Q&A: What Are the Different Types of Miscarriages?

I’ve heard so many different terms when it comes to miscarriages. What are the different types and what exactly happens during each?
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ByAmy Stanford
Updated
Mar 2017
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There are definitely many types of pregnancy loss, and sometimes the different terms can get confusing. Read on for some clarity and a brief explanation of what happens during each:

  • Chemical pregnancy: This occurs when the egg is fertilized but doesn’t implant itself or develop properly in your uterus. You may think you’re pregnant because of a missed period (and you could even have gotten a BFP recently), but an ultrasound will show no gestational sac or placenta.
  • Blighted ovum: Your doctor may call this an “anembryonic pregnancy.” What this means is that the fertilized egg attached to the wall of your uterus, and while it may have begun to develop a placenta, it didn’t develop into an embryo.
  • Missed miscarriage: This is when an embryo or fetus dies but doesn’t actually leave the uterus. A missed miscarriage is very rare, but when it happens, usually the only signs of it are a loss of pregnancy symptoms and/or brownish discharge. You can confirm a missed miscarriage if your doctor can’t find a heartbeat at your next ultrasound.
  • Incomplete miscarriage: An incomplete miscarriage happens when only some of the tissue leaves your vagina through heavy bleeding. You’ll experience bleeding and cramping while your cervix is dilated, and despite the fact that pregnancy tests might give positive results, the fetus hasn’t actually survived.
  • Threatened miscarriage: Any bit of vaginal bleeding can actually be a sign of a threatened miscarriage. In this instance, the cervix will remain closed and the baby’s heartbeat will still be detected. It’s important to note that in roughly half of these cases, women who encounter threatened miscarriages continue on to have healthy pregnancies.

Find more info on miscarriage and pregnancy loss at the American Pregnancy Association.

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