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Miscarriage - Illustrated Article

What is a miscarriage?
A miscarriage, sometimes called pregnancy loss, is the loss of pregnancy from natural causes before the 20th week of pregnancy. Most miscarriages occur very early in the pregnancy, often before a woman even knows she is pregnant.

What causes a miscarriage?
There are many different causes for a miscarriage, some known and others unknown. In most cases, there is nothing a woman can do to prevent a miscarriage.

There are some factors that may contribute to miscarriage.

  • The most common cause of miscarriage in the first trimester is a chromosomal abnormality in the fetus. This is usually results from a problem with the sperm or egg that prevents the fetus from developing properly.
  • During the second trimester, problems with the uterus or cervix can contribute to miscarriage.
  • Women with a disorder called polycystic ovary syndrome are three times more likely to miscarry during the early months of pregnancy than women who do not have the syndrome.

Women who have miscarriages can and often do become pregnant again, with normal pregnancy outcomes.

What are the symptoms of and treatments for miscarriage?
Signs of a miscarriage can include:

  • Vaginal spotting or bleeding
  • Cramping or abdominal pain
  • Fluid or tissue passing from the vagina

Although vaginal bleeding is a common symptom when a woman has a miscarriage, many pregnant women have spotting early in their pregnancy but do not miscarry. But, pregnant women who have symptoms such as bleeding should contact their health care provider immediately.

Women who miscarry early in their pregnancy usually do not need any treatment. In some cases, a woman may need a procedure called a dilatation and curettage (D&C) to remove tissue remaining in the uterus. A D&C can be done in a health care provider's office, an outpatient clinic, or a hospital.

Contact Information:
NICHD Information Resource Center
Address: P.O. Box 3006
Rockville, MD 20847
Phone: 1-800-370-2943



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