Miscarriage terminology explained

Medical terms can be confusing. We have explained some of the more common medical terms here. Some of these may seem insensitive or cold, but try to remember that these are just medical terms.

Tests and treatments

Cervical stitch

A cervical stitch can be used to support a weakened cervix and reduce the risk of giving birth prematurely. The stitch works by keeping the cervix closed. This is usually done after 12 weeks of pregnancy and is taken out around 37 weeks.

Early Pregnancy Unit (EPU)

An Early Pregnancy Unit is where you will be referred if you have any concerns during early pregnancy.

Expectant management

Expectant management is 1 of 3 treatments options if you have a missed miscarriage or incomplete miscarriage. It means waiting for the miscarriage to happen by itself, naturally.

Medical management

Medical management is 1 of 3 treatments options if you have a missed miscarriage or incomplete miscarriage. It means taking medicine to help the pregnancy pass.

Surgical management

Surgical management is 1 of 3 treatments options if you have a missed miscarriage or incomplete miscarriage. It means having surgery to remove the pregnancy.


A pessary is a small block that is inserted into the vagina to treat infection or as a contraceptive.


Placebos are drugs or procedures that have no medical effect but can be used as a control when testing new drugs or treatments. This allows scientists to see if simply thinking that you are taking medication can make you feel better. This is known as the placebo effect. If a drug really works, it should be more effective than taking a placebo.

Pregnancy tissue

This is the medical term that professionals use to refer to your baby when they have died. You might think this is insensitive and it can be hard to hear, but professionals use this term when they are talking about medical procedures.

Recurrent Miscarriage Clinic (RMC)

Your GP will refer you to a Recurrent Miscarriage Clinic if you have experienced recurrent miscarriages.

We have a Miscarriage Support Tool that you can use to get personalised support and find out your chance of a successful next pregnancy.

Ultrasound scan (or sonogram)

An ultrasound scan (or sonogram) can be used to monitor a baby, make a diagnosis or help a surgeon during an operation. High-frequency sound waves create an image of the inside of your body, for example the womb. An external ultrasound uses an instrument (probe) which moves over the outside of your body to detect the sound waves. An internal ultrasound is when the probe is placed inside your body, for example the vagina, which is known as a transvaginal scan (TVS).

Other useful terms


Antibodies are produced by your immune system to fight disease and infections. They attach themselves to bacteria or viruses to weaken or destroy it.

Antiphospholipid syndrome (also known as Hughes syndrome, sticky bloody syndrome or APS)

Antiphospholipid syndrome is an immune system disorder that increases the risk of blood clots. It’s sometimes known as Hughes syndrome.

Blighted ovum (anembryonic pregnancy)

A blighted ovum happens when cells stop growing early on. Instead of developing into a baby, the tiny embryo is reabsorbed, causing a miscarriage. The pregnancy sac, where the baby should have grown, sometimes continues to develop.


The cervix is the lower part of the womb (uterus). It joins to the top of the vagina. It is sometimes called the neck of the womb.


Chromosomes are used as building blocks in a baby’s development, these rod-shaped structures (usually found in pairs in a cell nucleus) carry the genes. These genes decide the sex of the baby and the characteristics a baby inherits from its parents. A human body cell usually contains 46 chromosomes arranged in 23 pairs (23 from the mother and 23 from the father).

Chromosomal abnormalities

A chromosomal abnormality happens if a baby carries too many or not enough chromosomes. This means it won’t be able to develop properly.


A hormone is a chemical that travels to different parts of the body where they help regulate and control how cells and organs work.

Lupus anticoagulant

Lupus anticoagulant is an antibody that can cause clotting of blood in arteries and veins. This can sometimes lead to early miscarriage.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is an anxiety disorder, affecting people who have experienced emotional trauma. It can cause sleep disturbances, flashbacks, anxiety, tiredness and depression.

Stem cell

Stem cells are cells that are made by the body. They are a special kind of cell that can turn into many other types.

Rhesus disease

Rhesus disease is a condition where antibodies in the mother’s body destroy her baby’s blood cells.

Chaudhry K. and Siccardi M A. (2019) Blighted Ovum (Anembryonic Pregnancy), The National Center for Biotechnology Information

Olaniyi J A, et al (2011) Lupus anticoagulant (LA) in pregnant women with history of recurrent fetal loss. Journal of blood medicine.2011; 2: 87–90.

NHS Choices. Antiphospholipid syndrome (APS) https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/antiphospholipid-syndrome/ (Page last reviewed: 21/08/2018. Next review due: 21/08/2018)

NHS Choices. Miscarriage overview. www.nhs.uk/conditions/miscarriage (Page last reviewed: 01/06/2018. Next review due: 01/06/2021)

NHS Choices. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/post-traumatic-stress-disorder-ptsd/ (Page last reviewed: 27/09/2018. Next review due: 27/09/2021)

NHS Choices. Rhesus disease. https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/rhesus-disease/ (Page last reviewed: 11/06/2018. Next review due: 11/06/2021)

Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (2018) Cervical stitch. https://www.rcog.org.uk/en/patients/patient-leaflets/cervical-stitch/

Review dates
Reviewed: 30 April 2020
Next review: 30 April 2023

This content is currently being reviewed by our team. Updated information will be coming soon.