Medical Terms around Baby Loss


Miscarriage is the loss of a pregnancy in the first 24 weeks (UK) and 20-weeks (US). (In medical articles, you may see the term “spontaneous abortion” used in place of miscarriage.) About 25 percent of pregnancies end in miscarriage, and more than 80 percent of these losses happen before 12 weeks.

Missed Miscarriage

A missed miscarriage, also called a silent miscarriage, can happen in any pregnancy. After conception, a fertilised egg (ovum) implants in your uterus (womb). At some point your baby either stops growing, or their heartbeat stops. You may have had a scan at 12 weeks and all appeared well, and then at your 24 week scan see that your babies heartbeat sadly stopped beating at 20 weeks. As your body held onto the baby, and you may have had no visible signs that the baby has passed away, the term missed miscarriage is used.

Blighted Ovum

Early pregnancy failure (also known as blighted ovum or anembryonic gestation) is a common cause of miscarriage. It happens when a fertilised egg implants in the uterus but the resulting embryo either stops developing very early or doesn’t form at all. If you have an early pregnancy failure, you may not find out about it until the end of your first trimester.


If a fertilised egg implants outside the uterus, it’s called an ectopic pregnancy. About 1 in 50 pregnancies is ectopic. There’s no way to transplant an ectopic (literally, “out of place”) pregnancy into your uterus, so ending the pregnancy is the only option.

While there are some risk factors, an ectopic pregnancy can happen to anyone. And, because it’s potentially dangerous for you, it’s important to recognise the early signs and get treatment as soon as possible.


A molar pregnancy happens when a fertilised egg develops into a growth called a mole instead of into a normal embryo. You may still have typical pregnancy symptoms in the beginning. But eventually you’ll have bleeding and other symptoms that indicate something is wrong.


The medical definition of stillbirth is the birth of a baby who is born without any signs of life at or after 24 weeks pregnancy. The baby may have died during pregnancy (called intrauterine death), labour or birth.

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