Research says early miscarriage guidelines should be improved

Research published by the British Medical Journal suggests that guidelines on how miscarriages are diagnosed should be improved. The research team includes The Ectopic Pregnancy Trust’s trustee and medical adviser, Professor Tom Bourne.

Currently, miscarriage may be diagnosed from a single ultrasound scan which focuses on measurements of either an empty gestational sac (a sac that baby grows in that has nothing in it) or an embryo (egg) where a heartbeat cannot be seen. If a second scan is needed, this takes place after seven days. While these guidelines have reduced the risk of misdiagnosis, this current research demonstrates that they could yet be improved.

The study suggests that current guidance on when to repeat scans and what might be seen on such scans is not reliable and may lead to misdiagnosis. The new study shows that if women with a suspected miscarriage are offered two scans up to 14 days apart, doctors can be confident that their diagnosis is correct, as this gives a greater allowance for such factors as inaccurate dates for a woman’s last period or late ovulation.

We at The Ectopic Pregnancy Trust value the insights given by this study and particularly the drive to improve accuracy when diagnosing a miscarriage. To try to minimise anxiety at an already stressful time as much as can be possible, we believe that communication is vital and it is important for medical professionals to explain at the first scan why women may not be given a firm diagnosis and doctors manage expectations by giving a realistic indication of the likely outcome at a follow-up scan. Support and empathy have a huge impact on a woman’s emotional wellbeing at this difficult time.