Clinically stable patients can choose among the following management options to achieve completion of their EPL, or switch from one to another during the process:

  • Expectant management (wait and watch)
  • Medication management with misoprostol +/- mifepristone
  • Aspiration in an outpatient or operating room setting.

Choosing from among these options is a preference-sensitive decision (Wallace 2010), as each option is safe and relatively effective, and patients report greater satisfaction when treated according to their preference.

Studies show a wide range of success rates for expectant and medication management, as success rates depend on type of EPL, clinical studies define success differently (based on US vs clinical endpoints), and there are inconsistencies as to when aspiration is offered to participants enrolled in expectant care. Studies suggest that expectant management has higher success rates when the process of expulsion has already begun, compared to other types of EPL. Providers should counsel patients about their chance of success with each method of management depending upon the type of pregnancy loss (see Comparison Table on next page) and the amount of time the patient is willing to wait until completion.


Clinically stable patients may choose to await natural completion of EPL. “Watchful waiting” may avoid intervention and attendant side effects or complications (See Table below; Nanda 2012).

An EPL can take days to weeks to complete without intervention. Patients can be managed expectantly for 6 weeks if they remain stable and amenable. Clinicians may reassess patients every 1-2 weeks and provide phone access between visits and, to monitor progression and check in to see if the patient prefers to continue expectant management vs. another management option for faster resolution.

Given slightly increased rates of bleeding with expectant vs. aspiration management, patients with anemia (some providers use hgb < 9) or other bleeding risks may be best managed with aspiration (Nanda 2012).


Medication management offers patients a more predictable time to completion, avoidance of uterine aspiration, and an outpatient option available through their primary care provider. Overall though, medication management is more cost-effective than the other two options (less follow-up than expectant care and fewer overall costs than aspiration).

Mifepristone and Misoprostol

Treatment with 200mg oral mifepristone followed by misoprostol results in a higher likelihood of successful management of EPL (specifically missed abortion) than treatment with misoprostol alone (relative risk 1.25), with significantly less likelihood of uterine aspiration (relative risk 0.37), and a trend toward less bleeding (Schreiber 2018, Dzuba 2015). The regimen may cost more than misoprostol alone, although fewer follow-up visits may be needed. Dosing and timing are similar to medication abortion with misoprostol dosed 24-48h after mifepristone. This regimen requires provider registration with a mifepristone manufacturer. (See Chapter 4: Medication Abortion).

Mifepristone- Misoprostol Dosing for Miscarriage Management (Schreiber 2018)
Missed abortion Mifepristone 200mg orally (PO) followed by Misoprostol 800mcg vaginally (PV) in 7-48h*
SL and buccal administration also likely to be effective

*highest success rates when misoprostol taken between 7-20h after mifepristone (Flynn 2021)

Misoprostol Alone

Misoprostol is effective and safe in treating EPL. Some studies show higher levels of bleeding and more follow-up with misoprostol compared to aspiration (Davis 2007, Zhang 2005), so patients with severe anemia (hgb <9) or risk factors for bleeding may be best managed with aspiration.

Misoprostol Dosing for Miscarriage Management (ACOG 2015, Gynuity)
Incomplete miscarriage 600 mcg orally (PO) or
400 mcg sublingually (SL)
All other types of EPL 800 mcg vaginally (PV)
with optional repeat dose 24-48 hours later if no initial response


Uterine aspiration offers the most definitive management of EPL and highest success rates. Patients may choose aspiration for rapid resolution, support through the entire process, or to avoid side effects of medication management. As with aspiration abortion, MVA for EPL can be performed safely for patients in most outpatient primary care settings and the ED. Costs and bleeding-related complications are greater in the operating room vs. office settings and may add unnecessary burdens to patients and families if options are available (Dalton 2006). If uterine aspiration is used to manage EPL, prophylactic antibiotics did not result in a significantly lower risk of pelvic infection, and are not recommended (Lissauer 2019, Prieto 2012). See Chapter 6 for MVA Steps.


Advantages Disadvantages Estimated Rates of Success
Expectant Management
  • Non-invasive; body expels non-viable pregnancy
  • Perceived as natural by patients
  • Avoids anesthesia and surgery risks if successful
  • Process is unpredictable; can last days to weeks
  • Can have prolonged or heavy bleeding and cramping
  • Despite waiting, may still require uterine aspiration or other intervention
Incomplete EPL:

  • Day 7: 50%
  • Day 14: 70-85%
  • Day 46: 90%

Other types of EPL:

  • Day 7: 23-30%
  • Day 14: 35-60%
  • Day 46: 65-75%

(Nanda 2012, Casikar 2010, Kim 2017)

Medical Management

(Mifepristone 200 mg followed by Misoprostol 800mcg PV in 24-48h)

  • Non-invasive
  • Safe
  • Highly effective
  • Avoids anesthesia and surgery risks if successful
  • May cause heavier or stronger cramping than aspiration
  • May cause short-term gastrointestinal & other side effects
  • May still need uterine aspiration
  • Complete expulsion:
  • Mife plus single dose misoprostol 84% vs. misoprostol alone 67%

(MacNaughton 2021, Schreiber 2018, Dzuba 2015)

Medical Management

(Misoprostol 600mcg oral or 400mcg SL for incomplete; 800mcg PV, repeat q3h until pregnancy expulsion for other)

  • As above, may be less effective depending on the type of EPL and number of doses
  • Highly cost-effective
  • As above
  • SL and oral routes may have more GI and systemic SE than vaginal route
  • Increased side effects with more doses given
Incomplete EPL:

  • Single Dose 96%

Other types of EPL:

  • Single Dose 71%
  • Second Dose 84%
  • Every 3 hours x 2-3 doses: 88-92%
  • Higher efficacy when no embryo/fetus or cardiac motion detected on US

(Ipas 2021, Ngoc 2013, Neilson 2013, Zhang 2005, Kim 2017, Tang 2003)

Office-based Aspiration
  • Predictable
  • Offers fastest resolution
  • Less bleeding than expectant or medication
  • Low probability of further treatment need (<5%)
  • Pain control with local plus oral or IV meds
  • Compared to OR:

– Cost & resource savings

– Improved patient access,

continuity and privacy

– Less patient & staff time

  • Rare risks of invasive procedure
  • Less pain control options in some settings compared to an in-hospital procedure
  • 98-100%

(Nanda 2012)

Operating Room Aspiration
  • Can be asleep
  • Predictable, prompt resolution
  • Less time / bleeding than expectant or medication
  • Low probability of further treatment need (<5%)
  • More cost, time, exams than office-based procedures
  • Risks associated with invasive procedure; general anesthesia
  • May be more bleeding complications with general anesthesia vs. office procedure
  • 98-100%

(Nanda 2012)


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