Your body provides nutrients to the developing fetus during pregnancy to help with its normal development. One of the main causes of miscarriage during the first trimester is the abnormal development of a fetus. This may occur due to different factors.

A missed abortion is a miscarriage in which your fetus didn’t form or has died, but the placenta and embryonic tissues are still in your uterus. It’s known more commonly as a missed miscarriage. It’s also sometimes called a silent miscarriage.

A missed abortion is not an elective abortion. Medical practitioners use the term “spontaneous abortion” to refer to miscarriage. A missed abortion gets its name because this type of miscarriage doesn’t cause symptoms of bleeding and cramps that occur in other types of miscarriages.

This can make it difficult for you to know that the loss has occurred.

About 10 percent of known pregnancies result in miscarriage, and 80 percent of miscarriages happen in the first trimester.

What are the symptoms of a missed abortion?

It’s common to have no symptoms with a missed miscarriage. Sometimes there may be a brownish discharge. You may also notice that early pregnancy symptoms, such as nausea and breast soreness, lessen or disappear.

This is different from a typical miscarriage, which can cause:

  • vaginal bleeding
  • abdominal cramps or pain
  • discharged of fluid or tissue
  • lack of pregnancy symptoms

What causes a missed abortion?

The causes of missed abortion are not fully known. About 50 percent of miscarriages happen because the embryo has the wrong number of chromosomes.

Sometimes, miscarriage may be caused by a uterine problem, such as scarring.

You may be at higher risk for missed miscarriage if you have an endocrine or an autoimmune disorder, or are a heavy smoker. Physical trauma can cause a missed miscarriage as well.

If you have a missed miscarriage, your doctor likely won’t be able to pinpoint a reason. In a missed miscarriage, the embryo simply stops developing and there’s usually no clear explanation. Stress, exercise, sex, and travel do not cause miscarriage, so it’s important not to blame yourself.

When should you see a doctor?

You should always see a doctor if you suspect any kind of miscarriage. Call your doctor if you have any miscarriage symptoms, including:

  • vaginal bleeding
  • abdominal cramps or pain
  • discharge of fluid or tissue

With a missed miscarriage, a lack of pregnancy symptoms may be the only sign. For example, if you were feeling very nauseated or fatigued and you suddenly don’t, call the doctor.

For most women, you likely won’t be aware of a missed miscarriage until your doctor detects it during an ultrasound.

There are several misconceptions related to the causes of miscarriage and its risk factors.

Treatment options

There are several different ways to treat a missed miscarriage. You may be able to choose or your doctor may recommend a treatment they feel is best for you.

Expectant management

This is a wait-and-see approach. Usually if a missed miscarriage is left untreated, the embryonic tissue will pass and you’ll miscarry naturally. This is successful in more than 65 percent of women experiencing missed miscarriage. If it’s not successful, you may need medication or surgery to pass the embryonic tissue and placenta.

Medical management

You may choose to take medication called misoprostol. This medication helps trigger your body to pass the remaining tissue to complete the miscarriage.

You’ll take the medication at the doctor’s office or hospital, and then return home to complete the miscarriage.

Surgical management

Dilation and curettage (D&C) surgery may be necessary to remove remaining tissue from the uterus. Your doctor may recommend a D&C immediately following your diagnosis of a missed miscarriage, or they may recommend it later if the tissue doesn’t pass on its own or with the use of medication.

You may reduce the risk of miscarriage by controlling some causes of miscarriage such as not smoking, not drinking alcohol, not using illicit drugs, eating a healthy diet, getting to a healthy weight during pregnancy etc.

Recovery from miscarriage may be quite painful. You may feel fatigued and tired and develop feelings of shock, sadness, and anger.

Get help from a counselor if you find it difficult to cope with a miscarriage.