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Different Types of Miscarriages

There are several types of miscarriages - 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

A ‘threatened miscarriage’ is when your body shows signs that you might miscarry. There may be a little vaginal bleeding or lower abdominal pain and this can last days or weeks.

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

 

There is rarely anything a doctor or you can do to protect the pregnancy. Sometimes, bed rest is 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’ is one that has taken place when all the pregnancy tissue has left your uterus. Vaginal bleeding may continue for several days. Cramping pain that feels like a  labour or a 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 your doctor to make sure the miscarriage is complete.

Incomplete Miscarriage

Sometimes, some pregnancy tissue will remain in your 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 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 while you are under general anesthesia.

Missed Miscarriage

A missed (or silent) miscarriage is one where your baby has died or has not developed, but has not been physically miscarried.  In many cases, a missed miscarriage is often diagnosed at a routine ultrasound scan, whether around 12 weeks or at the 20 week ‘anomaly’ scan.  However it might also be seen at a non-routine scan, whether or not there are any symptoms.

Unfortunately, there is usually no sign that anything was wrong, so the news can come as a complete shock to you.

With a missed miscarriage, the scan picture usually shows a pregnancy sac with a baby (or fetus or embryo) inside, but there is no heartbeat and the pregnancy looks smaller than it should be at this stage. The doctor will usually advise you on the next steps.