Midwifery Management of First Trimester Bleeding and Early Pregnancy Loss


635 Goodrich Four Corners Rd., Norwich, VT 05055.


As many as 25% of women experience bleeding in the first and early second trimester of pregnancy; about half of these will have a miscarriage or, more rarely, ectopic or molar pregnancy loss. This can be a difficult time for women because of the uncertainty of the outcome, lack of preventative measures, and emotional significance of early pregnancy loss. The qualities that characterize midwifery care, including providing complete information, encouraging self-determination, and being sensitive to the emotional state, are particularly important at this time. This article reviews the epidemiology; physiologic process; signs and symptoms of first trimester bleeding; miscarriage and other early pregnancy losses; and methods of clinical, biochemical, and sonographic evaluation. A framework to guide midwifery evaluation and management, based on confirmation of an intrauterine pregnancy followed by the determination of viability, is presented. Surgical, medical, and expectant management of nonviable pregnancy, management of viable pregnancy when bleeding persists, and follow-up care, including screening for psychological sequelae, are discussed. Case studies and specific clinical guidelines for midwifery care, consultation, collaboration, and referral are included. Understanding the emotional significance of first trimester bleeding and loss as a basis for sensitive care throughout the management process is addressed.