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Different Types of Pregnancy Loss

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First-trimester miscarriage is the most common type of known pregnancy loss, but other types exist as well. Pregnancy loss may occur for many different reasons, but the most common is a chromosomal abnormality. While it's increasingly less common to miscarry the farther along you are in pregnancy, pregnancy loss may happen at any point during pregnancy.


Chemical Pregnancy

Patient talking with doctor

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A chemical pregnancy is not a false pregnancy or a false positive on a pregnancy test. Instead, it's a very early miscarriage, which is technically defined as pregnancy loss that occurs after a positive urine pregnancy test and before ultrasound verification or other pregnancy confirmation by a doctor.

Chemical pregnancies are usually caused by chromosomal abnormalities. Other possible causes include exposure to toxic chemicals or structural problems of the cervix, placenta, or uterus.2

Many women who have a chemical pregnancy never even knew they were pregnant, as the bleeding from the pregnancy loss often occurs around the same time as their expected menstrual period. But since home pregnancy tests are now quite sensitive, some women find out that they're pregnant very early—even before their expected period, making it possible for more chemical pregnancies to be discovered. 


Ectopic Pregnancy

Ectopic pregnancies happen when a fertilized egg implants someplace other than in the uterus, such as in one of the fallopian tubes (also called a tubal pregnancy). Sometimes, risk factors exist, such as inflammation or structural issues of the fallopian tube, but other times, the cause is unknown. Symptoms of an ectopic pregnancy may include severe abdominal pain and dizziness.3

Ectopic pregnancy, which is estimated to occur in between 1.3% and 2.4% of all pregnancies, can be a life-threatening emergency. If you experience severe cramping or abdominal pain and vaginal bleeding, contact your doctor or go to the emergency room immediately.


First-Trimester Miscarriag

First-trimester miscarriage, sometimes also called spontaneous abortion, is very common, though this truth doesn't make it any less heartbreaking. In fact, around 15% of known pregnancies result in miscarriage. There is a lower incidence in younger mothers (around 10%) than in those who are older (women over 40 have a pregnancy loss rate of around 50%).

Again, chromosomal and maternal structural abnormalities are thought to be the cause of many early miscarriages. Other contributing factors may include chronic illness, hormonal irregularities, alcohol and drug use, smoking, other environmental factors, extremes in maternal weight, advanced maternal age, and infection.

It's normal to have a lot of questions about signs of miscarriage, diagnosis, miscarriage causes, treatment, and risk factors. Be sure to talk to your doctor so your questions are answered and your worries are addressed. 


Blighted Ovum

A blighted ovum, which is also known as an anembryonic pregnancy, is a very common type of early miscarriage. In a blighted ovum, the embryo doesn't develop, but a gestational sac continues to grow. Approximately one-third of miscarriages that occur in the first eight weeks of gestation are due to a blighted ovum.

With a blighted ovum, you may experience pregnancy symptoms, despite not having a viable pregnancy. A blighted ovum can be a missed miscarriage, treated with a dilation and curettage (D&C), or it may end naturally.


Missed Miscarriage

missed miscarriage is a common type of pregnancy loss, usually occurring in the first trimester. In this case, the doctor diagnoses the miscarriage based on lab results or other clinical evidence, but you haven't had noticeable miscarriage symptoms like bleeding or cramping.


Molar Pregnancy

Molar pregnancy is a rare condition that causes pregnancy tissue (primarily of the placenta) to grow abnormally and excessively. This can occur without the presence of fetal cells (a complete mole) or along with some abnormally growing fetal tissue (a partial mole). Molar pregnancies are not viable. The cause is a chromosomal abnormality that occurs at the time of fertilization.

While the majority of miscarriages are caused by chromosomal abnormalities, this specific type of pregnancy loss requires close follow-up with your obstetrician after treatment to ensure all of the pregnancy tissue is removed from the uterus.


Second-Trimester Miscarriage

Late miscarriages, such as those in the second trimester, can happen for a number of reasons. Approximately 4% of known pregnancies end in miscarriage between 12 and 22 weeks gestation. Causes include chromosomal abnormalities, cervical insufficiency, congenital birth defects, placental problems, or other factors.


Preterm Delivery From Cervical Insufficiency

An incompetent cervix (also called cervical insufficiency) is a medical condition in which the cervix dilates too early in the pregnancy, resulting in pregnancy loss or premature birth. It's estimated that 8% of second-trimester pregnancy losses and premature births are due to an incompetent cervix.

Risk factors for cervical insufficiency include genetic disorders, cervical trauma, and complications after having had a dilation and curettage (D&C). Note that a D&C alone does not increase risk, but complications from the procedure can.



Stillbirth is the death of a fetus in the womb before birth. Pregnancy loss after 20 weeks gestation is called stillbirth (or fetal demise) rather than a miscarriage. Potential causes and contributing factors to stillbirth include infection, problems with the placenta, birth defects, pregnancy complications, high blood pressure in the mother, umbilical cord issues, and other maternal medical complications.


Neonatal Infant Loss

Neonatal infant loss or death refers to the death of a newborn baby younger than 28 days old (regardless of gestational age at birth). While the baby is born alive, this is also considered a pregnancy loss. The most frequent causes of neonatal infant loss are prematurity and birth defects.


Termination of a Desired Pregnancy for Medical Reasons

Termination of a desired pregnancy for medical reasons occurs when parents decide to terminate a pregnancy due to a variety of reasons, such as severe fetal birth defects and health complications that threaten the life of the baby or mother.

Termination of a desired pregnancy for medical reasons, which is also called therapeutic or selective abortion, is a divisive issue for some and a delicate, heart-wrenching matter for parents to consider when prenatal screening results in the diagnosis of a condition with a poor medical prognosis. Only you (in consideration of advice from your doctor) know what the right decision is for you and your family

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