Products of Conception Symptoms

Pregnant woman having an ultrasound
Lumi Images/Romulic-Stojcic/Getty Images

Products of conception is a medical term used to identify any tissues that develop from a pregnancy. It is commonly used by doctors to include not only the fetus but also the placenta and any other tissues that may result from a fertilized egg.

Products of Conception and Miscarriage

In a very early miscarriage, it may be impossible to determine what is the placenta and what is the fetus without analysis by a pathologist. The further along a pregnancy gets, the more distinct all types of tissue become, but the term "products of conception" can still be applied to all of them.

Some women may be familiar with the term if they have had a D&C (dilation and curettage) after an incomplete miscarriage. A D&C is used to remove any products of conception that remain after a miscarriage. The doctor may be unable to tell exactly what has been left behind in the uterus by ultrasound, so "products of conception" is the most accurate description available.

Symptoms of Retained Products of Conception

Any placental or fetal tissue that's still in the uterus after a miscarriage, planned pregnancy termination or preterm or term delivery may be referred to as "retained products of conception" (RPOC). If you have a miscarriage with RPOC it means you had an incomplete rather than complete miscarriage.

Women who have RPOC may experience one or more of these symptoms:

  • Uterine bleeding — some bleeding is normal after a miscarriage, but it may be a sign of RPOC if the bleeding is very heavy (sometimes with clots) and/or prolonged (more than three weeks)
  • Fever, pelvic pain, uterine tenderness — these symptoms can be signs of an infection in the RPOC if they go on for more than a few days
  • Late period — if your period doesn't return within six weeks, you could have RPOC

If you have some or all of these symptoms, report them to your doctor. If they are indeed abnormal, you may undergo tests such as a physical exam, lab tests, ultrasound, or hysteroscopy (a procedure that lets your doctor look inside your uterus using a thin, lighted tube). Depending on the situation, you may need surgery or medication to resolve RPOC. Other treatments, like fluids and antibiotics, may also be needed.

Women who have RPOC but no signs of infection may choose not to get any treatment. The bleeding will generally resolve on its own.

Products of Conception in the News

"Products of conception" made its way into the news in 2015, when an OB-GYN named Jen Gunter penned an article for the New Republic about the terminology. Gunter argued that "products of conception" was more medically accurate than the term "baby parts" used by anti-abortion activists to describe tissue from terminated pregnancies.

Gunter wrote, "These are not 'baby parts.' Whether a woman has a miscarriage or an abortion, the tissue specimen is called ' products of conception.' In utero, i.e. during pregnancy, we use the term 'embryo' from fertilization to ten weeks gestation and 'fetus' from ten weeks to birth.

The term "baby" is medically incorrect as it doesn’t apply until birth. Calling the tissue 'baby parts' is a calculated attempt to anthropomorphize an embryo or fetus. It is a false image—a ten to twelve-week fetus looks nothing like a term baby—and is medically incorrect.

Was this page helpful?

Article Sources

  • Jen Gunter. "The Many Manipulations of the Planned Parenthood Attack Videos." July 23, 2015. New Republic
  • Retained products of conception. UpToDate. January 26, 2016.