Miscarriage (cont.)

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What will the doctor look for during an examination with suspected miscarriage?

A woman's cervix might have some bloody discharge, but nothing else unusual will be characteristic of threatened abortion. Some women will have mild uterine tenderness during the manual examination of the uterus. The doctor may look to see if the cervix is dilated and will check to see if the uterus is enlarged to an extent appropriate for gestational age of the pregnancy.

How is threatened abortion evaluated?

Pelvic ultrasound is used to visualize fetal heartbeat and to determine whether a pregnancy is still viable. The ultrasound examination can also distinguish between intrauterine and ectopic pregnancies. The doctor may also order blood levels of serial human chorionic gonadotrophin (HCG) to help determine the viability of a pregnancy if the ultrasound examination is not conclusive. During the evaluation, the woman may be advised to rest and avoid sexual intercourse (activity).

What are common terms a woman might hear during evaluation for miscarriage?

  1. "Miscarriage" (spontaneous abortion) is termination of pregnancy before the fetus is viable (able to survive).
  2. "Complete abortion" describes spontaneous (not intentionally induced by medication or procedures) passage of all fetal and placental tissue. This is common prior to 12 weeks' gestation.
  3. "Incomplete abortion" is when some, but not all, the fetal and placental tissue is expelled.
  4. "Products of conception" refers to the combination of fetal and placental tissue.
  5. "Threatened abortion" is when a miscarriage does not actually occur, but there is vaginal bleeding from the uterus. The cervix will not be dilated and does not show signs of imminent passage of fetal and placental tissue.
  6. "Missed abortion" describes a fetal death in the uterus prior to viability, but the products of conception are not passed.
  7. A "septic (infectious) abortion" is caused by bacterial infection and accompanied by fever, chills, pain, and a pus-containing discharge.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 3/7/2014

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