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What are the different kinds of miscarriages?

What are the different kinds of miscarriages?

A miscarriage happens when a pregnancy stops growing, or grows abnormally, and is expelled by the mother’s body. Almost all miscarriages occur during the first trimester. During the process of diagnosis and treatment of a miscarriage, your doctor may refer to several different kinds of miscarriages:

A threatened miscarriage is another term for bleeding in early pregnancy. While almost all miscarriages cause vaginal bleeding, not all cases of bleeding lead to miscarriage. In fact, over 20% of women who go on to have healthy babies will have some bleeding in the first trimester.

An inevitable miscarriage means a miscarriage that will definitely happen. The main difference between a threatened miscarriage and an inevitable miscarriage is that in an inevitable miscarriage a pelvic exam reveals that the cervix is open. An open cervix is a sign that the body is already in the process of expelling the pregnancy tissue. Nothing can be done to prevent an inevitable miscarriage.

A complete miscarriage happens when the woman’s body successfully expels all the pregnancy tissue on it’s own. In the earliest weeks of pregnancy, a complete miscarriage may appear to be nothing more than a heavy period. In the later weeks of the first trimester, the expelled tissue may be recognized as a sac. Only rarely can a tiny embryo be seen.

Unfortunately, not every pregnancy is expelled completely. An incomplete miscarriage refers to a miscarriage in which only part of the pregnancy tissue is expelled from the mother’s body. The rest of the tissue is left behind, causing heavy bleeding and severe cramping. The uterus must contract down to normal size and close off the blood vessels to stop the bleeding. The pregnancy tissue that is left behind keeps the uterus from contracting properly and that leads to the heavy bleeding. The repeated attempts of the uterus to expel the rest of the pregnancy tissue cause the severe cramping.

An incomplete miscarriage must be treated by a D&C. D&C stands for dilatation (opening the cervix) and curettage (scraping out the pregnancy tissue). The curettage used to be done with a sharp instrument, but now is done using a tube connected to a vacuum suction. This is a much gentler way to remove the tissue.

A “missed” miscarriage is the least common type. That happens when the pregnancy tissue dies, but is not expelled from the uterus. A missed miscarriage is diagnosed by ultrasound. Sometimes, waiting a week or two will lead to the uterus expelling the pregnancy tissue on its own. It is not safe to wait too long, though, because dead tissue in the uterus can lead to problems with blood clotting. Therefore, the doctor will recommend a D&C to treat a missed miscarriage if the tissue has not been expelled on its own within a few weeks.