A miscarriage is the loss of a pregnancy before 24 weeks. The main sign of a miscarriage is vaginal bleeding, which may be followed by cramping and pain in your lower abdomen. If you have vaginal bleeding, contact your GP or midwife.
Symptoms of a miscarriage
The most common sign of miscarriage is vaginal bleeding. This can vary from light spotting or brownish discharge to heavy bleeding and bright red blood or clots. The bleeding may come and go over several days.
However, light vaginal bleeding is relatively common during the first trimester (first 3 months) of pregnancy and doesn't necessarily mean you're having a miscarriage.
Other symptoms of a miscarriage include:
- cramping and pain in your lower tummy
- a discharge of fluid from your vagina
- a discharge of tissue from your vagina (can look like clots)
- no longer experiencing the symptoms of pregnancy, such as feeling sick and breast tenderness
When to see your GP
Most GPs can refer you to an early pregnancy unit at your local hospital if necessary. You may be referred to an emergency department at a hospital if your pregnancy is at a later stage.
However, bear in mind that light vaginal bleeding is relatively common during the first trimester (first 3 months) of pregnancy and doesn't necessarily mean you're having a miscarriage.
What happens if you think you're having a miscarriage
If you have the symptoms of a miscarriage, you'll usually be referred to a hospital for tests. In most cases, an ultrasound scan can show if you're having a miscarriage.
When a miscarriage is confirmed, you'll need to talk to your doctor or midwife about the options for the management of the end of the pregnancy.
Often the pregnancy tissue will pass out naturally in 1 or 2 weeks. Sometimes medication to assist the passage of the tissue may be recommended, or you may have minor surgery to remove it.
After a miscarriage
A miscarriage can be an emotionally and physically draining experience. You may have feelings of guilt, shock and anger.
Advice and support is available at this time from hospital counselling services and charity groups. You may also find it helpful to have a memorial for your lost baby.
You can try for another baby as soon as your symptoms have settled and you're emotionally and physically ready.
Having a miscarriage doesn't necessarily mean you'll have another if you get pregnant again. Most women are able to have a healthy pregnancy after a miscarriage, even in cases of recurrent miscarriages.
Causes of a miscarriage
There are many possible reasons why a miscarriage may happen, although the cause isn't usually identified. The majority aren't caused by something that could have been avoided or anything the mother has done.
It's thought most miscarriages are caused by abnormal chromosomes in the baby. Chromosomes are genetic "building blocks" that guide the development of a baby. If a baby has too many or not enough chromosomes, it won't develop properly.
For most women, a miscarriage is a one-off event and they go on to have a successful pregnancy in the future.
Preventing a miscarriage
The majority of miscarriages can't be prevented.
However, there are some things you can do to reduce the risk of a miscarriage. Whilst pregnant you should avoid:
How common are miscarriages
Miscarriages are much more common than most people realise. Among women who know they're pregnant, it's estimated about 1 in 8 pregnancies will end in miscarriage. Many more miscarriages occur before a woman is even aware she has become pregnant.
Losing three or more pregnancies in a row (recurrent miscarriages) is uncommon and only affects around one in 100 women.
Recurrent pregnancy loss
Your healthcare professional may consider a diagnosis of recurrent miscarriage or recurrent pregnancy loss after the loss of two or more pregnancies. Normally you will be referred to a clinic following the loss of three pregnancies.
There are several factors involved in this, including:
- your age
- how far along your pregnancy was
- your past medical history
For more information on recurrent pregnancy loss follow the link below to the Public Health Agency website .
More useful links
The information on this page has been adapted from original content from the NHS website.
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