A miscarriage is the natural death of a baby while it is still in its mother's womb. Such a death takes place in the early stages of the baby's development as a fetus prior to fetal viability (the stage of potential independent survival). The danger of a miscarriage is the most common complication of early pregnancy in humans.

Miscarriage is the accepted formal term for early pregnancy loss before fetal viability. Those born before 24 weeks of gestation rarely survive.However, the designation "fetal death" applies variably in different countries and contexts, sometimes incorporating weight, and gestational age from 16 weeks in Norway, 20 weeks in the US and Australia, 24 weeks in the UK to 26 weeks in Italy and Spain. A fetus that died before birth after this gestational age may be referred to as a stillbirth. Under UK law, all stillbirths should be registered, although this does not apply to miscarriages. The medical terminology applied to women’s experiences during early pregnancy has changed over time.Before the 1980s, health professionals used the phrase “spontaneous abortion” for a miscarriage and "induced abortion" for a willful termination of the pregnancy (abbreviated to TOP). When terminations of pregnancy needed to be hidden, suspicion sometimes surrounded miscarriage, complicating an already sensitive language issue. Research suggests that some women dislike the term abortion for miscarriage, some are indifferent and some prefer it These preferences may reflect cultural differences, but more research would be needed to clarify this. In the late 1980s and 1990s, doctors became more conscious of their language in relation to early pregnancy loss. Some medical authors advocated change to use of "miscarriage" instead of "abortion" because they argued this would more respectful to women's feelings and help ease a distressing experience. The change was being formally recognized by the profession in England in the late 1990s. In 2005 the European Society for Human Reproduction and Embryology (ESHRE) published a paper aiming to facilitate a revision of nomenclature used to describe early pregnancy events. The preferred terminology for "missed abortion" is delayed or silent miscarriage. Historical analysis of the medical terminology applied to early pregnancy loss in Britain has shown that the use of "miscarriage" (instead of "spontaneous abortion") by doctors only occurred after changes in legislation (in the 1960s) and developments in ultrasound technology (in the early 1980s) allowed them to identify miscarriages. in countries where pregnancy termination remains illegal doctors may still not distinguish between "spontaneous" and "induced" abortions in clinical practice.