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What is a Misdiagnosed Miscarriage?

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  • Written By: N. Madison
  • Edited By: Jenn Walker
  • Last Modified Date: 01 December 2016
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Medicine is not an exact science, and even the most qualified, experienced doctors can make mistakes. One type of mistake is called a misdiagnosed miscarriage. It occurs when a medical professional makes a diagnosis of miscarriage, but the patient does not miscarry. In such a case, a woman may go on to deliver a healthy baby, though it is also possible that she will have pregnancy-related complications, or even pregnancy loss, later in the pregnancy.

Often, a misdiagnosed miscarriage happens after an early ultrasound. For example, a doctor may order an early ultrasound to check on the viability of an early pregnancy, which essentially means he is checking for signs that a miscarriage may be impending. During this ultrasound, the ultrasound technician and doctor may be unable to locate the developing baby’s heartbeat, or it may appear that the fetus is less developed than expected. In fact, it may even appear that some pregnancy-related structures are missing, such as the yolk sac, which provides early nourishment for a developing baby. When any of these issues are noted, a doctor may deliver a diagnosis of miscarriage or impending miscarriage.

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Sometimes a misdiagnosed miscarriage occurs because an expectant mother has bleeding during her pregnancy. For example, a woman may have heavy bleeding in the early part of her pregnancy. If it is too early to see fetal structures on an ultrasound, doctors may suspect that the woman is experiencing a miscarriage. They may be surprised, however, to learn at a later date that the woman is still pregnant. Additionally, it is even possible for a woman to lose one baby in a twin pregnancy yet deliver the other twin in an uncomplicated, full-term birth.

While it is possible for a misdiagnosed miscarriage to occur, it is important to note that most cases of miscarriage diagnosis are correct and the patient does experience pregnancy loss. To make sure a miscarriage diagnosis is correct, there are some things a woman can do. First, she can ask her doctor to perform a repeat ultrasound a couple of weeks after the original diagnosis. If there is no change in development, there’s a good chance the diagnosis is correct.

When a woman wants to verify a miscarriage diagnosis, she may also have blood tests to determine whether her levels of human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG), a hormone produced during pregnancy, are within the normal range. If they are not within the expected range or are falling rapidly, this may be a sign that a miscarriage has happened or is likely to happen. This is a particularly bad sign when lower-than-normal hCG levels are accompanied by other signs of loss.

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