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What Are the Odds of Miscarriage After Seeing a Fetal Heartbeat on an Ultrasound

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Updated October 31, 2009

Question: What Are the Odds of Miscarriage After Seeing a Fetal Heartbeat on an Ultrasound

Seeing the baby's heartbeat on an ultrasound is a good sign and does put a pregnancy into a lower risk category for miscarriage.

Answer:

Doctors generally agree that the risk of miscarriage decreases once the pregnancy reaches a point that an ultrasound can detect a heartbeat. The exact amount that it decreases, however, seems to vary by group.

It's hard to say any exact numbers from the available research, but here are some statistics that certain studies have come up with.

For women with no vaginal bleeding, most estimates suggest that the odds or having a miscarriage after seeing a heartbeat are about 4%.

For women with vaginal bleeding but also a detected heartbeat on ultrasound, risk of miscarriage is about 13% according to one study.

One study found that about 17% of women with a history of recurrent miscarriages will miscarry after seeing a heartbeat on the ultrasound.

Mothers over 35 also face significant miscarriage risk after ultrasound detects a heartbeat, even though the risk does drop after detecting the heartbeat. A 1996 study found that women over 36 have a 16% risk of miscarriage at this point, and women over 40 have a 20% risk.

Sources:

Hill, L.M., D. Guzick, J. Fries, J. Hixson, "Fetal loss rate after ultrasonically documented cardiac activity between 6 and 14 weeks, menstrual age." Journal of Clinical Ultrasound May 1991. Accessed 11 Feb 2008.

Smith, K.E. and R.P. Buyalos, "The profound impact of patient age on pregnancy outcome after early detection of fetal cardiac activity." Fertility and Sterility Jan 1996. Accessed 11 Feb 2008.

Van Leeuwen, Ingeborg, D. Ware Branch, and James R. Scott, "First-Trimester Ultrasonography Findings in Women With a History of Recurrent Pregnancy Loss. American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology 1993. Accessed 11 Feb 2008.

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