9 Causes of Miscarriage in the Third Trimester

by Ella

Pregnancy is a remarkable journey, marked by the anticipation and joy of bringing a new life into the world. However, for some expectant parents, the unimaginable can occur—an unexpected loss during the third trimester. Late pregnancy loss, also known as stillbirth, refers to the loss of a pregnancy after 20 weeks gestation. While the majority of pregnancies progress without complications, understanding the potential causes of miscarriage in the third trimester is essential for both medical professionals and those navigating the complexities of pregnancy.


The Third Trimester: A Critical Stage

The third trimester, spanning from week 28 to the end of pregnancy, is a crucial stage of fetal development. During this period, the baby undergoes rapid growth, and vital organs continue to mature in preparation for life outside the womb. While the risk of miscarriage significantly decreases after the first trimester, late pregnancy loss remains a heartbreaking reality for a small percentage of pregnancies.


Common Causes of Miscarriage in the Third Trimester

1. Placental Abruption:


One of the leading causes of late pregnancy loss is placental abruption, where the placenta separates from the uterine wall before delivery. This separation can compromise the baby’s oxygen and nutrient supply, leading to serious complications. Placental abruption is often associated with conditions like high blood pressure, trauma, or blood clotting disorders.


2. Umbilical Cord Complications:

Issues involving the umbilical cord, such as a true knot, cord prolapse, or compression, can contribute to late pregnancy loss. These complications may impede the baby’s blood flow, reducing oxygen supply. Umbilical cord accidents can occur suddenly and without warning, posing a significant challenge for early detection.

3. Fetal Abnormalities:

While some fetal abnormalities are detectable during routine prenatal screenings, others may only become apparent later in pregnancy. Certain genetic conditions or structural abnormalities can lead to late pregnancy loss, and these cases are often heartbreaking for parents who have eagerly awaited the arrival of their child.

4. Infections:

Infections, particularly those that affect the uterus, amniotic fluid, or fetal membranes, can increase the risk of late pregnancy loss. Infections may trigger an inflammatory response that poses a threat to both the mother and the developing baby. Bacterial infections, such as chorioamnionitis, can have serious consequences if not promptly treated.

5. Placental Insufficiency:

Placental insufficiency occurs when the placenta fails to provide adequate nutrients and oxygen to the growing fetus. This condition can result from various factors, including maternal health issues, poor blood flow to the uterus, or problems with the placenta itself. Placental insufficiency can lead to intrauterine growth restriction and, in severe cases, late pregnancy loss.

6. Maternal Health Conditions:

Certain maternal health conditions, such as diabetes and hypertensive disorders like preeclampsia, can significantly increase the risk of late pregnancy loss. These conditions impact blood flow to the uterus and may necessitate careful monitoring throughout the third trimester to mitigate potential complications.

7. Multiple Pregnancies:

Carrying twins, triplets, or more can pose additional challenges, increasing the risk of late pregnancy loss. Complications such as twin-to-twin transfusion syndrome, where blood flow between fetuses is imbalanced, can contribute to adverse outcomes.

8. Trauma or Injury:

Trauma or injury to the mother, such as a severe car accident or physical assault, can result in late pregnancy loss. The impact of trauma may lead to placental abruption, direct fetal injury, or other complications that jeopardize the well-being of the pregnancy.

9. Unexplained Causes:

In some cases, despite thorough medical investigations, the exact cause of late pregnancy loss remains unexplained. This uncertainty can compound the emotional distress experienced by parents and healthcare providers, highlighting the complexities of reproductive medicine.

Preventive Measures and Care

While not all causes of late pregnancy loss are preventable, certain measures can contribute to a healthier pregnancy and reduce the risk of complications:

Regular Prenatal Care:

Early and consistent prenatal care is essential for monitoring the health of both the mother and the developing fetus. Regular check-ups allow healthcare providers to identify and address potential risk factors promptly.

Monitoring High-Risk Pregnancies:

High-risk pregnancies, such as those involving maternal health conditions or multiple pregnancies, require specialized monitoring. Close observation by healthcare professionals can help detect and manage complications early on.

Maintaining a Healthy Lifestyle:

Adopting a healthy lifestyle, including a balanced diet, regular exercise, and avoiding harmful substances, contributes to overall maternal well-being. These practices can positively impact fetal development and reduce the risk of certain complications.

Managing Chronic Conditions:

Women with pre-existing medical conditions, such as diabetes or hypertension, should work closely with healthcare providers to manage these conditions during pregnancy. Controlling chronic health issues is crucial for minimizing the risk of late pregnancy loss.

Emotional Support:

Recognizing the emotional toll of late pregnancy loss, providing emotional support to expectant parents is paramount. Open communication between healthcare providers and families can facilitate coping strategies and grief support.

The Emotional Impact of Late Pregnancy Loss

Late pregnancy loss is a devastating experience for expectant parents, bringing profound grief and emotional distress. Coping with the loss of a pregnancy in the third trimester involves navigating complex emotions, and healthcare providers play a crucial role in providing compassionate support. Grieving parents may find solace in seeking counseling or joining support groups to connect with others who have experienced similar losses.


Late pregnancy loss in the third trimester is a heartbreaking reality that affects a small percentage of pregnancies. While medical advancements have improved our understanding of potential causes, the emotional toll on expectant parents remains profound. By exploring the common causes, preventive measures, and emotional support strategies, this comprehensive guide aims to provide a nuanced understanding of late pregnancy loss. In the face of such challenges, compassion, empathy, and ongoing research are essential to supporting those affected by the complexities of pregnancy and loss.


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