Types of Pregnancy Loss: What You Need To Know

Pregnancy loss is a devastating experience, no matter what type of loss you have and no matter how far along you were at the time. Most people have heard of a miscarriage, but there are actually many different types of pregnancy loss. Whether you had a very early miscarriage or a late stillbirth, your loss matters. Each type of loss can be very difficult to cope with in it’s own way. The loss of a baby at any gestational age is hard and you deserve to be able to both recognize and grieve your baby. In this blog post, we will discuss the different types of pregnancy loss and what you should do if you experience one.

This post does not give medical advice. If you ever think you are going through a pregnancy loss, please contact your doctor.

What Should I Do If I Experience A Pregnancy Loss?

The first thing to remember is that a loss is not your fault. You did nothing wrong and you did nothing to cause the loss. Seeking help and support, whether it be from friends, family or a professional is key. After your loss, you will likely experience a range of emotions including shock, guilt, sadness and anger. It is important to recognize these feelings and understand that it is ok to feel this way. Acknowledging your grief can help with the healing process. However you are feeling is the right way to be feeling in that moment.

Reach out to your healthcare provider for medical support and treatment options. They can provide information about how to manage and treat your loss. The doctor can let you know if treatment is needed. Sometimes, they can do additional testing or give you more information about the cause of your loss and advise you on how to best take care of yourself physically, emotionally and mentally. Be sure to advocate for yourself and what you need. Attend your follow-up appointment after your loss and talk to your doctor about any concerns.

Give yourself the space and time you need to properly grieve. You do not have to return to your normal activities immediately if you need some more time. There is no set timeline to healing and it is normal to still feel sad even months after the loss. Seek and join out a support group for loss families if you feel you need more support.

A woman's hand holds up an ultrasound photo of her baby.

What Causes Pregnancy Loss?

Pregnancy loss can be attributed to many causes, some of which are unknown. The most common cause is a chromosomal abnormality in the baby that prevents it from developing properly. Other possible factors include infections, medical conditions, lifestyle or environmental influences, or anatomical problems with the uterus. Other causes can include incompetent cervix, autoimmune diseases, a thyroid problem, another type of birth defect, scar tissue, or antiphospholipid syndrome. There are so many diffferent things that can cause the loss of a fetus or embryo. It is important to talk to your health care provider to see if a cause can be identified. If so, it may help you prevent a loss from occurring again in the future.

The cause of your pregnancy loss can also depend on how many weeks gestation you are, the type of pregnancy loss you have, and if you have experienced a loss in the past. Your doctor may be able to provide more information about your specific cause once the appropriate testing has been done. In some cases, the cause still remains unknown, even after additional testing. It is also possible to have more than one loss for different reasons.

There can be some risk factors that can increase your risk of miscarriage and other types of pregnancy loss. These can include maternal age, a history of certain health conditions, substance abuse, infections, and many other causes. Always be sure to check with your doctor to get information about additional testing and treatment options.

A woman looks worried and sits in the bathroom looking down at a pregnancy test.

Types of Pregnancy Loss


A miscarriage is the most common type of pregnancy loss. It is estimated that around 1 out of 4 pregnancies end in a loss in the United States. It typically happens within the first 20 weeks of gestation and occurs when a fetus does not develop properly or stops growing. This can happen for different reasons including chromosomal abnormalities, health problems with the mother, hormonal issues, or an infection in the uterus. A late miscarriage might be the term used to refer to a second trimester loss. Other medical terms used to describe a miscarriage include a spontaneous abortion or inevitable miscarriage.

Treatment for a miscarriage can vary, depending upon how far along you are and if your body is miscarrying on it’s own. If is it an incomplete miscarriage, or you have retained some of the tissue from your pregnancy, a doctor might recommend a D&C (dilation and curettage) procedure to help clear out the remaining material. Some women may also take medication to help their bodies complete the miscarriage process. In many cases, no medical management is required at all. Some doctors will test your levels of human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG) in order to make sure they get down to the proper levels after your loss. This is done through a series of blood tests and helps ensure your body has completed the miscarriage.

Symptoms of miscarriage can include vaginal bleeding, cramping, and the passing of pregnancy tissue. If you ever experience heavy vaginal bleeding or intense cramping, it is important to contact your doctor right away. There are different types of miscarriage, but each type is still a pregnancy loss. You should be allowed to grieve over your loss no matter what type it is or how far along you are.

Missed Miscarriage

A missed miscarriage is a type of miscarriage when a fetus stops developing without the mother being aware of it. It can occur at any point in pregnancy, but is most common in the first trimester. Symptoms of a missed miscarriage differ from a regular miscarriage. Most often, you will not have any of the typical symptoms of a miscarriage, like bleeding or cramping. Many pregnant women do not know they have lost the baby until they go to a routine ultrasound exam.

Treatment for a missed miscarriage can involve taking medications to help the body complete the miscarriage. A doctor may also perform a D&C procedure in order to remove any remaining tissue. It is important to talk with your healthcare provider about how you would like to handle the situation if you experience a missed miscarriage.

Threatened Miscarriage

Threatened miscarriage is when a woman experiences signs and symptoms of a possible miscarriage, such as vaginal bleeding or cramping. However, this type of loss can resolve itself without any further complications and the pregnancy can continue normally. If you experience these symptoms it is important to contact your doctor right away so they can monitor the situation closely. Sometimes this will turn into a miscarriage or other pregnancy loss type as well.

Chemical Pregnancy

A chemical pregnancy is a type of very early pregnancy loss. It occurs when an embryo fails to implant in the uterus, or does not develop normally after implantation. Chemical pregnancies often go undetected and can produce a positive pregnancy test result even though no viable fetus is present. Most chemical pregnancies are so early that some women may not even realize they are pregnant.

There are not many signs or symptoms specific to a chemical pregnancy. You can have a positive pregnancy test, quickly followed by negative pregnancy tests or fading tests. In some cases, women will have light vaginal bleeding or spotting, similar to a menstrual period. No treatment is usually required for a chemical pregnancy.

Recurrent Miscarriage

Recurrent miscarriages are those that happen more than twice in a row. It is estimated that 1 out of 100 couples will experience recurrent pregnancy loss, though it can go undiagnosed or be misdiagnosed as well. Many doctors are not willing to provide additional testing until you have had three or more losses of the same type. There can be many different causes for recurrent miscarriages including hormonal issues, like low levels of progesterone. Other causes can be a chromosomal abnormality, uterine abnormalities, cervical insufficiency, or certain medical conditions and infections.

Treatment for recurrent miscarriages can vary based on the cause of the losses. Your doctor may recommend a series of blood tests, imaging studies, and ultrasounds to determine the cause. Treatments can range from medications to surgical procedures in order to correct any abnormalities or underlying issues. It is important to speak with your doctor about what options are available for you if you experience recurrent miscarriages.

A close up of a woman's stomach as she holds a pregnancy test in front of her.

Ectopic Pregnancy

An ectopic pregnancy occurs when a fertilized egg implants outside the uterus, usually in the fallopian tubes. Ectopic pregnancies are not viable and must be terminated. If this type of pregnancy is not immediately taken care of medically, the mother’s life will be at risk. This type of pregnancy loss is treated by giving a shot of methotrexate or having a surgical procedure to remove the fallopian tube.

Symptoms vary depending on where the embryo has implanted, but can include pelvic pain, vaginal bleeding, and missed periods. If you are ever experiencing severe abdominal pain, heavy bleeding, or other symptoms of an ectopic pregnancy, you should be seen immediately. Ectopic pregnancies can be potentially life threatening. If your regular doctor is not available, go to the emergency room to be seen.

Molar Pregnancy

A molar pregnancy occurs when a fertilized egg implants in the uterus, but does not develop into an embryo. Instead, it forms a mass of abnormal tissue that can be either benign or malignant. You may still have pregnancy symptoms, despite the pregnancy not developing normally. Signs of this type of loss may include abdominal pain and vaginal bleeding, as well as higher than normal levels of HCG hormone in the blood. If a molar pregnancy is suspected, it should be treated immediately by your healthcare provider. This is another type of loss that you may not know you are having until you go to a routine ultrasound.

A molar pregnancy may have to be treated with a dilation and curettage (D&C) to remove the abnormal tissue. After treatment, your doctor will closely monitor you with blood tests to check your HCG levels until they return to normal. Follow-up ultrasounds may also be necessary in order to ensure that all of the abnormal tissue has been removed.

Partial Molar Pregnancy

A partial molar pregnancy is a rare type of pregnancy loss that can occur when two sperm fertilize a single egg. This pregnancy can usually be detected with an ultrasound and will typically not advance to term. Symptoms can vary, but can include abdominal pain, excessive bleeding and higher than normal levels of HCG in the blood. It is important to seek medical attention right away if you suspect a partial molar pregnancy.

Blighted Ovum

A blighted ovum occurs when an embryo does not develop into a fetus, but instead forms an empty gestational sac. This type of pregnancy loss may also be called an anembryonic pregnancy. It is most common in the first trimester and can often be detected by an ultrasound. While there are no clear causes for this condition, it could be due to chromosomal abnormalities or problems with implantation. Symptoms may include light bleeding or spotting, abdominal pain, and cramping.

Treatment may involve a dilation and curettage (D&C) to remove the gestational sac if you body does not miscarry on it’s own. After the procedure, it is important to follow up with your doctor for a physical exam, blood tests, and ultrasounds in order to confirm your levels are going down appropriately.

Embryo Loss

Embryo loss refers to someone who has gone through an IVF cycle, but the embryo fails to implant successfully into the uterus. Many women who have gone through this experience feel they cannot talk about their loss because it presents differently than miscarriages and other losses. Embryo loss is still very much a type of pregnancy loss. While there are no clear causes for this type of loss, it can happen due to chromosomal abnormalities or other factors that prevent implantation. It is important to allow yourself time and space to grieve your loss.

Symptoms of an embryo loss can be similiar to those of first trimester miscarriages. There can be cramping and bleeding. It may take a few weeks for the HCG hormone to drop back to pre-pregnancy levels. Your doctor will likely monitor your progress with blood tests and ultrasounds to make sure that all of the pregnancy hormones are decreasing as expected.

Several ultrasound photos surround the word "love" that has two hearts next to it.


A stillbirth is when a baby dies in utero after the 20th week of pregnancy. The baby is born without breathing and without any fetal cardiac activity. A stillbirth can happen for many reasons including infection, placental abnormalities, blood clots, genetic disorders and maternal health problems. Sometimes the cause of a stillbirth remains unknown.

Treatment for a stillbirth includes medical care for the mother to deliver her baby and counseling or therapy for both partners. The baby can be born either through a vaginal birth or through a C-section, depending on the circumstances. After the delivery, the family can make arrangements for funeral or burial services. It is important to talk to your doctor about grief counseling and other resources that may be helpful in coping with a stillbirth.

Symptoms can include decreased fetal movement, vaginal bleeding or fluid leaking from the vagina. If you experience any of these symptoms after 20 weeks of pregnancy it is important to contact your doctor right away.

Termination For Medical Reasons

A termination for medical reasons (TFMR) is when a pregnancy is terminated due to the health of the baby. In most cases, the baby is diagnosed with a condition that is not compatible with life outside of the womb. Sometimes a medical professional will also suggest terminating a pregnancy in order to protect the health or life of the mother. This type of termination is not an easy decision, and should be discussed carefully with your doctor. It is important to allow yourself time and space to grieve if you decide to terminate for medical reasons. There are no particular signs or symptoms for a TFMR. This type of loss would occur after a diagnosis, and the pregnancy would typically be terminated at that point.

Can I Still Have A Healthy Pregnancy After Loss?

Yes, it is possible to have a healthy pregnancy after experiencing a loss. It can be helpful to talk with your doctor and other trusted healthcare providers about your concerns and any testing available to you. If you are able to find out the cause of your loss(es), you may have treatment options available. Your healthcare provider can also provide extra monitoring and testing during any subsequent pregnancies. It is important to not give up hope.

Pregnancy losses can cause so much anxiety and fear in any following pregnancies. It can be helpful to talk to a mental health professional or other provider in order to express your fears and emotions. For some, they want to get pregnant right away and for others, they may take a long time to want to try again. Do not rush the decision and try again only when you feel ready. With a supportive team behind you, you can successfully manage your anxiety during a pregnancy after loss. Be sure to ask your doctor how long you should wait before trying again. The length of time will vary based on what type of loss you had and how far along you were at the time. You will often have to wait until the bleeding stops and your HCG hormone level comes back down to zero.

If you experience the loss of a pregnancy, it is important to seek out both physical and emotional support. Many women find that talking to a therapist or joining a support group are good ways to cope with their loss. It can also be beneficial to take time away from work and social media, as these can be triggering. Remember, no matter what type of loss you experience, you are allowed to grieve and mourn the loss of your baby. Do not be afraid to ask for help when you need it. Support is available and with time and care, you can begin to heal. There is no right or wrong way to grieve a pregnancy loss. Everyone experiences it differently, but if you allow yourself enough time and space to process your emotions, you can begin to work through your grief.

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