Pregnancy loss is the death of an unborn baby (fetus) at any time during pregnancy. Pregnancy loss may occur in as many as 1 in every 4 pregnancies. Most pregnancy losses happen during the first trimester. This is often so early that the mother doesn’t even know she is pregnant. Pregnancy loss includes:
About half of early pregnancy losses are from problems with genes or chromosomes. But other things can also play a role. It is usually not caused by anything the mother did. Things that may play a role include:
When pregnancy loss happens 3 or more times, it is called recurrent pregnancy loss. It is often hard to find a cause for recurrent losses. Couples may need more testing.
Most pregnancy losses are single events. A woman with an early pregnancy loss without a known cause has a very good chance of a normal pregnancy in the future.
Some things can make a pregnancy loss more likely. They include:
Vaginal bleeding is the most common symptom of pregnancy loss. In later pregnancy, a woman with a stillborn may no longer feel fetal movements. But each type of loss has its own symptoms. Always see your healthcare provider for a diagnosis.
Your healthcare provider will review your health history and physical exam. Tests to diagnose pregnancy loss may include:
Sometimes the cause of a pregnancy loss can’t be found with a single blood hCG test or a single ultrasound. You may need repeat testing to confirm the diagnosis.
Your healthcare provider will figure out the best treatment based on:
Once pregnancy loss occurs, the fetal tissues must be removed from the uterus to prevent further complications. How this is done depends on the week of pregnancy and the type of loss. In early pregnancy loss, your body may naturally get rid of all of the pregnancy tissues. Sometimes the healthcare provider may give you medicines to cause your body absorb the tissues or to get rid of them more quickly. Other times, you may need surgery to remove the tissues. Talk with your provider about the treatment that is best for you.
Counseling and support of the family are important. Your healthcare provider can help you find resources and support groups that can help after pregnancy loss.
Some pregnancy losses do not cause any problems. Others may be very serious and life threatening for the mother if not treated.
The most difficult part for most families is the emotional stress of the loss itself. Families often have a grief reaction to a loss. This reaction includes:
These are normal responses to loss. They may take months and sometimes years to work through.
Most of the time pregnancy loss cannot be prevented. Getting good prenatal care is always important.
Many grieving families have found the following to be helpful:
Tips to help you get the most from a visit to your healthcare provider: