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J Fam Plann Reprod Health Care. 2005 Oct;31(4):313-4.

Terminology in early pregnancy loss: what women hear and what clinicians write.

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  • 1Scottish Programme for Clinical Effectiveness in Reproductive Health, Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Aberdeen Maternity Hospital, Aberdeen, UK.



The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists recommends that patient-focused terminology be used in early pregnancy care. The objective of the study was to evaluate whether inappropriate terminology is continuing to be used in Scottish gynaecology services.


A case note review (1259 records) and a patient survey (648 replies) assessed usage of four inappropriate terms ('abortion', 'blighted ovum', 'incompetent cervix' and 'pregnancy failure') in 18 Scottish hospitals providing secondary care to women with early pregnancy loss.


Women reported hearing 'abortion' in 4.2% of hospital episodes (95% CI 2.9-6.0), but the term was used in 9.9% (95% CI 8.4-11.7) of hospital records.


In order to meet national recommendations on terminology for early pregnancy loss, clinicians should not only say 'miscarriage' but also write it.

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