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Miscarriage is the spontaneous loss of a pregnancy before the 20th week. About 10 to 20 percent of known pregnancies end in miscarriage. But the actual number is probably much higher because many miscarriages occur so early in pregnancy that a woman doesn't even know she's pregnant.

Miscarriage is a somewhat loaded term — possibly suggesting that something was amiss in the carrying of the pregnancy. This is rarely true. Most miscarriages occur because the fetus isn't developing normally. However, because these abnormalities are rarely understood, it's often difficult to determine what causes them.

Miscarriage is a relatively common experience — but that doesn't make it any easier. Take a step toward emotional healing by understanding what can cause a miscarriage, what increases the risk and what medical care might be needed.

Mitral valve prolapse (MVP) occurs when the valve between your heart's left upper chamber (left atrium) and the left lower chamber (left ventricle) doesn't close properly.

During mitral valve prolapse, the leaflets of the mitral valve bulge (prolapse) upward or back into the left atrium as the heart contracts.

Mitral (MY-trul) valve prolapse sometimes leads to blood leaking backward into the left atrium, a condition called mitral valve regurgitation.

In most people, mitral valve prolapse isn't life-threatening and doesn't require treatment or changes in lifestyle. Some people with mitral valve prolapse, however, require treatment.

Mitral valve regurgitation — or mitral regurgitation — is when your heart's mitral valve doesn't close tightly, allowing blood to flow backward in your heart. As a result, blood can't move through your heart or to the rest of your body as efficiently, making you feel tired or out of breath.

Treatment of mitral valve regurgitation — also called mitral insufficiency or mitral incompetence — depends on how severe your condition is, whether it's getting worse and whether you have symptoms. For mild cases, treatment may not be necessary.

You may need heart surgery to repair or replace the valve for severe cases. Left untreated, severe mitral valve regurgitation can cause heart failure or heart rhythm problems (arrhythmias).

Mitral valve stenosis — or mitral stenosis — is a narrowing of the heart's mitral valve. This abnormal valve doesn't open properly, blocking blood flow into the main pumping chamber of your heart (left ventricle). Mitral valve stenosis can make you tired and short of breath, among other problems.

The main cause of mitral valve stenosis is an infection called rheumatic fever, which is related to strep infections. Rheumatic fever — now rare in the United States, but still common in developing countries — can scar the mitral valve. Left untreated, mitral valve stenosis can lead to serious heart complications.

Mittelschmerz is one-sided, lower abdominal pain associated with ovulation. German for "middle pain," mittelschmerz occurs midway through a menstrual cycle — about 14 days before your next menstrual period.

In most cases, mittelschmerz doesn't require medical attention. For minor mittelschmerz discomfort, over-the-counter pain relievers and home remedies are often effective. If your mittelschmerz pain is troublesome, your doctor may prescribe an oral contraceptive to stop ovulation and prevent midcycle pain.

Mixed connective tissue disease features signs and symptoms of a combination of disorders — primarily of lupus, scleroderma and polymyositis. For this reason, mixed connective tissue disease is sometimes referred to as an overlap disease.

In mixed connective tissue disease, the symptoms of the separate diseases usually don't appear all at once. Instead, they tend to occur in sequence over a number of years, which can make diagnosis more complicated.

Early signs and symptoms often involve the hands. Fingers may swell up like sausages, and the fingertips might turn white and become numb. In later stages, some organs — such as the lungs, heart and kidneys — may be affected.

Mixed connective tissue disease occurs most commonly in young women. Treatment often includes drugs such as prednisone.

A molar pregnancy — also known as hydatidiform mole — is a noncancerous (benign) tumor that develops in the uterus. A molar pregnancy starts when an egg is fertilized, but instead of a normal, viable pregnancy resulting, the placenta develops into an abnormal mass of cysts.

In a complete molar pregnancy, there's no embryo or normal placental tissue. In a partial molar pregnancy, there's an abnormal embryo and possibly some normal placental tissue. The embryo begins to develop but is malformed and can't survive.

A molar pregnancy can have serious complications — including a rare form of cancer — and requires early treatment.

If you have a mold allergy, your immune system overreacts when you breathe in mold spores. This triggers a cascade of reactions that lead to allergic symptoms. Like other allergies, a mold allergy can make you cough, make your eyes itch and cause other symptoms that make you miserable. In some people, mold allergy is linked to asthma and exposure causes restricted breathing and other airway symptoms.

If you have a mold allergy, the best defense is to reduce your exposure to the types of mold that cause your reaction. While it isn't always possible to avoid mold allergy triggers, medications can help keep mold allergy reactions under control.

Moles are a common type of growth on the skin. They often appear as small, dark brown spots and are caused by clusters of pigmented cells. Moles generally appear during childhood and adolescence. Most people have 10 to 45 moles, almost all of which appear before age 40. Some moles may fade or disappear as you age.

Most moles are harmless. Rarely, they become cancerous. Monitoring moles and other pigmented patches is an important step in detecting skin cancer, especially malignant melanoma.

The medical term for moles is nevi.

Molluscum contagiosum (mo-LUS-kum kun-tay-jee-OH-sum) is a relatively common viral infection of the skin that results in round, firm, painless bumps ranging in size from a pinhead to a pencil eraser. If the bumps are scratched or injured, the infection can spread to surrounding skin.

Though most common in children, molluscum contagiosum can affect adults as well — particularly those with weakened immune systems. In adults, molluscum contagiosum involving the genitals is considered a sexually transmitted infection (STI).

Molluscum contagiosum spreads through direct person-to-person contact and through contact with contaminated objects. The bumps associated with molluscum contagiosum usually disappear within a year without treatment but doctor-assisted removal is also an option.