Miscarriage

  • Medical Author:
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

  • Medical Editor: David Perlstein, MD, MBA, FAAP
    David Perlstein, MD, MBA, FAAP

    David Perlstein, MD, MBA, FAAP

    Dr. Perlstein received his Medical Degree from the University of Cincinnati and then completed his internship and residency in pediatrics at The New York Hospital, Cornell medical Center in New York City. After serving an additional year as Chief Pediatric Resident, he worked as a private practitioner and then was appointed Director of Ambulatory Pediatrics at St. Barnabas Hospital in the Bronx.

How is miscarriage diagnosed?

An ultrasound examination is typically performed if a woman has symptoms of a miscarriage. The ultrasound can determine if the pregnancy is intact and if a fetal heartbeat is present. Ultrasound examination can also reveal whether the pregnancy is an ectopic pregnancy (located outside of the uterus, typically in the Fallopian tube), which may have similar symptoms and signs as miscarriage. Other tests that may be performed include blood tests for pregnancy hormones, blood counts to determine the degree of blood loss or to see whether infection is present, and a pelvic examination. The mother's blood type should also be checked at the time of a miscarriage, so that Rh-negative women can receive an injection of rho-D immune globulin (RhoGam) to prevent problems in future pregnancies.

What happens after a miscarriage?

There are no specific treatments that can stop a miscarriage, although women who are at risk and have not yet miscarried may be advised to rest in bed, abstain from sexual activity, and restrict all physical activity until any warning signs are no longer present. Once a miscarriage occurs, there is no treatment available. In many cases, the miscarriage will take its course, and unless there is severe pain and cramping or severe blood loss, no treatment is required. If a miscarriage does not completely clear the pregnancy tissue from the uterus, a procedure known as a dilatation and curettage (D&C) can be performed to remove the remaining pregnancy material. This treatment is used in the case of a missed abortion, for example, when the pregnancy material is not expelled from the uterus.

As mentioned above, women who are Rh-negative will receive a dose of rho-D immune globulin to prevent complications in future pregnancies.

If a miscarriage is due to infection, antibiotic treatment will be given.

Miscarriage is such a common occurrence that typically, unless known risk factors are present, no special testing is performed. For couples who have experienced more than two miscarriages, diagnostic studies to detect genetic, hormonal, or anatomical problems may be recommended. Some doctors recommend evaluation of the couple after the second miscarriage, particularly if the woman is over 35 years of age.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 11/4/2015

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