A miscarriage is the spontaneous loss of a fetus before the 20th week of pregnancy (pregnancy losses after the 20th week are called stillbirths). Miscarriage is a naturally occurring event, unlike medical or surgical abortions.
A miscarriage is the spontaneous loss of a fetus before the 20th week of pregnancy (pregnancy losses after the 20th week are called stillbirths). Miscarriage is a naturally occurring event, unlike medical or surgical abortions. The most common symptom of a miscarriage is vaginal bleeding with or without pain. Sadness, anxiety and guilt often occur afterward.
A miscarriage may also be called a “spontaneous abortion.” Other terms for the early loss of pregnancy include:
Complete abortion: All of the products (tissue) of conception leave the body.
Incomplete abortion: Only some of the products of conception leave the body.
Inevitable abortion: Symptoms cannot be stopped and a miscarriage will happen.
Infected (septic) abortion: The lining of the womb (uterus) and any remaining products of conception become infected.
Missed abortion: The pregnancy is lost and the products of conception do not leave the body.
Your health care provider may also use the term “threatened miscarriage.” The symptoms of this condition are abdominal cramps with or without vaginal bleeding. They are a sign that a miscarriage may occur.
Most miscarriages are caused by chromosome problems that make it impossible for the baby to develop.
These chromosomal abnormalities are found in more than half of embryos miscarried in the first 13 weeks. Half of the embryonic 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.
In rare cases, these problems are related to the mother’s or father’s genes
Other possible causes of miscarriage may include:
- Drug and alcohol abuse
- Exposure to environmental toxins
- Hormone problems
- Obesity, eating disorders and caffeine
- Physical problems with the mother’s reproductive organs
- Problem with the body’s immune response. Autoimmunity is a possible cause of recurrent or late-term miscarriages. In the case of an autoimmune-induced miscarriage, the woman’s body attacks the growing fetus or prevents normal pregnancy progression
- Serious body-wide (systemic) diseases in the mother (such as uncontrolled diabetes)
- Smoking. There is an increased risk regardless of which parent smokes, though the risk is higher when the gestational mother smokes.
Around half of all fertilized eggs die and are lost (aborted) spontaneously, usually before the woman knows she is pregnant. Among women who know they are pregnant, few women will have a miscarriage. Most miscarriages occur during the first 7 weeks of pregnancy. The rate of miscarriage drops after the baby’s heartbeat is detected.