Miscarriage overview

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Editor-In-Chief: C. Michael Gibson, M.S., M.D. [1]

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Miscarriage is the natural or spontaneous end of a pregnancy at a stage where the embryo or the fetus is incapable of surviving, generally defined in humans at a gestation of prior to 20 weeks. Miscarriage is the most common complication of early pregnancy.[1] The medical term "spontaneous abortion" is used in reference to miscarriages because the medical term "abortion" refers to any terminated pregnancy, deliberately induced or spontaneous, although in common parlance it refers specifically to active termination of pregnancy.


When looking for gross or microscopic pathologic symptoms of miscarriage, one looks for the products ofconception. Microscopically, these include villi, trophoblast, fetal parts, and background gestational changes in the endometrium. Genetic tests may also be performed to look for abnormal chromosome arrangements.

History and symptoms

The most common symptom of a miscarriage is bleeding;[2] bleeding during pregnancy may be referred to as a threatened abortion. Of women who seek clinical treatment for bleeding during pregnancy, about half will go on to have a miscarriage. Symptoms other than bleeding are not statistically related to miscarriage.[2]



Surgical treatment (most commonly vacuum aspiration, sometimes referred to as a D&C or D&E) is the fastest way to complete the miscarriage. It also shortens the duration and heaviness of bleeding, and is the best treatment for physical pain associated with the miscarriage. In cases of repeated miscarriage or later-term pregnancy loss, D&C is also the best way to obtain tissue samples for pathology examination.


  1. Petrozza, John C (August 29 2006). "Early Pregnancy Loss". eMedicine. WebMD. Retrieved 2007-07-20. Check date values in: |date= (help)
    "Early Pregnancy Loss (Miscarriage)". Pregnancy-bliss.co.uk. The Daily Telegraph. 2007. Retrieved 2007-07-20.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Gracia C, Sammel M, Chittams J, Hummel A, Shaunik A, Barnhart K (2005). "Risk factors for spontaneous abortion in early symptomatic first-trimester pregnancies". Obstet Gynecol. 106 (5 Pt 1): 993–9. PMID 16260517.

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