Outcome of expectant management of spontaneous first trimester miscarriage: observational study

BMJ. 2002 Apr 13;324(7342):873-5. doi: 10.1136/bmj.324.7342.873.


Objectives: To evaluate the uptake and outcome of expectant management of spontaneous first trimester miscarriage in an early pregnancy assessment unit.

Participants: 1096 consecutive patients with a diagnosis of spontaneous first trimester miscarriage.

Methods: Each miscarriage was classified as complete, incomplete, missed, or anembryonic on the basis of ultrasonography. Women who needed treatment were given the choice of expectant management or surgical evacuation of retained products of conception under general anaesthesia. Women undergoing expectant management were checked a few days after transvaginal bleeding had stopped, or they were monitored at weekly intervals for four weeks.

Main outcome measures: A complete miscarriage (absence of transvaginal bleeding and endometrial thickness <15 mm), the number of women completing their miscarriage within each week of management, and complications (excessive pain or transvaginal bleeding necessitating hospital admission or clinical evidence of infection).

Results: Two patients with molar pregnancies were excluded, and 37% of the remainder (408/1094) were classified as having had a complete miscarriage. 70% (478/686) of women with retained products of conception chose expectant management; of these, 27 (6%) were lost to follow up. A successful outcome without surgical intervention was seen in 81% of cases (367/451). The rate of spontaneous completion was 91% (201/221) for those cases classified as incomplete miscarriage, 76% (105/138) for missed miscarriage, and 66% (61/92) for anembryonic pregnancy. 70% of women completed their miscarriage within 14 days of classification (84% for incomplete miscarriage and 52% for missed miscarriage and anembryonic pregnancy).

Conclusions: Most women with retained products of conception chose expectant management. Ultrasonography can be used to advise patients on the likelihood that their miscarriage will complete spontaneously within a given time.

MeSH terms

  • Abortion, Incomplete / surgery
  • Abortion, Incomplete / therapy*
  • Adult
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Trimester, First
  • Remission, Spontaneous
  • Time Factors