Miscarriage terminology explained

Medical lingo can be confusing. We hope to clarify some of the medical terms commonly used in relation to miscarriage.

Tests and treatments

Expectant management

This is when you wait for any tissue left inside your womb to pass naturally out of it. Find out more about expectant management.

Medical management

A woman takes medication and this encourages the pregnancy tissue to pass out of your womb. Learn about what is involved with medical management

Surgical management

When the tissue is surgically removed. Also known as ERPC. Find out why surgical management may be advised.

ERPC (Evacuation of Retained Products of Conception)

Small operation to remove any tissue that is left inside your uterus (womb) after a miscarriage. This is another term for surgical management.


Medication inserted into your vagina.


Placebos are designed so that they cannot be told apart from a real drug or treatment, while having no medical effect. This allows scientists to see if a drug really makes a difference to a condition. Sometimes, simply thinking that you are taking medication can make you feel better – the placebo effect. So, if a drug really works, it should be more effective than taking a placebo. 

Early Pregnancy Unit (EPU)

This is the unit you’ll be referred to if you have any concerns during early pregnancy.

Recurrent Miscarriage Clinic (RMC)

Your GP will refer you here if you have experienced multiple miscarriages.

Early Pregnancy Unit (EPU)

This is the unit you’ll be referred to if you are having a miscarriage.

Ultrasound scan (or Sonogram)

High-frequency sound waves create an image of inside your body, for example the womb. It can be used to monitor a baby, make a diagnosis or help a surgeon during an operation. 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).

Cervical stitch

A weakened cervix can be treated with a small stitch to keep it closed. This is usually done after 12 weeks of pregnancy and taken out around 37 weeks.

Other useful terms


Antibodies are produced by your immune system as a way to fight disease and infections. They attach themselves to a foreign antigen, such as bacteria or viruses, and weaken or destroy it.

Antiphospholipid syndrome (also known as Hughes’s syndrome, Sticky bloody syndrome, APS)

A condition that causes blood clots , which can prevent the placenta from developing properly. Find out more about antiphospholipid syndrome.

Blighted ovum (anembryonic pregnancy)

Cells stop growing early on and, instead of developing into a baby, the tiny embryo is reabsorbed. The pregnancy sac, where the baby should have grown, sometimes continues to develop.


The cervix is tissue that connects the vagina and the uterus (womb).


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 determine 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

If a baby carries too many or not enough chromosomes, it won’t develop properly.


A chemical secreted by an endocrine gland or some nerve cells. Hormones travel to different parts of the body where they help regulate and control how cells and organs do their work.

Lupus anticoagulant

An antibody to phospholipids in a cell that can cause clotting of blood in arteries and veins and lead to early miscarriage.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

A psychological condition affecting people who have suffered severe emotional trauma causing sleep disturbances, flashbacks, anxiety, tiredness, and depression.

Stem cell

Special cells made by the body that can turn into many other types of cell.

Rhesus disease

A condition where antibodies in the mother’s body destroy her baby’s blood cells.

More types of miscarriage


  1. NHS Choices, Miscarriage http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/miscarriage/Pages/Introduction.aspx [accessed 25.01.17]
  2. NHS Choices, Miscarriage: What happens, http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Miscarriage/Pages/Treatment.aspx [accessed 22.03.16]
  3. NHS Choices, Miscarriage – Prevention http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Miscarriage/Pages/Prevention.aspx [accessed 22.03.16]
  4. The Miscarriage Association, Causes, Test and Treatments http://www.miscarriageassociation.org.uk/information/causes-tests-and-treatment/ [accessed 22.03.16]
  5. The Miscarriage Association, Blighted Ovum http://www.miscarriageassociation.org.uk/wp/wp-content/leaflets/Blighted-Ovum.pdf [accessed 22.03.16]
  6. NHS Choices, Ultrasound Scan http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/Ultrasound-scan/Pages/Introduction.aspx [accessed 22.03.16]
  7. NHS Choices, Rhesus disease http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Rhesus-disease/Pages/Introduction.aspx [accessed 24.03.16]
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    Last reviewed on August 1st, 2016. Next review date August 1st, 2019.

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    Please note that these comments are monitored but not answered by Tommy’s. Please call your GP or maternity unit if you have concerns about your health or your baby’s health.

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