Types of Miscarriage

date Mon, 30 Aug 2021

There are several types of miscarriage – threatened, inevitable, complete, incomplete or missed. Learn about these types below, as well as about other types of pregnancy loss such as ectopic, molar pregnancy and a blighted ovum.

Threatened miscarriage

When your body is showing signs that you might miscarry, that is called a ‘threatened miscarriage’. You may have a little vaginal bleeding or lower abdominal pain. It can last days or weeks and the cervix is still closed.

The pain and bleeding may go away and you can continue to have a healthy pregnancy and baby. Or things may get worse and you go on to have a miscarriage.

There is rarely anything a doctor, midwife or you can do to protect the pregnancy. In the past bed rest was recommended, but there is no scientific proof that this helps at this stage.

Inevitable miscarriage

Inevitable miscarriages can come after a threatened miscarriage or without warning. There is usually a lot more vaginal bleeding and strong lower stomach cramps. During the miscarriage your cervix opens and the developing fetus will come away in the bleeding.

Complete miscarriage

A complete miscarriage has taken place when all the pregnancy tissue has left your uterus. Vaginal bleeding may continue for several days. Cramping pain much like labour or strong period pain is common – this is the uterus contracting to empty.

If you have miscarried at home or somewhere else with no health workers present, you should have a check-up with a doctor or midwife to make sure the miscarriage is complete.

Incomplete miscarriage

Sometimes, some pregnancy tissue will remain in the uterus. Vaginal bleeding and lower abdominal cramping may continue as the uterus continues trying to empty itself. This is known as an ‘incomplete miscarriage’.

Your doctor or midwife will need to assess whether or not a short procedure called a ‘dilatation of the cervix and curettage of the uterus’ (often known as a ‘D&C’) is necessary to remove any remaining pregnancy tissue. This is an important medical procedure done in an operating theatre.

Missed miscarriage

Sometimes, the baby has died but stayed in the uterus. This is known as a ‘missed miscarriage’.

If you have a missed miscarriage, you may have a brownish discharge. Some of the symptoms of pregnancy, such as nausea and tiredness, may have faded. You might have noticed nothing unusual. You may be shocked to have a scan and find the baby has died.

If this happens, you should discuss treatment and support options with your doctor.

Recurrent miscarriage

A small number of women have repeated miscarriages. If this is your third or more miscarriage in a row, it’s best to discuss this with your doctor who may be able to investigate the causes, and refer you to a specialist.

Types of pregnancy loss

Other types of pregnancies that result in a miscarriage are outlined below.

Ectopic pregnancy

An ectopic pregnancy occurs when the embryo implants outside the uterus, usually in one of the fallopian tubes. A fetus does not usually survive an ectopic pregnancy.

If you have an ectopic pregnancy, you may not know it as first, until it bleeds. Then you may get severe pain in your lower abdomen, vaginal bleeding, vomiting or pain in the tip of one shoulder. If you have these symptoms, it’s important to seek urgent medical attention.

Molar pregnancy

A molar pregnancy is a type of pregnancy that fails to develop properly from conception. It can be either complete or partial and usually needs to be surgically removed.

Blighted ovum

With a blighted ovum the sac develops but there is no baby inside. It is also known as an ‘anembryonic pregnancy’.

This condition is usually discovered during a scan. In most cases, an embryo was conceived but did not develop and was reabsorbed into the uterus at a very early stage. You should see your doctor to discuss treatment options.

 

 

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