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Types of Miscarriage

In this section, you may hear your pregnancy referred to in medical terms such as, ‘products of conception’, ‘fetal tissue’, ‘pregnancy remains’ or ‘fetus’. Although these terms are medically accurate, we are aware that many parents find hearing these words difficult. From the time of a positive pregnancy test, parents generally refer to their pregnancy as a baby, therefore, being prepared to hear these terms can be helpful. It is important to know that health care practitioners do not mean to cause any offence when using any of the above medical terminologies. To try and help you as best as we can with this, we have provided a glossary of terms to refer to when reading the information. We have also provided additional information leaflets and web links that we hope will be of support to you.


Miscarriage can be divided into:

  • Threatened,

  • Inevitable,

  • Incomplete,

  • Complete or

  • Missed miscarriage.


These are terms that the medical staff use and it is useful to know what they mean.

Doctor Holding Patient's Hand

Threatened Miscarriage

A threatened miscarriage is a medical term that is used when vaginal bleeding occurs and the cervical os (neck of the womb) is closed.  Women with a threatened miscarriage are monitored until their symptoms resolve and the pregnancy continues or the pregnancy miscarries.  


Inevitable Miscarriage

Inevitable miscarriage occurs when there is vaginal bleeding and the cervical os is open. However, even though conception products/pregnancy tissue remains in the uterine cavity, it is inevitable that they will be lost.


Complete Miscarriage

A miscarriage is termed complete when all the conception products/pregnancy tissue have been expelled from the uterine cavity.


Incomplete Miscarriage

Following heavy bleeding conception products may still remain in the womb, this is termed an incomplete miscarriage. In this case, vaginal bleeding and pain may still be present, and the cervical os remains open.


Missed Miscarriage

A missed miscarriage is often known as a silent miscarriage because women generally do not experience the common symptoms of miscarriage i.e. bleeding and pain. The signs of pregnancy continue and so you may not realise anything has gone wrong. Often it is not until a routine ultrasound scan is performed that a woman becomes aware that the pregnancy has ceased.

The management of the different types of miscarriage is discussed in detail here.

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