Fact Check

Palm Sunday Miscarriage

Rumor: Photograph depicts an intact gestational sac resulting from a miscarriage.

Published Mar 2, 2015


Claim:   Photograph depicts an intact gestational sac resulting from a miscarriage.


Example:   [Collected via Facebook, March 2015]

I wanted to share this beautiful image and story with you. We are indeed created in His image. Thank you to this beautiful mother for courageously sharing her story with all of us.

"I had a miscarriage on Palm Sunday last year. We think he was a boy and named him David Raphael. My only prayer when the doctor told me at 11 weeks that my baby had died a month earlier (at 7 weeks gestation), was that I would have something to bury. The doctor said he would either be too small to find or that his fragile body would be crushed in the miscarriage process and there wouldn't be anything left. On Palm Sunday afternoon he came out. The entire sac was in tact and there he was still floating in the amniotic water. I took a picture so I wouldn't forget that moment and how God answered my prayer. I think it would be an amazing photo to show people contemplating abortion. Even though he was only 7 weeks when he died, you can see his little arms and legs forming. My 4 year old was looking through my phone when I wasn't looking one day and found the picture. He came up to me with it and asked me whose baby it was. Even a child can tell that at 7 weeks, the fetus is a little person."


Origins:   On 27 February 2015, the Facebook page "Abby Johnson: ProWoman, ProChild, ProLife" posted the above-quoted claim along with a

photograph that purportedly depicts a fetus miscarried at the 11-week mark. According to the post, the pictured fetus ceased to develop past the seven-week mark, but its expulsion was delayed for an additional four weeks.

One aspect of the story that should be noted is that it was originally made anonymously and then picked up and shared on the referenced Facebook page, so neither the photograph nor the accompanying description constituted a first-person account.

The claim itself is not unbelievably extraordinary. While miscarriage (defined as a pregnancy that ends before the 20-week mark) is often a private tragedy whose mechanics are little understood by those who haven't experienced it, passing an intact gestational sac is neither rare nor remarkable. First person tales of such experiences abound, particularly on the Internet where they can be shared in relative anonymity among others who have also endured them. Anecdotal online accounts of similar experiences are legion:

This is going to be graphic and gross, but facinating, so read with an open mind. I officially miscarried today. I am bleeding quite heavy, passing jelly like clots and you won't believe this...the gestational sac came out COMPLETELY WHOLE with the baby in it! I kid you not, the sac is clear and about the size of a small walnut in the shell and I held it up to the light and the yolk sac and a tiny embryo about 1/8 of an inch was still attached! It was white, tadpole shaped and probably had grown for a week before it stopped progressing. It's little heart never had a chance to beat = ( . DH was facinated, we stared at it forever, it even had the tissue connecting it to the uterus still intact!


If you are several weeks pregnant you may pass grayish tissue that is placental or fetal tissue. What many women experience when they have a miscarriage, and what I have experienced is that at the end of your miscarriage you will pass the placenta, gestational sac, and your baby at once. Many mothers in their complete and utter shock that this has occurred (many times this happens while on the toilet) end up flushing the sac and feeling an intense feeling or panic, shock, guilt and despair. If this has happened to you, please know that it has happened to many, many women as well, and that you did the best that you could given the state that you were in.

If your body is threatening to have a miscarriage now, I am letting you know this so that you will know what you want to do if this happens to you. If you pass the gestational sac you do not need to feel morbid, guilty or strange to want to open it and see your baby. These are completely normal and natural feelings for a mother to have, and seeing your little one may actually help you to gain some closure. If your pregnancy loss has occurred very early, you may not be able to find your baby in the sac as it may be too small for you to see. This is normal, and does not mean that you lost your baby and did not find it. It is just too small. If you were further along, you may see an actual tiny baby in the sac at the stage of development they had reached when they died. It is ok to hold them, and to look at them, and to wonder at the miracle your tiny little baby is. Although it is taboo to talk of such things in our society, it is a normal and natural feeling to want to see them, hold them, and touch them.


Although miscarriage is common (roughly half of all pregnancies end in miscarriage), discussion of its aftermath is rare. However, minor debates have erupted over whether parents should bury fetal remains following a miscarriage:

David Walkinson, a spokesman for the National Funeral Directors Association, of Brookfield, Wisc., says he also is working with an increasing number of parents requesting burial or cremation for miscarriage remains.

"Twenty years ago there would be quiet graveside ceremonies for older stillborns," Walkinson says. "Now people have grown more attached to their babies earlier. Some people experience an enormous amount of sadness when they lose the pregnancy and want a cemetery service of some kind." Many funeral homes offer their services to such families without charge, he says.

It is unknown how many hospitals across the country provide counseling and the option of burial or cremation after miscarriage. Anecdotally, experts say not enough hospitals do.

Development at the gestational age of seven weeks matches that shown in the photograph shared above:

By seven weeks, the embryo has grown to about 10mm long from head to bottom. This measurement is called the "crown-rump length". The brain is growing rapidly and this results in the the head growing faster than the rest of the body.

The embryo has a large forehead, and the eyes and ears continue to develop. The inner ear starts to develop, but the outer ear on the side of the head won't appear for a couple more weeks.

The limb buds start to form cartilage, which will develop into the bones of the legs and arms. The arm buds get longer and the ends flatten out — these will become the hands.

So while the claim listed above cannot be solidly verified, it does not describe an experience out of line with some early miscarriages:

Many early miscarriages simply look like heavy menstrual periods, sometimes with tiny blood clots in the discharge. If the miscarriage happened with development beyond four or five weeks gestational age, it is possible that there may be a small, transparent gestational sac with the rudimentary beginnings of a placenta on its edge. If your miscarriage happened beyond six weeks, you may pass an identifiable embryo or fetus in the early stages of development, which may be as small as a pea or larger than an orange depending on how far along you were when the baby stopped growing. (Remember that it is a good idea to see a doctor if you are miscarrying, especially if you are in the later part of the first trimester or beyond). Sometimes even in a later first-trimester miscarriage there may not be recognizable tissue, as sometimes the baby stops growing and begins to deteriorate before the onset of the miscarriage bleeding.

The assertion that fetal tissue is normally "crushed" by the expulsion process is inaccurate: rather, early miscarriages generally do not produce a quantity of tissue sufficient to identify as a fetus:

If you miscarry naturally or with medication, you will probably complete the miscarriage at home. The process may be over quickly or may take several days. If you are less than eight weeks pregnant when the miscarriage occurs, the expelled tissue will look no different from heavy menstrual bleeding. The further along you are in pregnancy, the heavier the bleeding and more severe the cramps. You may see the fetus and placenta.

Last updated:   2 March 2015


    Eisner, Robin.   "Should Parents Bury Miscarriage Remains?"

    ABCNews.com.   26 October 2000.

    "Miscarriage in the First Trimester"

    Our Bodies, Ourselves.   9 April 2014.

David Mikkelson founded the site now known as snopes.com back in 1994.

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