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How a Miscarriage can be Misdiagnosed

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image courtesy on istockphoto/kjekol.

image courtesy on istockphoto/kjekol.

Is This Really a Miscarriage -or- Why You Need to Ask More Questions About Your Diagnosis.

Miscarriages can be misdiagnosed. But, before we begin, please remember that often, a miscarriage diagnosis ends in actual miscarriage. You just need to be absolutely certain before allowing your doctor to end your pregnancy.

However, some women are told they are destined to miscarry when, in fact, their babies are just fine.
Click here to read some of their stories.

When Miscarriage is suspected, many doctors push women to end their pregnancies either surgically or medically. Can you wait to end the pregnancy? Should you ask questions? Is the trans-vaginal ultrasound really THAT accurate during the first trimester? Are hCG levels really supposed to double every 48 hours? Should you get a second opinion? These are common questions and I'd like to share what I've learned.

I believe every woman deserves to have no doubt before having her pregnancy ended.

All photos and text on this page belong to Cari_Kay unless otherwise noted.

Disclaimer

I am not a medical professional. The information I share is meant to supplement the information given you by your doctor. If you feel your doctor is not doing enough for you or not willing to listen to your concerns, I strongly encourage you to take what you've learned here and get a second opinion.

My Misdiagnosed Miscarriage Journey

and what I've learned along the way

More than four years ago, I shared the story of my two misdiagnosed miscarriages on Epinions.com. You can read my original article Can a Miscarriage be Misdiagnosed to find out more about my own misdiagnoses.

I could not have imagined then, how sharing my story would change my life as well as the lives of many other women. As a result The Misdiagnosed Miscarriage was born.

Over the coming days, I'll add more about my journey here. Really, I only have one thing I hope everybody takes away here. Do not feel pressured into ending your pregnancy too soon. If you are not 100% certain this is a miscarriage and your doctor is pushing you to end the pregnancy quickly, you can wait out the diagnosis. Studies show that having a natural miscarriage can be just as safe, if not safer than having a D&C as long as you know the signs of infection. If you have signs of infection, see your doctor immediately otherwise stay monitored and take the time you need to be certain. No woman should be rushed through treatment if she is not 100% sure she is losing the baby. Don't get me wrong, though. Often times, women wait and end up miscarrying but sometimes they wait and are rewarded with a viable and successful pregnancy. That is what makes getting the word out so important.

By sharing my story, I don't want to give false hope. I do, however, believe in hope. Reading this site or posting on the misdiagnosed site will not decrease your chance of miscarrying. However, it may prevent your doctor from ending what may turn out to be a viable pregnancy. As I look at my now four-year-old daughter, I am thankful I turned down that D&C twice. Even if my pregnancy had turned out to be non-viable, I could not have lived with the 'what ifs'. I needed to know with certainty and every woman deserves that same certainty.

To read more about my 'blighted ovum' experience you can check out my "When a Blighted Ovum is not so Blighted" article.

Common Misconceptions

and, yes, many doctors believe them too.

(note, I'm in the process of adding to this. Check back often for updates)

Over the last few years of talking to women, we've seen some patterns emerge in the many stories I've heard from women.

I'd like to share a bit of what we've learned.

Question #1:

My doctor says my hCG levels should rise every 48 hours. Is this true?

Answer:

No! In early pregnancy, levels should double more quickly but as the first trimester progresses, those levels will slow, plateau and even begin to decline.

Follow up to Question #1:

Scroll to Continue

Well then, how quickly should my hCG levels rise?

Answer:

According to conceivingconcepts.com levels typically look like this:

less than 1200 -- doubling time 48 to 72 hours

1200 to 6000 -- doubling time 72 to 96 hours

more than 6000 -- doubling time can be more than 96 hours.

Question #2:

My doctor has said that I am far enough along, the baby is always seen by this point on the ultrasound. Is that true?

Answer:

I can tell you what the ultrasound literature states and what your doctor has learned:

"A pregnancy is anembryonic if a transvaginal ultrasound reveals a sac with a mean gestational sac diameter (MGD) greater than 13 mm and no yolk sac, or a MGD >18 mm with no embryo." To give you an idea, a 13 mm gestational sac is usually thought to be seen around six weeks and an 18mm sac, around seven weeks or so.

Now, ask me if that is true? I will tell you emphatically, "No!" At about 22mm, my gestational sac still looked empty and it was 28.5 mm before my baby was seen. Numerous women have shared similar stories on the misdiagnosed site.

Question #3:

My doctor said that my hCG levels are high enough that a baby is always seen. Is this true?

Answer:

No. Again, found on many medical sites, "a yolk sac larger than 7 mm without evidence of a developing fetal pole suggests a nonviable pregnancy" and "The embryonic pole usually becomes evident at a level of approximately 5000 mIU/mL, and the fetal heartbeat can be seen in the vast majority of normal gestations when the hCG level reaches 10,000 mIU/mL"

Let me tell you, this panics many women. However, my own levels had long passed the 10,000 mark before anything could be seen and, again, many women report the same on the misdiagnosed site.

Question #4:

My doctor says I have a retroverted (AKA tilted or tipped) uterus but says that has really no bearing on the pregnancy, is this true?

Answer:

This is partially true. A retroverted uterus does not cause a miscarriage. It simply means your uterus is tilting back rather than forward. This usually straightens itself out by the end of the first trimester.

However, that said, a disproportionate number of women are mistakenly misdiagnosed when they have a tilted uterus. Many of these babies stay 'hidden' longer until up to nine or even ten weeks. Also, we've found that many women who know exactly when they conceived look one to two weeks behind during the transvaginal ultrasound even when this is not possible. Then, during their second trimester ultrasound when their uterus is in a more 'normal' position and they have the abdominal ultrasound, their dates are often right on again.

Question #5:

I am eight weeks and we saw the baby on the ultrasound with no heartbeat. Is there no hope?

Answer:

I have been told that if you ever see the baby on a first trimester ultrasound with no heartbeat, you should wait at least seven days and have a follow-up ultrasound. Sometimes the angle is wrong or sometimes the baby is just too small still. Ask for that follow-up ultrasound and give it at least a week. If the baby is still too small, you want enough time for everything to be seen if the pregnancy is indeed viable. While waiting, as with any pregnancy, if there are any complications, be seen right away.

Question #6:

I've been told that doctors would never misdiagnose something as important as miscarriage, is this true?

Answer:

No, and that is the point of this page. We've been collecting stories from many women who were misdiagnosed. Some women were given no hope whatsoever and other women were simply told by their doctors not to get their hopes up. We are continually adding to this post: Misdiagnosed Stories. If you have a story you would like to share, please add it to that forum.

Question #7

I'm in my first trimester. We saw the heartbeat last week on the ultrasound. This week there is no heartbeat. Is there any hope?

Answer:

There may be hope and, for that reason, many doctors will ask to do an ultrasound one week out to verify. Yes, often miscarriage is confirmed but we've seen a number of cases on our site to know that sometimes that heartbeat is seen again. You just have to wait for that baby to get a bit bigger first.

IMPORTANT: Ultrasounds May Lead to Misdiagnosed Miscarriages!

Misdiagnosed Miscarriages are finally making the news and, more importantly, research is beginning to come out about them!

Ultrasound Guidelines May Wrongly Diagnose Miscarriage

A snippet from that article:

"As if the worry over potential miscarriage weren't stressful enough for newly pregnant women, research released Friday shows that current guidelines for using ultrasound to determine that a pregnancy has ended may not always be accurate.

The four new studies looked at U.K. ultrasound specifications, but when the findings are extrapolated to U.S. guidelines, the researchers suggest 1 in 23 women diagnosed with miscarriage could still have a viable pregnancy."

On the Misdiagnosed Miscarriage site, we believe that that figure might be much higher. For women diagnosed with a blighted ovum, something like one in five may be much more accurate.

For more on the inaccuracy of ultrasounds during the first trimester, check out my blog:
Misdiagnosed Miscarriage Musings

Just Curious...

misdiagnosedmiscarriage

IMPORTANT New Guidelines for Diagnosing a Miscarriage

The UK is the first to acknowledge that misdiagnosed miscarriages are indeed a problem. The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists has revised its guidelines. If your gestational sac is more than 25mm and/or the CRL is 7mm or more, you should wait a week to verify (if there are no complications). If the measurements are less, you are too early to diagnose. For more information (and something to take to your doctor), please, see my new page:

New Blighted Ovum Guidelines! You ARE Being Diagnosed Too Soon!

Need to contact the author? You may e-mail Cari_Kay at misdiagnosedmiscarriage@gmail.com

Thoughts and Comments

Veronica on April 06, 2016:

I had my 7 week ultra sound today and was told baby measured to be 8 weeks and looked perfectly fine but they could not find a heart beat with vaginal ultrasound. They told me I would miscarry in a couple weeks and to just wait.I kept feeling when they told me this "are you sure". I asked why the baby was fine and measured correctly (which means it was fine and growing) if it had no heart beat and was told it must have just happened with in last 5 days and it was probably something wrong with the placenta because again the baby itself looked fine. I've had no spotting, cramps or any signs of miscarriage. I also just feel as if they could be wrong, I also known it could just be my not wanting to except it. I've had all normal pregnancy symptoms and everything was fine until this happened. I can't help but feel maybe the heart beat just wasn't detected yet for what ever reason. I'm going to ask for a second ultrasound in a week to make sure and will repost what happens. Also just as fyi this is my second pregnancy. My first was completely healthy and I've never miscarried before. I know that doesn't mean it couldn't happen but just wanted to give my background.

Carmen on January 09, 2016:

I had my first Dr apply on Monday and it's now saturday, my Dr thought I was further along and did an exterior ultrasound, there was a fetus but no heart beat..I decided not to have a d&c or take meds and go about it naturally, well 6 days later here I am and I haven't bleed or cramped at all, I'm wondering if I could be one else of the lucky ones who have been misdiagnosed. I do not want to get my hopes up but there's always the chance something didn't go right in the ultrasound, or had my Dr performed a vaginal ultrasound maybe we may have heard a faint heartbeat...I obviously wasn't far along enough for the exterior or belly ultrasound, so i intend to wait until i know without a doubt the pregnancy is not viable before terminating.

Rachel on August 10, 2015:

I'm spotting but only as i use the bathroom and I'm still having symptoms but my doctor is saying i will most likley miscarry. I have had my Hcg levels tested today but i seeing know the results for two days. I'm so stressed but they tell me not to stress. I don't know what to do

Deepti on August 09, 2015:

I had my 6 week scan last week and i was diagnosed as blighted ovum as they could just see empty sac...no foetal pole...no heartbeat

kristin on December 25, 2014:

Positive pregnancy test but bleeding and hcg level o ml you 4.85

anonymous on May 07, 2013:

My hcg levels drop to 38%the doctor said i was miscarried the baby i havent had no bleed ing HELP

anonymous on May 07, 2013:

My hcg levels drop to 38%the doctor said i was miscarried the baby i havent had no bleed ing HELP

Kay (author) on March 27, 2013:

@MusicMadness LM: I've talked to a number of women now who were diagnosed with miscarriage and had twins. Seems as if they hide just a bit longer in there. Thanks for sharing your story.

MusicMadness LM on March 26, 2013:

I can attest to this first hand. During our second pregnancy, my wife was diagnosed by our family doctor as having a miscarriage. Seemed pretty plausible, as she had one previously. Turns out the doctor was wrong this time, as the ultrasound later that day showed twins ;) Both girls who are now 15.

sherioz on January 14, 2013:

Pretty scary to think that a doctor could misdiagnose a miscarriage and a healthy pregnancy terminated.

Ardyn25 on November 27, 2012:

Very informative lens on a very important issue...thanks.

Gloria Freeman from Alabama USA on November 13, 2012:

Hi thanks for all the info and tips on misdiagnosed miscarriage. Great lens thanks for sharing.

RGrieco on November 12, 2012:

Great lens - I know you said you are not a medical professional but real people like to read others experiences that is whom we learn the most from - Thank you really appreciate all the information you have shared with us here.

julieannbrady on October 31, 2012:

Ah, you have reminded me of something! I do believe it was on Mother's Day a lot of years ago that my mom's last pregnancy was a miscarriage. Hadn't thought about it too much over the years, but it probably was misdiagnosed considering mom carried all her other babies to term.

katespade on August 28, 2012:

Sexually transmitted diseases or STDs are venereal diseases which occur when you have sexual contact or sexual intercourse with an infected person. In women, sexually transmitted diseases can lead to infertility, miscarriage, premature birth of the child or infection in the newborn baby.

goo2eyes lm on May 01, 2012:

thank you for sharing these info. can be of great help to women in need.

KimGiancaterino on April 19, 2012:

Thanks for using your own experience to help others. This is excellent information.

Cynthia Sylvestermouse from United States on April 10, 2012:

Excellent awareness advice! I had never even considered the possibly of having a miscarriage misdiagnosed.

Kay (author) on April 01, 2012:

@victoriuh: I agree wholeheartedly!

anonymous on April 01, 2012:

Thank you for the great information about miscarriage.

anonymous on April 01, 2012:

Thank you for the great information about miscarriage.

victoriuh on April 01, 2012:

I think people would be so less stressed if they didn't have early ultrasounds. I think doctors do them too often for little or no reason.

anonymous on March 20, 2012:

@anonymous: Ladies... at my u/s with the IVF doc, they saw a tiny little fetus, and saw a flicker they said was a heartbeat but one they couldn't hear!!! The uterus is retroverted, and I now firmly believe it's just not showing and that the fetus will, God willing, show soon... I am so thankful for this site which has kept me really positive this past week!!! I'm now super positive and hopeful that this pregnancy, God willng, will go full term!!! Praying for all of you... keep up the hope... and thank you for this site and all the comments once again!!!! xx

anonymous on March 14, 2012:

GUYS! You cant see the baby at 4weeks or 5 weeks! You have to wait for atleast 7 or 8 weeks!! Do not get discouraged if your doctors tell you one thing at 4 weeks or 5 weeks or even sometimes 6-9!! They couldnt see my baby til 9 weeks! My "doctor" has had 30 years of "experience" and caused me to lose 2 of my children and tried to make me have a d&c for this one all because he diagnosed WAY TOO EARLY! NEVER EVER go with first opinion! Thanks

anonymous on March 14, 2012:

@anonymous: I just came back from my u/s. I had IVF from frozen embryos this time - and acording to last menstrual cycle, should be 7w2d. I had spotting about ten days ago, at which point the u/s showed a sac dating pregnancy at 4w5d instead of 5w5d (hCG was 7320). That put me behind by a week. I stopped bleeding/spotting five days ago.

According to previous u/s, I should be 6w2d today, but the u/s measured today for 5w6d and showed no embryo. Empty sac. I have another u/s in two weeks' time with my OB/GYNE, but an earlier one with my IVF specialist who will be seeing me for the first time after ET - in 5 days' time. I have major nausea and headaches.

I am tired, and somewhat shattered... my third pregnancy - no baby yet. Praying hard... for all of you...

anonymous on March 13, 2012:

@anonymous: I'm so happy for you ! Thanks for giving me hope. I'm in the same boat, hcg dropping from 78k - 53k - 42k today, bleeding and no HB at 6w4d (I know the hcg is too high for how far along I am). The doc is pushing me for D&C. We saw the embryo yesterday for the first time but based on my miscarriage symptoms (hcg level, bleeding, no HB), she's 100% confirmed that this is a miscarriage (in her 20 yrs of experience) but how can they be sure when few weeks before they diagnosed me as blighted ovum cuz of no embryo while I'm sure that the embryo is there all along since its measuring to 6w4d yesterday. I can't believe how easy they jumped to conclusion.. but again, thanks for giving me hope. I'll wait for another week and praying that God will give a little miracle.

anonymous on February 29, 2012:

@anonymous: Congratulations!!!!!! I went through the same thing!!! If you read through past posts u can see where I posted and my situation. I am now almost 9 months pregnant with a baby that "wasn't there"! Oh I am sooooo happy for u!!! I pray for everyone on this page and I hope everything goes well from here on out!

anonymous on February 29, 2012:

I was told by 2 Dr's that at 6wks 3days I had miscarried, determined by my hcg levels, ultrasound (no HB) & bleeding. I was told to have a D&C that day but opted to wait 48hrs and have another ultrasound. 2nd ultrasound they found a heartbeat! My advice is to not rush decisions and definitely get a 2nd or 3rd opinion. We nearly ended our baby's life without even knowing it. Dr's make mistakes and nothing can replace a mums intuition. I have celebrated my pregnancy, grieved it's loss and now trying to bring that joy back again. What an emotional journey and it's only started.

anonymous on February 28, 2012:

@anonymous: I am just curious if your wife has had a follow-up ultrasound. Your situation sounds identical to what I am currently going through. My transvaginal ultrasound was done last Friday and the baby was measuring 7 weeks 3 days - with no heartbeat. I was told that my miscarriage must have just happened. I have had no bleeding but some cramping now 4 days later. I also still have my other preganancy symptoms to date. I insisted on having a follow-up ultrasound performed and am scheduled to do so tomorrow. I'm concerned that 5 days might not be long enough for a difference to be seen. My prays are with you and I hope everything turns out well for both of us. Please keep me updated.

anonymous on February 24, 2012:

I am happy I found this site although I'm not really sure what my outcome will be :( I guess I just need to vent....I found out I was pregnant with my second child after I had my Mirena in for almost 5 years. Everything was going along fine until two days before my first scheduled u/s I had some bleeding. They moved my u/s to the next morning. Everything was intact, but they did not see a heartbeat. They measured the baby at 5 weeks 4 days ( which may be too early to see a heartbeat) but since my hcg levels were 19,000 they said a heartbeat should have been seen and that I would miscarry. The doctor on this week has said that I should expect to see more bleeding and prepare myself for a D&C. I am to have another hcg level drawn this morning (I'm not looking forward to this) and then I have another u/s scheduled for Monday. I still feel pregnant and have not had any more bleeding.

I don't want to have false hope, but the results of one ultrasound make me weary that it's definately going to miscarry. I just wish I knew either way. This waiting is killing me. Has anyone experienced something similar and still had a viable pregnancy. I am willing to work through this if it is going to be a miscarriage, I just don't know if I should still have hope or not. Feel free to email me stac_fournier@yahoo.com.

anonymous on February 22, 2012:

My last period was 27th Dec 2011.On 25th Jan 2012, I had spotting, did a pregnant test on 30th, was positive, went to fertility clinic where I did an emergency blood test, they called me the same day saying its positive as well. Scheduled my first appointment for 21 Feb. On 3rd Feb I took another preg test(digital clear blue) confirmed I am pregnant (1-2) 3 to 4 weeks. I have been feeling pregnant after that, my boobs tender, sore, growing, my stomach was bloated, had gas, slight nausea, alos have the dark line on my stomach , strech marks. and more more pregnant symptoms. Had no bleeding or cramping except some back pain. Yesterday 21 Feb 2012, my husband and I went for our first U/S at 8 weeks. The doctor said he could not see anything in my uterus, no sac, no baby. He said he does not see that I am pregnant. I am so devastated, I cannot stop crying since yesterday. Took blood to check Hcg Level, called yesterday afternoon that the Hcg is zero(0). The doc was in such a hurry and said I had an early miscarriage, but i have had no bleeding, no cramping no signs of a miscarriage. My husband and I stongly feel that I am still preganant. I pray to God that my baby is alive and in my stomach and healthy. Can someone please HELP or give me soem advice or some strength. I had a miscarriage last year June with twins and I did not even know I was pregnant and it all happened naturally at home. We have been trying for more than two years to have our FIRST precious baby in our lives, now all this bad news yesterday really upset me. I am scheduled for another appointment tom 23 Feb with the fertility clinic. Please help me anyone. :<<<(

anonymous on February 19, 2012:

@anonymous: In my personal opinion, women heal faster and process is quicker when its natural. God bless you don't give up hope.

anonymous on February 17, 2012:

Me and my wife went in for her 8 week u/s yesterday. The doctor said the baby was the right size for 8 weeks but had no heartbeat and had most likely died in the last couple of days. He told me and my wife that he was 100% sure her pregnancy was ending in a miscarriage. He showed us on the screen where the heart was. It was a dark spot and he said there was no blood flow. He recommended a d&c. We told we wanted to think about it for a couple days. What should we? She's leaning towards doing this naturally. Is there any hope?

anonymous on February 16, 2012:

Hi there, I have just been for my second early scan and still no sign of baby or heartbeat. Last week they said the uterus looked healthy and this week they said it looked weakened and that it had not grown much in a week and that they would expect me to start bleeding soon. I have another appointment in a weeks time but have been told I am going to miscarry. I miscarried at 11 plus weeks last August and I should be 6 weeks now. I've had plenty pregnancy symptoms and thought all was well. I am absolutely devastated, could they be wrong? I also have a tilted womb could this make it more difficult to see the baby or am I just clutching at straws?

anonymous on February 15, 2012:

@anonymous: Have u had Any other symptoms Besides gestational size off?

anonymous on February 15, 2012:

@anonymous: Going through the same... measured 5 weeks and 5 days but i thought id b 7 by now. But with irregular periods hard to tell. Didn't hear heart beat and all the while I'm bleeding and clots but baby is visible ... its scary and il pray for you and hold on to hope as i am. I will know nothing until Monday...isn't it crazy how long you have to wait for answers

anonymous on February 10, 2012:

I messed up on my email. Its leeannramirez@ymail.com not gmail. and please FIONA let us know :)

anonymous on February 10, 2012:

Dear Lee Ann, thank-you so much for your very encouraging comments. I guess we will have to wait, are praying hard for this one to work out. Will let you know how it goes, Fiona, x

anonymous on February 09, 2012: