Missed Abortion

Posted On: September 7, 2016 By Nathan D. Fox, MD

Missed abortion is a term used to describe a miscarriage that has not yet passed.  Prior to the use of routine ultrasound, it was believed that many or most miscarriages occurred suddenly in a pregnancy that was – until the time of the miscarriage – growing normally.  However, we now know that most miscarriages happen several days or weeks prior to the clinical miscarriage.  Using early ultrasound, we are able to diagnose a miscarriage far earlier than ever before.

Women with missed abortions often continue to have pregnancy symptoms (nausea, fatigue, breast tenderness) as they can still have high levels of circulating hormones.  They frequently have no bleeding either.  The causes of miscarriage widely vary, but it should be emphasized that most miscarriages are due to random genetic abnormalities in the embryo and that miscarriage is not due to women’s lifestyle, including work, sex, exercise, travel, being around children, etc.

Managing a Missed Abortion

For most women with a missed abortion, there are three options:

  1. Expectant Management – The woman waits for spontaneous passing of the pregnancy, which could take from several days to weeks.
  2. Medical Management – Through medical management, women are prescribed a medication (usually misoprostol) to expedite the passing of the pregnancy.
  3. Surgical Management – This method involves dilation of the cervix and aspiration of the nonviable pregnancy, which is done either in a hospital, an ambulatory surgical center, or sometimes the doctor’s office.

For the majority of women with a missed abortion, all three management options are safe and reasonable. Most women choose one over the other based more on their personal preference than a medical reason.  For more information regarding missed abortions or any other pregnancy questions, visit our blog.

Carnegie Imaging for Women blogs are intended for educational purposes only and do not replace certified professional care. Medical conditions vary and change frequently. Please ask your doctor any questions you may have regarding your condition to receive a proper diagnosis or risk analysis. Thank you!

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