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Medically reviewed by Jedidiah Oldham DO.
September 27, 2019 | Family Medicine
Miscarriage, also known as early pregnancy loss, is the spontaneous end of pregnancy within the first 20 weeks of gestation.
Women miscarry for a variety of reasons, few of which they have any control over. The process of miscarriage often takes place before a woman realizes that she is pregnant. Miscarriage is surprisingly common, occurring in approximately 30% of all pregnancies, according to American Family Physician (AFP). Although 1 in 4 women will miscarry at some point their lives, the process of early pregnancy loss (EPL) remains a source of confusion for many people.
The details of what happens during an early pregnancy loss depend on the type of miscarriage a woman experiences, as detailed by the American Pregnancy Association (APA).
In a threatened miscarriage, a woman experiences uterine bleeding along with low back pain or cramping, but the cervix remains closed. Although some threatened miscarriages do end with a loss of the pregnancy, many women successfully carry their baby to full term.
Incomplete miscarriage symptoms also include bleeding, cramping and backache. In these cases, the cervix dilates and the pregnancy is lost. However, the uterine lining does not fully shed.
Complete miscarriage bears the same symptoms as incomplete EPL, which include cramping, back pain, uterine bleeding and cervical dilation. However, in this case, the body expels the uterine lining and all pregnancy-related tissue.
A missed miscarriage, also known as fetal or embryonic demise, typically occurs very early in pregnancy. Most women who experience this event do not have any notable symptoms or realize that a pregnancy was lost.
In addition to the types of miscarriage noted above, women may lose a pregnancy as a result of conditions such as:
In the case of ectopic implantation, a fertilized egg attaches to the wall of the fallopian tube, rather than the uterine lining.
This condition, also known as an embryonic pregnancy, occurs when a fertilized egg implants in the uterine lining but does not develop into an embryo.
In a molar pregnancy, abnormal tissue grows in the uterus, typically without the presence of an embryo.
Most miscarriages occur due to chromosomal abnormalities caused by a damaged egg or sperm, or due to a cell division problem. Nearly all first-trimester miscarriages occur when the pregnancy would not have been healthy or viable, according to AFP, and not because of stress, exercise, having sex or any other normal activities.
If you have health issues that you think might relate to an early loss of pregnancy, discuss your concerns with your doctor.
The primary goal of any miscarriage-related treatment is to prevent hemorrhaging and infection, according to the AFP.
In many cases, you won’t need any type of treatment, as long as no pregnancy-related tissue remains in the uterus. If tissue remains after the miscarriage, your doctor will explain your options, and together, you can determine the best treatment plan for you.
Although you cannot prevent a miscarriage, practicing healthy habits and following your doctor’s recommendations will create the healthiest possible atmosphere for conception and gestation.
“Common Treatments for Miscarriage.” American Family Physician (AFP).
“Early Pregnancy Loss.” American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology (ACOG).
“Miscarriage.” American Pregnancy Association (APA).
Jedidiah Oldham, DO
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This information is not intended to replace the advice of a medical professional. You should always consult your doctor before making decisions about your health.