 6 months, and 11% at 1 year after miscarriage.
In 2010, 50,000 inpatient admissions for miscarriage occurred in the UK.
While miscarriage is a term for early pregnancy loss, it is also known as "spontaneous abortion". Those fetuses born before 24 weeks of gestation rarely survive. However, the designation "fetal death" applies variably in different countries and contexts, sometimes incorporating weight, and gestational age from 16 weeks in Norway, 20 weeks in the US and Australia, 24 weeks in the UK to 26 weeks in Italy and Spain. A fetus that died before birth after this gestational age may be referred to as a stillbirth. Under UK law, all stillbirths should be registered, although this does not apply to miscarriages.
The medical terminology applied to experiences during early pregnancy has changed over time. Before the 1980s, health professionals used the phrase "spontaneous abortion" for a miscarriage and "induced abortion" for a termination of the pregnancy. In places where induced abortion is illegal or carries heavy social stigma, suspicion may surround miscarriage, complicating an already sensitive language issue. Research suggests that some dislike the term spontaneous abortion for miscarriage, some are indifferent and some prefer it. These preferences may reflect cultural differences.
In the late 1980s and 1990s, doctors became more conscious of their language in relation to early pregnancy loss. Some medical authors advocated change to use of "miscarriage" instead of "spontaneous abortion" because they argued this would more respectful and help ease a distressing experience. The change was being recommended by some in the profession in Britain in the late 1990s. In 2005 the European Society for Human Reproduction and Embryology (ESHRE) published a paper aiming to facilitate a revision of nomenclature used to describe early pregnancy events.
In the 1960s, the use of "miscarriage" in Britain (instead of "spontaneous abortion") occurred after changes in legislation. Developments in ultrasound technology (in the early 1980s) allowed them to identify miscarriages..
Miscarriage occurs in all animals that experience pregnancy, though in such contexts it is more commonly referred to as a "spontaneous abortion" (the two terms are synonymous). There are a variety of known risk factors in non-human animals. For example, in sheep, miscarriage may be caused by crowding through doors, or being chased by dogs. In cows, spontaneous abortion may be caused by contagious disease, such as brucellosis or Campylobacter, but often can be controlled by vaccination. Other diseases are also known to make animals susceptible to miscarriage. Spontaneous abortion occurs in pregnant prairie voles when their mate is removed and they are exposed to a new male, an example of the Bruce effect, although this effect is seen less in wild populations than in the laboratory. Female mice who had spontaneous abortions showed a sharp rise in the amount of time spent with unfamiliar males preceding the abortion than those who did not.