(Miscarriage; Possible Pregnancy Loss)
Spontaneous abortion is a condition that occurs during the first 20 weeks of pregnancy in which vaginal bleeding suggests an increased risk of miscarriage
Fetus in First Trimester
Early-pregnancy bleeding can originate from the uterus, cervix, or vagina, or it can come from outside the genitals. In many cases, the cause of the bleeding is due to a minor condition that requires no treatment. However, if you experience any vaginal bleeding during your pregnancy, particularly if it is associated with abdominal pain, you should consult your doctor. Possible causes of bleeding include:
- Implantation of the embryo
- Irritation (eg, after intercourse)
- Ectopic pregnancy
A risk factor is something that increases your chance of getting a disease or condition.
Miscarriage is common, with about 20-30% of pregnancies being complicated by bleeding in the first 20 weeks. About 10-15% of all established pregnancies ultimately abort (miscarry). Some factors thought to increase the risk of threatened abortion are:
The main symptom of miscarriage is bleeding during the first 20 weeks of pregnancy, with or without abdominal cramping. The bleeding may be light or heavy.
Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history, and perform a physical exam. Other tests may include:
- Ultrasound —a test that uses sound waves to examine the body
- Fetal heart monitoring—a procedure that places electrodes on the abdomen to detect the fetal heart rate (detectable at 8-10 weeks of pregnancy), and determine the strength and duration of uterine contractions
- Blood tests
Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you. Many cases of miscarriage require no treatment at all. In other cases, treatment options include:
Your doctor may recommend bed rest if your bleeding is heavy. He or she may also give you instructions on limiting your activity.
Your doctor may prescribe progesterone , which is a female hormone that supports a pregnancy. It can also relax your uterus if you are experiencing a cramping uterus. Buphenine hydrochloride is another medication that can be used to relax your uterus.
Finally, if your blood is
If you are diagnosed with a possible miscarriage, follow your doctor's instructions.
There is usually no way to prevent a threatened abortion. But things you can do to increase your chance of having a healthy pregnancy include:
- Avoid alcohol, cigarettes, and illegal drugs
- Limit caffeine intake
- Control any medical conditions such as diabetes
American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists
American Pregnancy Association
Canadian Association of Pregnancy Support Services
Bleeding during pregnancy. American Pregnancy Association website. Available at: http://www.americanpregnancy.org/pregnancycomplications/bleedingduringpreg.html . Accessed July 3, 2007.
Griebel CP, Halvorsen J, Golemon TB, Day AA. Management of spontaneous abortion. Am Fam Physician . 2005;72:1243-1250.
Sotirladis A, Papatheodorou S, Makrydimas G. Threatened miscarriage: evaluation and management. BMJ . 2004;329:152-155.
Last reviewed November 2008 by
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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