Fetal chromosome abnormalities account for about 50% of first-trimester pregnancy losses. Most of these abnormalities are numerical abnormalities (86%) and a low percentage is caused by structural abnormalities (6%) or other genetic mechanisms, including chromosome mosaicism (8%). The recurrence risk of numerical abnormalities is low, so karyotyping of fetal material in case of a miscarriage does not seem worthwhile in daily practice. Half of the structural abnormalities may be inherited from a parent carrying a balanced chromosome translocation or inversion. Parental carriership is found in 4-6% of the couples with recurrent miscarriage. In case of parental carriership of a balanced structural chromosome abnormality, a next pregnancy may result in a child with an unbalanced structural chromosome abnormality. This child can have multiple congenital malformations and/or a mental handicap. Prenatal diagnosis is therefore recommended. Conventional laboratory techniques, such as tissue culturing and karyotyping, or (semi-)direct chromosome technique of chorionic villi, and the recently developed laboratory techniques such as fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH) and comparative genomic hybridization (CGH), are described successively. Until now, not enough evidence has been available about the role of other genetic mechanisms, such as single-gene abnormalities, uniparental disomy, genomic imprinting, multifactorial disorders and skewed X chromosome, in the occurrence of miscarriages.
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