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Is it possible for a doctor to misdiagnose a miscarriage?

On Behalf of | Nov 18, 2021 | Medical Malpractice |

When women in the Chicago, Illinois, area suffer pregnancy loss, it usually happens early in the first trimester. Unfortunately, a percentage of women are misdiagnosed as having a miscarriage. It’s important to know how this might happen and what you can do if you suspect a misdiagnosis.

How can a miscarriage be misdiagnosed?

Although it’s rare for a miscarriage to be misdiagnosed, it can happen. A doctor or other health care professional might make a mistake while examining a pregnant woman. If a woman experiences bleeding and cramping, she might believe she is having a miscarriage.

In most cases, when a miscarriage is misdiagnosed, it’s due to a date error. If a woman has an irregular menstrual cycle or simply miscalculates the date of her last period, there might be confused when she has an ultrasound. As there is no fetal heartbeat until the sixth week of pregnancy, if there is an error with the date of the last menstrual period, the doctor might believe that the woman has had a missed miscarriage. A missed miscarriage is one that occurs when the fetus’ heart stops beating, which can be detected through an ultrasound.

Sometimes, there may be a misdiagnosis of a chemical pregnancy. This is an unviable pregnancy that results in miscarriage very early on, usually before the fifth week.

A misdiagnosis can also be made based on the woman’s human chorionic gonadotropin or hCG levels. If a pregnant woman’s levels of hCG increase too slowly, it might signify an ectopic pregnancy or a heterotopic pregnancy, where two embryos are present but one is ectopic. Another problem may be vanishing twin syndrome, which occurs when there are twins but one dies while the other survives.

How can a misdiagnosis be recognized?

The only way to recognize that a doctor has misdiagnosed a miscarriage is for the woman to have another ultrasound. Specifically, a transvaginal ultrasound can detect when a woman is still pregnant. It should be done after a miscarriage diagnosis to make absolutely sure. The misdiagnosis can be detected if an embryo or fetus is still present and there’s a heartbeat.

Women should also have their guard up if there is no heavy bleeding or other signs of a miscarriage. If there are no signs one week after a miscarriage diagnosis, it’s important to get a follow-up appointment.