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Terminology in early pregnancy loss: what women hear and what clinicians write
  1. Martin J Cameron, MRCOG, DFFP, Research Fellow and
  2. Gillian C Penney, FRCOG, MFFP, National Co-ordinator
  1. Scottish Programme for Clinical Effectiveness in Reproductive Health (SPCERH), Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Aberdeen Maternity Hospital, Aberdeen, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr Martin J Cameron, Office 66, Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Aberdeen Maternity Hospital, Cornhill Road, Aberdeen AB25 2ZD, UK. Tel: +44 (0) 1224 554476. Fax: +44 (0) 1224 550553. E-mail: m.j.cameron{at}


Objective 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.

Methods 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.

Results 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.

Conclusion 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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