Miscarriage is when a pregnancy ends before the 24th week. This is different from an abortion, where a pregnancy is ended intentionally.
80% of miscarriages are early miscarriages. This means they happen in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. Late miscarriages happen between 12-24 weeks.
It’s hard to know why miscarriage happens. In most cases, early miscarriage is thought to be caused by random, natural mistakes when cells divide very early in a pregnancy. These problems happen by chance and often stop the pregnancy from growing. This means there’s nothing that can be done to stop it.
Signs of miscarriage
The most common sign of miscarriage is bleeding from the vagina. This can be followed by cramps and pain in your lower abdomen or back, similar to period pains.
Bleeding during early pregnancy is very common, and most of the time does not mean you’re having a miscarriage. If you know you are pregnant and you begin bleeding, it’s a good idea to contact your midwife, GP or find your nearest early pregnancy unit. They can check and see what’s happening.
If a clinician confirms that you’re having a miscarriage, they can help you understand the different options for managing the end of the pregnancy.
Most miscarriages can be allowed to progress naturally, and your body will pass the tissue in the womb by itself. Or you might need or want treatment to help this process along. This could involve:
taking some pills that trigger your body to pass the tissue, called medical management
having a simple surgical procedure to remove the tissue, called surgical management
Miscarriage and fertility
A miscarriage does not mean you cannot have a baby. Most people who have a miscarriage go on to have full-term pregnancies. And it’s unlikely that a miscarriage will affect your fertility or chance of becoming pregnant again.
If you have 2 or more miscarriages in a row, you should talk to your doctor. They can refer you to a specialist who can help you understand if there’s a cause.
Miscarriage can bring up lots of different feelings. And it can be hard to talk about.
However you feel, you might find it helpful to ask your GP for support with counselling or reach out to one of these specialist organisations:
After a miscarriage
Experiencing a miscarriage can be a painful and challenging experience, both physically and emotionally. You and your partner might struggle with feelings of sadness, grief, and even guilt. And there can be significant effects on your body, from cramping and bleeding to tiredness.
After a miscarriage, take time to care for your mental and physical wellbeing. This could mean getting support from family and friends or talking to a mental health professional. You might want to give yourselves time to grieve and process your emotions.
Physically, you should wait for all your symptoms to ease before you have sex again. Your periods will likely return within 4–8 weeks but it can take time for them to settle back into a regular cycle. Your fertility will return as soon as 2 weeks after a miscarriage. If you do not want to get pregnant, you should use contraception. You can safely take hormonal contraception immediately after a miscarriage.