Pregnancy and Infant Loss Terminology

- While someone’s loss may “fit” into a specific term, the individual may not use that word to refer to their loss.
- I include some medical terms that one may think of as hurtful so that may bring up ill feelings for some folks.
- “Baby” is used interchangeably with various stages of fetal development.

“Pregnancy and Infant Loss” affects so many families and it affects us in many different ways. Sometimes terminology, like identity labels, can be very negative for someone and other times they are very helpful. For me personally, the terminology used to refer to pregnancy and infant loss has been very confusing. I am not sure where Onyx “fits” and sometimes that’s very overwhelming because I don’t quite know how to talk about his birth story. I’m not sure about what terms are deemed appropriate for Onyx’s specific circumstances but I use what feels right for us.

Even the medical world has had a difficult time with terminology, so if you do not understand your specific circumstance or are confused about terms in general, that’s okay. I hope that this can clear up some confusion about the differences between the words that are typically associated with loss. It is important to note that these terms are specific to a baby’s age (in or outside the womb) and are often defined by what “viability” is determined to be.

Pregnancy Loss - the term “pregnancy loss” is associated with the loss of a baby at any stage of a pregnancy. Sometimes pregnancy loss is specific to a loss before viability (24 weeks) and sometimes it’s used to refer to losses before 20 weeks.

Chemical Pregnancy ("Early Miscarriage") - A chemical pregnancy is a miscarriage that happens prior to 5 weeks. A chemical pregnancy is very common and it often goes unknown because most people assume it's just their period.

Miscarriage (listed as a “Spontaneous Abortion” in medical records) - Mayo Clinic defines a miscarriage as the “spontaneous loss of a pregnancy before the 20th week”.

Blighted Ovum (Anembryonic Pregnancy in medical records) - The American Pregnancy Association defines a blighted ovum as when “a fertilized egg attaches itself to the uterine wall, but the embryo does not develop”. A blighted ovum is a type of first-trimester miscarriage.

Molar Pregnancy - According to the American Pregnancy Association, “A molar pregnancy is the result of a genetic error during the fertilization process that leads to a growth of abnormal tissue within the uterus”. Sometimes an embryo forms and sometimes an embryo does not. There is a lot of stigma around a molar pregnancy "not really being a baby" but regardless of development, a molar pregnancy is still a loss.

Missed Miscarriage (sometimes called a “Silent Miscarriage”, referred to as a “Missed Abortion” in medical records) - A missed miscarriage is when the baby dies but the pregnant person's body does not recognize the loss. Sometimes the body will miscarry naturally after diagnosis but sometimes medical treatment is needed to remove the pregnancy.

Ectopic Pregnancy - An ectopic pregnancy is when a fertilized egg implants outside of the uterus, often in one of the fallopian tubes. An ectopic pregnancy can be very dangerous and usually requires treatment to end the pregnancy.

Abortion - There is no 'official' definition for abortion but abortion is generally used to refer to the termination of a pregnancy. People have abortions for various reasons and for some, the pregnancy was wanted so an abortion may, therefore, be considered a pregnancy loss by the individual. It is important to keep in mind that not everyone who has had an abortion associates it as a pregnancy loss so this association should not be used unless specified by the individual.

Infant Loss  - Infant loss is the death of a baby within their first year of life. Infant loss is sometimes used in different ways. In some cases, "infant loss" refers only to babies who are born full term but it may also be used to refer to babies who are born at viability or all live births regardless of gestation.

Perinatal Loss - Perinatal loss is a medical term that refers to miscarriage, stillbirth and neonatal loss.

Stillbirth - A stillbirth is the death of a baby in the womb before birth or during delivery after 20 weeks gestation.

Neonatal Loss - Neonatal loss is when a baby dies within 28 days of being born but the term is sometimes used to refer to the loss of a baby within their first year of life.

SIDS - Sudden Infant Death Syndrome is the sudden, unexplained death of a baby under age 1. There are families and medical professionals who wish to change the official definition to include children up to age 2 but SUDC - Sudden Unexplained Death in Childhood - is the current term used to refer to the sudden, unexplained death of children over the age of 12 months.

If you believe there is a term that should be added to this list, please let me know either in the comments or message me directly on my social media.