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How do health care providers diagnose pregnancy loss or miscarriage?

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If a pregnant woman experiences any of the symptoms of miscarriage, such as crampy abdominal or back pain, light spotting, or bleeding, she should contact her health care provider immediately. For diagnosis, the woman may need to undergo a blood test to check for the level of hCG, the pregnancy hormone, or an internal pelvic examination to determine if her cervix is dilated or thinned, which can be a sign of a miscarriage; or depending on the length of time since her last menstrual period, and the level of pregnancy hormone in the blood, she may need to have an ultrasound test so that her health care provider can observe the pregnancy and the maternal reproductive organs, such as the uterus and placenta.1 If a woman has had more than one miscarriage, she may choose to have blood tests performed to check for chromosome abnormalities or hormone problems, or to detect immune system disorders that may interfere with a healthy pregnancy.2


  1. Snell, B. J. (2009). Assessment and management of bleeding in the first trimester of pregnancy. Journal of Midwifery & Women's Health, 54(6), 483-491. doi:10.1016/j.jmwh.2009.08.007 [top]
  2. Branch, D. W., Gibson, M., & Silver, R. M. (2010). Clinical practice. recurrent miscarriage. The New England Journal of Medicine, 363(18), 1740-1747. doi:10.1056/NEJMcp1005330 [top]

Last Updated Date: 11/30/2012
Last Reviewed Date: 07/15/2013
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