Miscarriage: What you need to know about pregnancy loss

Miscarriage is the most common pregnancy loss, followed by ectopic pregnancy and stillbirth. Others are a birth defect, especially one that is severe, as is the death of a newborn. Also, some birth mothers and surrogate mothers who gave up their babies for adoption, and some women who've had abortions experience pregnancy loss.


A miscarriage, medically called a spontaneous abortion, is the expulsion from the womb of a fetus not yet able to survive on its own. About one-third of all pregnancies end in miscarriage, most often before a woman even knows she's pregnant.

Most miscarriages occur in the first three months of pregnancy. Only one percent occur after 20 weeks gestation. Women who don't have "morning sickness" during pregnancy are more likely to miscarry for reasons believed to be related in part to hormonal levels. Of course, many women who don't have morning sickness do not miscarry.


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Many studies report that women past age 35 miscarry at twice the rate of younger women. However, that rate is not the same for all women in that age group. Research usually does not distinguish between healthy women with their first or second pregnancy and those women who have chronic health or infertility problems and/or a history of repeated pregnancy loss.

Symptoms of a miscarriage are bleeding, which progresses from light to heavy, and usually cramps. The process may take one day or several days. Some women experience pain and others don't.

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