honeypot link

MSD Manual

Please confirm that you are not located inside the Russian Federation

Understanding the Language of Loss

Understanding the Language of Loss

Doctors may use the term abortion to refer to a miscarriage (spontaneous abortion), as well as to intentional termination of pregnancy for medical or other reasons (induced abortion). After 20 weeks of pregnancy, delivery of a fetus that has died is called a stillbirth.

Other terms for abortion include the following:

  • Therapeutic (induced) abortion: An abortion that is brought about by medical means (drugs or surgery)—for example, because the woman’s life or health is endangered or the fetus has major abnormalities

  • Threatened abortion: Bleeding or cramping during the first 20 weeks of pregnancy without opening (dilation) of the cervix, indicating that the fetus may be lost

  • Inevitable abortion: Pain or bleeding during first 20 weeks of pregnancy with dilation of the cervix, indicating that the fetus will be lost

  • Complete abortion: Expulsion of all of the fetus and placenta in the uterus

  • Incomplete abortion: Expulsion of only part of the contents of the uterus

  • Missed abortion: Retention of a dead fetus in the uterus

  • Septic abortion: Infection of the contents of the uterus before, during, or after an abortion