Early Pregnancy Loss: Medical Terms You May Hear
Anaesthetic: Medication used to make you unconscious and unable to feel the operation or be aware of what is happening. It is given to you by a needle in your vein.
Anembryonic pregnancy (previously known as blighted ovum): Sometimes an egg is fertilised but does not continue to divide. A sac is formed but there is no baby and miscarriage usually occurs between seven and 12 weeks.
Cervix: Neck of the uterus that can be felt through the vagina. To enable the ‘products of conception’ to leave the uterus, the cervix must dilate (enlarge).
Cervical incompetence: This is where the cervix is unable to hold the contents of the uterus in place and dilates too early. This usually occurs after the fourteenth week of pregnancy.
Dilation and curettage (D and C): A short operation usually conducted under a general anaesthetic, where the cervix is dilated and the ‘products of conception’ are gently removed.
Embryo: Describes your baby from conception to eight weeks gestation.
Foetus: Describes you baby from nine weeks gestation to birth.
Gestation: The term used for the duration of the pregnancy from the first day of the last menstrual period through to the birth of the baby.
Hydatidiform mole or molar pregnancy: This occurs when the placenta develops abnormally into a mass of fluid-filled sacs. They symptoms of pregnancy exist, however there may be no baby. In rare cases a form of cancer can develop after such a pregnancy.
Incomplete miscarriage: Some ‘products of conception’ are lost from the uterus and rest remains.
Induced miscarriage: A planned and voluntary termination of pregnancy. This is often necessary due to medical conditions of the woman or baby. This does not imply the pregnancy was unwanted.
Missed miscarriage/missed abortion: The embryo or foetus has died but stays in the uterus.
Products of conception: Includes embryo or foetus, placenta and membranes of the pregnancy.
Spontaneous miscarriage: The unplanned complete loss from the uterus before 20 weeks of pregnancy.
Spontaneous abortion: The medical term for miscarriage.
Suction curettage: A short operation normally conducted under a general anaesthetic where the contents of the uterus are removed by suction.
Threatened miscarriage: Bleeding through the vagina that occurs over several days or weeks. It is difficult to predict at this time if the pregnancy will end or continue.
Uterus (womb): It is the organ that holds and nurtures the development of the baby.
Last reviewed: 27/9/23
- Braithwaite, J., Richardson, R. & Waterson, P. (eds.). (2011). Miscarriage: Information for Parents and Families ( M.McSpedden, H. Wilkinson, L. Pash, T. Diamond & M. Zang, Rev.) (7th ed.). Lilyfield, NSW: SIDS and Kids NSW.