Miscarriage

A miscarriage is the loss of your baby before 24 weeks. Early miscarriages happen in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. Late miscarriages happen between 12 and 24 weeks.

Most of the time there’s no clear reason why it happens, but it’s very unlikely to be caused by anything you did or didn’t do.

About 1 out of 5 pregnancies miscarry. Since many miscarriages aren't recorded the figure might be higher.

When to get medical help

Always get medical help if:

  • you're bleeding from your vagina
  • you've got strong, cramping pain
  • your waters break
  • your baby's movements have changed, or you haven't felt them move for a while

If you're registered, contact your midwife or local maternity unit. If you’re not registered, contact your GP or the NHS 24 111 service.

What causes a miscarriage?

Doctors think most miscarriages are caused when the building blocks controlling the development of a baby (the chromosomes) aren’t right. Babies with too many or not enough chromosomes won't develop properly. This leads to a miscarriage.

Miscarriages can also be caused by:

  • problems with your placenta
  • cervical weakness - when your cervix (neck of your womb) starts to open

Early miscarriages

An early miscarriage happens in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. Most women who miscarry do so in the first 12 weeks of their pregnancy.

Many women have a miscarriage before they even know they’re pregnant. If this happens it can feel like a late period with heavy bleeding.

Symptoms of an early miscarriage

You might be having an early miscarriage if:

  • you're bleeding from your vagina
  • you've cramps in your lower abdomen – these can feel like bad period pains
  • there's fluid or tissue coming from your vagina
  • your breasts are no longer tender and any morning sickness has passed

Bleeding

Having some light bleeding's fairly common in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy and doesn't necessarily mean you're having a miscarriage.

If you start bleeding, you should always contact your GP or midwife and get advice about what to do.

What happens during an early miscarriage

If you’re in the early weeks of pregnancy:

  • you’ll probably be asked to go to the early pregnancy unit at your local hospital straight away
  • you’ll have some tests and usually an ultrasound scan
  • your body usually completes the miscarriage naturally

Depending on your stage of pregnancy, you may deliver a small baby. That can be a shock and is an understandably upsetting time.

Late miscarriages

A late miscarriage happens after 12 weeks and before 24 weeks.

For many parents who lose their baby after a late miscarriage, the word ‘miscarriage’ doesn't properly express the impact of their loss. The loss of a baby at any time's a terrible shock and a late miscarriage can be especially hard.

Symptoms of a late miscarriage

You might be having a late miscarriage if:

  • you're bleeding from your vagina – this can be heavy and you might have blood clots
  • you've strong, cramping pains

Always get medical help if:

  • you're bleeding
  • your baby’s movements have changed or you haven’t felt any movements for a while.
  • your waters break and your baby's born very quickly

Contact your midwife or local maternity unit if you’re registered with them. If you’re not registered, contact your GP or phone the NHS 24 111 service.

What happens during a late miscarriage

If you’re later on in pregnancy:

  • you may be asked to go to the maternity ward
  • you’ll have some tests and usually an ultrasound scan
  • you're likely to go through labour in hospital and might have your labour induced

While you deliver your baby you're likely to have heavier bleeding and labour-like pains.

Making difficult decisions

If you're having a miscarriage, your doctor or midwife will:

  • talk to you about what will happen next
  • help you, and your partner if you have one, decide what you’d like to do

You may have many difficult decisions to make at this time and will have overwhelming emotions. Take your time. Your midwife or doctor can help, and there are many organisations that can support you, the baby’s father and your family.

Get support from SANDS

Get support from SiMBA

After a miscarriage

Depending on your circumstances and stage of pregnancy, your midwife or doctor may ask if you'd like to see or hold your baby.

Some parents decide they don't want to see their baby, and others choose not to for faith or cultural reasons. This is a decision only you can make. It can be very hard when you're feeling overwhelmed. Whatever you decide is okay.

If you’re worried about what your baby looks like, your midwife or doctor can describe them to help you decide.

If your symptoms continue

You’ll probably have some bleeding for a week or two. If you continue to have symptoms after your miscarriage, it may mean that some of the pregnancy tissue's still in your womb.

Some women may need medicine or a short operation to treat this.

If you’re worried about seeking treatment, maybe a friend can come with you. Having support's really important at this difficult time.

Taking time off work

Many women will want to take time off work after having a miscarriage.

If you have a miscarriage before the end of the 24th week, you’re entitled to:

  • take sick leave
  • any sick pay you'd normally qualify for

If you lose your baby after the end of the 24th week, you’re entitled to:

  • take maternity leave
  • any maternity pay you qualify for

Speak to your employer about which choices may be right for you and your family.

Working Families has more about your rights at work after a miscarriage

Repeated miscarriages

Most women go on to have a successful pregnancy and a healthy baby after a miscarriage. But unfortunately, some women have repeated miscarriages.

If you've had:

  • 1 or 2 miscarriages - you're not more likely than anyone else to have another one
  • 3 or more miscarriages - your GP can refer you to a specialist to see whether there’s a specific cause

If you’ve had a miscarriage before, it’s important to tell your midwife and your GP.

Preventing another miscarriage

Most of the time the causes of an early or a late miscarriage aren’t known, so you may not be able to prevent it from happening again.

If you’re planning another pregnancy, it makes sense to try and be as fit and healthy as you can.

Try to:

And stop: