Different Types of Pregnancy Loss

Understanding miscarriage, ectopic pregnancy, stillbirth, and neonatal loss

Although first-trimester miscarriage is the most common type of pregnancy loss, other types exist. Pregnancy loss may occur for several different reasons and may happen at any point in pregnancy.


Chemical Pregnancy

Patient talking with doctor

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A chemical pregnancy is not a false pregnancy or a false positive on a pregnancy test. In fact, it's a very early miscarriage. Doctors believe chemical pregnancies are usually caused by chromosomal abnormalities. 

Some women who have a chemical pregnancy never even knew they were pregnant, as the bleeding from the pregnancy loss often occurs around the same time as their expected menstrual period. But since home pregnancy tests are now quite sensitive, many women find out that they're pregnant very early—even before their expected period. 


Ectopic Pregnancy

Ectopic pregnancies happen when a fertilized egg implants someplace other than in the uterus, such as in one of the fallopian tubes. Sometimes risk factors exist, but other times, the cause is unknown. Symptoms of an ectopic pregnancy may include severe abdominal cramping and dizziness.

Ectopic pregnancy can be a life-threatening emergency. If you experience severe cramping or abdominal pain and vaginal bleeding, contact your doctor or go to the emergency room immediately.


First-Trimester Miscarriage

First-trimester miscarriage, sometimes called spontaneous abortion, is very common, which doesn't make it any less heartbreaking for many people. It's normal to have a lot of questions about signs of miscarriage, diagnosis, miscarriage causes, treatment, and risk factors. Be sure to talk to your doctor so your questions are answered and your worries are addressed. 


Blighted Ovum

A blighted ovum is a miscarriage in which the fetus doesn't develop, but a gestational sac continues to grow, and you may continue to experience pregnancy symptoms. A blighted ovum can be a missed miscarriage treated with a dilation and curettage, also known as a D&C, or it may end naturally.


Missed Miscarriage

A missed miscarriage is a pregnancy loss, usually in the first trimester, in which the doctor diagnoses the miscarriage based on lab results or other clinical evidence, but you haven't had definite miscarriage symptoms like bleeding or cramping. 


Molar Pregnancy

Molar pregnancy is a rare condition that causes pregnancy tissue to overgrow and the fetus to develop abnormally. Molar pregnancies never develop normally. The cause is a chromosomal abnormality that occurs at the time of fertilization.

While the majority of miscarriages are caused by chromosomal abnormalities, this specific type of pregnancy loss requires close follow-up with your obstetrician after treatment.


Second-Trimester Miscarriage

Late miscarriages, such as those in the second trimester, can happen for a number of reasons. These causes include chromosomal abnormalities, cervical insufficiency, congenital birth defects, placental problems, or other factors.


Preterm Delivery From Cervical Insufficiency

Incompetent cervix, or cervical insufficiency, is a medical condition in which the cervix dilates too early in the pregnancy, resulting in pregnancy loss or premature birth. Risk factors for cervical insufficiency include genetic disorders, cervical trauma, and complications after having had a dilation and curettage (D&C). A D&C alone does not increase risk, but complications from the procedure can.



Stillbirth is the death of a fetus in the womb before birth. Potential causes and contributing factors to stillbirth include infection, placenta problems, birth defects, pregnancy complications, high blood pressure in the mother, umbilical cord issues, and maternal medical complications.


Neonatal Infant Loss

Neonatal infant loss or death refers to the loss of a newborn baby younger than 28 days old, which can be considered a pregnancy loss. The most frequent causes of neonatal infant loss are prematurity and birth defects.


Termination of a Desired Pregnancy for Medical Reasons

Selective abortion is a divisive issue and a delicate matter for parents to consider when prenatal screening results in the diagnosis of a condition with a poor medical prognosis.

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