Confused by the language of pregnancy loss?

If you are trying to have a baby, or have just found out you are pregnant, you might be hearing all types of words that describe different forms of pregnancy loss.  All the jargon can get really confusing and scary.

I like this simple summary of the different terms that are used to describe the pregnancy diagnoses that all of us hope will never happen to us

Understanding the language won’t stop miscarriages happening, but it might help to communicate more effectively with your fertility or obstetric treatment team as you embark on your pregnancy.

Chemical Pregnancy

Despite the name, a chemical pregnancy is not a false pregnancy or a false  positive on a pregnancy test . In fact, it’s a very early miscarriage. Doctors believe chemical pregnancies are usually caused by chromosomal abnormalities.

You may be surprised to learn that some women who have a chemical pregnancy never even knew they were pregnant, as the bleeding from the pregnancy loss often occurs around the same time as a woman’s period. That being said, home pregnancy tests are so good now at detecting hCG levels, that many women often find out that they’re pregnant very early.

Ectopic Pregnancy

Ectopic pregnancies happen when a fertilized egg implants someplace other than in the uterus, such as in one of the fallopian tubes. Sometimes risk factors exist, but other times the cause is unknown. Symptoms of an ectopic pregnancy may include severe abdominal cramping and dizziness.

First-Trimester Miscarriage

 First trimester miscarriage, sometimes called spontaneous abortion, is very common but also heartbreaking for most moms. It’s normal to have a lot of questions about signs of miscarriage, diagnosis, miscarriage causes, treatment, and risk factors. Be sure to talk to your doctor, so your questions are answered and your worries are addressed.

Blighted Ovum

A blighted ovum is a miscarriage in which the baby doesn’t develop, but a gestational sac  continues to grow, and you may continue to experience pregnancy symptoms.  A blighted ovum  can be a missed miscarriage treated with a dilation and curettage, also known as a D&C, or it may end naturally.

Missed Miscarriage

A missed miscarriage is a pregnancy loss, usually in the first trimester, in which the doctor diagnoses the miscarriage based on lab results or other clinical evidence, but you haven’t had definite miscarriage symptoms like bleeding or cramping.

Molar Pregnancy

Molar pregnancy is a rare condition that causes pregnancy tissue to overgrow and the fetus doesn’t develop normally. Molar pregnancies never develop normally. The cause is a chromosomal abnormality that occurs at the time of fertilization. This type of pregnancy requires close follow-up with your obstetrician after treatment.

Second-Trimester Miscarriage

Late miscarriage, such as those in the second trimester, can happen for a number of reasons. Some of these causes might be chromosomal abnormalities, cervical insufficiency, congenital birth defects, placental problems, or other factors.

Preterm Delivery From Cervical Insufficiency

Incompetent cervix, or cervical insufficiency, is a medical condition in which the cervix dilates too early in the pregnancy, resulting in pregnancy loss or premature birth. Risk factors for cervical insufficiency include having had a dilation and curettage (D&C), genetic disorders, and cervical trauma.


Stillbirth is the death of a baby in the womb before birth. Potential causes and contributing factors to stillbirth include infection, placenta problems, birth defects, pregnancy complications, high blood pressure in the mother, umbilical cord issues, and maternal medical complications.

Neonatal Infant Loss

Neonatal infant loss or death refers to the loss of a newborn baby younger than 28 days old, which can be considered a pregnancy loss. The most frequent causes of neonatal infant loss are prematurity and birth defects.

Termination of a Desired Pregnancy for Medical Reasons

Selective abortion is a divisive issue and a delicate matter for parents to consider when prenatal screening results in the diagnosis of a severe chromosomal condition with a poor medical prognosis.”