Medical Definitions of Loss

Miscarriage is medically defined as the spontaneous end of a pregnancy before the 20th gestational week.  It is seen as the most common complication of early pregnancy (12 weeks & below).

Ectopic Pregnancy
an abnormal pregnancy that occurs outside the uterus. The baby cannot survive, and often does not develop at all in this type of pregnancy. Some form of intervention is needed to prevent serious issues for mom.

Molar Pregnancy
is an abnormal form of pregnancy, wherein a non-viable, fertilized egg implants in the uterus, and thereby converts normal pregnancy processes into pathological ones. (more)

Anembryonic Pregnancy/Blighted Ovum
is a pregnancy in which the very early pregnancy appears normal on an ultrasound scan, but as the pregnancy progresses a visible embryo never develops. (more)

Chemical Pregnancy
miscarriage that occurs before the end of the 6th gestational week.

Inevitable miscarriage
where the cervix has already dilated open, but the fetus has yet to be expelled. there is great evidence a miscarriage is likely to occur

Incomplete miscarriage/missed miscarriage
occurs when tissue has been passed, but some remains in utero / embryo or fetus has died, but a miscarriage has not yet occurred

Complete miscarriage
when all “products of conception” have been expelled

Multiple Miscarriage/Habitual Miscarriage
the occurrence of three consecutive miscarriages

Early miscarriage (sometimes called chemical pregnancy)
occurs before the 6th gestational week of pregnancy

First Trimester miscarriage
medically defined as occurring between the 6-12th gestational weeks

Second Trimester miscarriage
medically defined as occurring between the 13-20th gestational weeks

occurs when a fetus has died in the uterus or before delivery, after 20-24 weeks gestation or the baby weighs more than 400 grams (more)

Neonatal Loss due to prematurity
preterm labor (before 37 weeks gestation) resulting in death after life premature birth

Neonatal Loss
medically defined as the death of a child within the first 28 days of life

I stress the term medically here because it is not uncommon for a grieving family to disagree with the medical timelines when it comes to miscarriage vs stillbirth vs neonatal loss.


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Devan McGuinness

is the founder and executive director of the award-winning resource Unspoken Grief .

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