Other Conditions & Exposures

Expert reports about Other Conditions & Exposures



What is a spontaneous abortion?

A spontaneous abortion, commonly known as a miscarriage, is the termination of a pregnancy, without outside intervention, before 20 gestational weeks. From 20 weeks onward, the spontaneous termination of a pregnancy without the survival of the fetus is known as a stillbirth (if the baby survives, it is called preterm birth). Both spontaneous abortion and stillbirth differ from induced abortion, in which the pregnancy is terminated deliberately without the survival of the fetus. The term spontaneous abortion encompasses inevitable abortion, in which there is bleeding, and the cervical os (the lower part of the cervix, leading to the vagina) is open, or the embryo or fetus is otherwise nonviable, but it has not yet been expelled. It also encompasses missed abortion (embryo/fetus is not viable, but no expulsion of products of conception has been noticed), incomplete abortion (part of the embryo/fetus, placenta, or membranes have been expelled, but part remains in the uterus), complete abortion (body has expelled all products of conception), and septic abortion (all or some products of conception remain in the uterus where they cause an infection). Additionally, a situation called a threatened abortion often is listed with the other conditions, but it is not a spontaneous abortion. Rather, a threatened abortion means that there is bleeding, indicating that the situation could evolve into a spontaneous abortion, but the cervical os is closed, and the fate of the embryo or fetus is not yet known. 


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