Pregnancy Loss

The loss of a baby is tremendously difficult, no matter what the circumstances were that led to his or her passing. The fact that a baby was lost during pregnancy does not lessen the blow. When a couple suddenly loses a baby, they experience a wide range of emotions: despair, anger, numbness, denial, guilt, and depression.

There are a number of ways that a pregnancy loss can occur. These include miscarriage, ectopic pregnancy, and stillbirth.

  • The terms spontaneous abortion and miscarriage both refer to the loss of a baby within the first 20 weeks of pregnancy. However, most doctors use these terms to describe pregnancy loss in the first trimester, as this is the time when the risk for miscarriage is highest. Pregnancy loss between the end of the first trimester and the 20th week is referred to as late miscarriage.
  • One of the main concerns during the first few weeks of pregnancy is the risk of an ectopic pregnancy. If the fertilized egg cell implants itself outside the uterus, it may start to grow in the fallopian tube. If this happens and is allowed to continue, the growing set of cells will eventually rupture the tube, causing severe pain in the side of the abdomen, vaginal bleeding, and sometimes fainting.
  • Stillbirth is when a baby dies in the womb after the 20th week of pregnancy. Stillbirth occurs in one of every 200 pregnancies. The loss of a baby in the second half of pregnancy can come as a complete shock, as about half of all stillbirths happen in pregnancies that seemed healthy. Often, the only sign of stillbirth is that the baby suddenly stops moving and kicking.

In some situations where the mother’s life is at risk or the baby has insurmountable health problems, the couple may offered the option of a therapeutic abortion. Some women may also choose to have an abortion for non-medical reasons.

If you have lost a baby due to miscarriage, removal of an ectopic pregnancy, stillbirth, or therapeutic abortion, you will probably be overwhelmed with a range of emotions. Losing a baby is one of the most difficult losses to deal with, regardless of when the loss actually happened and what the circumstances were.

Nicolette Caccia, MEd, MD, FRCSC

Rory Windrim, MB, MSc, FRCSC