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Diagnosis of Miscarriage and Services Available 

The following sections will explain the relevant health care providers as well as the departments in Cork University Maternity Hospital that women can attend when they experience symptoms of miscarriage. We will also discuss the role and function each of these departments has in helping you deal with a miscarriage.

Role of the GP

 

Your GP’s Surgery or South Doc is the first place to contact/attend if you are experiencing mild to moderate vaginal bleeding or abdominal pain in early pregnancy. Your GP may already be aware of your pregnancy. They will ask you details of your symptoms and your relevant medical history. A physical examination may also be necessary to determine a diagnosis. If your GP considers you need further investigations, they will refer you to the Emergency Room in CUMH or to the Early Pregnancy Unit (EPU) at the Kinsale Road Clinic.

Doctor and Patient

Role of the Emergency Room

 

The Emergency Room in CUMH is the first place to attend if you are having heavy vaginal bleeding or severe abdominal pain in pregnancy. Here the midwives will take a brief history and may take some blood tests depending on your symptoms.  A doctor will see you and they will take a medical history, perform a physical examination to determine your care pathway. If you are physically stable you may be allowed to return home.

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An appointment to the EPU at the Kinsale Road Clinic will be arranged for you and will take place a day or so after discharge. Limited scans are performed in the Emergency Room. The optimal time for an early pregnancy scan is 8 weeks gestation as it will provide the most accurate picture of pregnancy. An ultrasound scan may be necessary prior to this, however, a definitive diagnosis may not be possible at the first scan. 

Early Pregnancy Unit (EPU), Kinsale Road Clinic

The EPU is located at the Kinsale Road Clinic.

 

Find directions to the EPU here.

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Ultrasound Scans

Sometimes the diagnosis of miscarriage is uncertain after one ultrasound scan. If the ultrasound is inconclusive a repeat scan will be offered to you 7 to 10 days later to see if the pregnancy develops or not. 

If they do it sooner than this, it may still be inconclusive. This is designed to protect an early pregnancy from being incorrectly labelled as a miscarriage.

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Some patients experience bleeding during this 7-10 day waiting time. It is not essential to attend the hospital if this occurs unless the bleeding is very heavy (i.e. you need to change a sanitary towel (pad) with blood clots every 15 minutes for more than an hour) or the pain is severe (i.e. not relieved by painkillers).

 

If a diagnosis of miscarriage is confirmed the medical team will advise you on the appropriate management of your miscarriage in line with local and national guidelines. It is important to remember this is your decision and the doctor and midwife are there to offer support and information.

Blood tests

 

Blood tests will sometimes be used to give doctors more information about your pregnancy. The pregnancy hormone hCG (human chorionic gonadotropin) can be measured using serum beta hCG (β-hCG), a blood test that can be performed in early pregnancy. This test may be done by your GP or in the Emergency Room.

 

This is done when:

  • an ultrasound scan is inconclusive

  • the gestation of a pregnancy is unknown

  • there is a query that the pregnancy is not in the right location i.e. a suspected ectopic pregnancy.

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Two or more results are needed, usually 48 hours apart, in order to accurately interpret the test. If the β-hCG level increases by more than 66% in 48 hours this is reassuring and is likely to be associated with a healthy viable pregnancy. If the β-hCG level decreases by more than 15%, this suggests a likely miscarriage. It is important that blood results are interpreted in conjunction with your detailed history, a clinical exam and, if medically indicated, an ultrasound scan.

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