Products of Conception Symptoms

Pregnant woman having an ultrasound
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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.


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.

Retained Products of Conception

Any placental or fetal tissue that's still in the uterus after a miscarriage, planned pregnancy termination, 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:

  • 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
  • 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)


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.


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 also 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."

7 Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  2. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Dilation and Curettage.

  3. Sellmyer MA, Desser TS, Maturen KE, Jeffrey RB, Kamaya A. Physiologic, histologic, and imaging features of retained products of conception. Radiographics. 2013;33(3):781-96. doi:10.1148/rg.333125177

  4. Ben-ami I, Ofir T, Melcer Y, et al. Infertility following retained products of conception: is it the surgical procedure or the presence of trophoblastic tissue?. Eur J Obstet Gynecol Reprod Biol. 2014;182:132-5. doi:10.1016/j.ejogrb.2014.09.021

  5. De winter J, De raedemaecker H, Muys J, Jacquemyn Y. The value of postpartum ultrasound for the diagnosis of retained products of conception: A systematic review. Facts Views Vis Obgyn. 2017;9(4):207-216.

  6. Lin YH, Cheng YY, Ding DC. Hysteroscopic Management of Retained Products of Conception. Gynecol Minim Invasive Ther. 2018;7(3):133-135. doi:10.4103/GMIT.GMIT_27_18

  7. Gunter J. The New Republic. The Many Manipulations of the Planned Parenthood Attack Videos.

By Elizabeth Czukas, RN, MSN
Elizabeth Czukas is a writer who who has worked as an RN in high-risk obstetrics, antepartum care, and with women undergoing pregnancy loss.