What is an Incomplete Miscarriage?

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  • Written By: Felicia Dye
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 31 January 2019
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A miscarriage is a condition in which a pregnant woman’s body releases fetal products before her baby completely develops. An incomplete miscarriage refers to a situation where a portion of the fetal tissue remains in the uterus. In some cases, the remaining tissue will be expelled without any medical intervention. When this is not the case, due to the risks, it may be necessary for the woman to undergo a dilatation and curettage, commonly referred to as a D&C.

During pregnancy, a fetus develops in the uterus. The cervix, the bottom portion of the uterus, has an opening referred to as the os. The os is the passage through which a baby would pass if the woman gave birth naturally.

In the event of an incomplete miscarriage, a woman’s cervix will dilate, or the os will open. She will bleed and portions of fetal matter will be expelled from her body. What makes the miscarriage incomplete is that although the os is open, all of the fetal tissue does not exit the uterus.

Sometimes the miscarriage will slowly proceed without any medical intervention. This process should not, however, be left to span for more than two weeks. In any case, if a person experiences an incomplete miscarriage she needs to get medical attention to ensure that all of the fetal tissue is removed.


In some cases, medical intervention is necessary. There is medication that can be dispensed that can help the body expel the remaining tissue. In many instances, however, an incomplete miscarriage is treated with a D&C. This is a procedure where dilation is induced and a doctor scrapes the uterus of the remaining fetal products. If fetal tissue is left inside of the uterus, there is a risk that serious infection will develop and a woman could experience complications including infertility.

This condition most commonly occurs during the first trimester, although it can occur later in the pregnancy. Symptoms that may alert a woman of this condition include heavy vaginal bleeding, abdominal pain, and lower back pain. She may also notice the discharge of fluid and blood clots. When she seeks medical attention, she may be given a pregnancy test. The physician may also try to detect the remaining fetal products by using ultrasound.

This condition can be caused by a number of things, such as low quality sperm or eggs, substance abuse, or sexually transmitted infections. A woman may also experience incomplete miscarriages on other occasions. After each instance, her physician will likely prescribe antibiotics to prevent the development of infection and advise her to allow at least one menstrual cycle to pass before attempting to conceive again.


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