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Last revised by Dr Jeremy Jones on 20 Sep 2021

A miscarriage is the spontaneous termination of a pregnancy before 20 weeks of gestation. Fetal death after week 20 is termed fetal death in utero (FDIU).

The term miscarriage is preferred by many over 'abortion' due to the use of the latter for therapeutic pregnancy termination, and the perceived stigma attributed to it by some.

Terminology varies greatly, as do the definitions of these terms. Commonly it is divided into:

Approximately 20-25% of all pregnancies experience a threatened miscarriage. Of these, 15-50% result in embryonic/fetal death. The rate of fetal loss is significantly lower in pregnancies which do not threaten to miscarry (only 2-7%). A miscarriage often occurs very early in the pregnancy, often without any alteration of the menstrual cycle and thus not perceived by the woman. 

When a woman has had three or more miscarriages, the term habitual miscarriage is used.

Typically presents with vaginal bleeding, pelvic pain, and cramping.

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Cases and figures

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