Early miscarriage is when a woman loses her pregnancy in the
first three months. It may be accompanied by vaginal bleeding and
Many early miscarriages occur before a woman has missed her
first period or before her pregnancy has been confirmed. Once you
have had a positive pregnancy test, there is around a one in five
(20%) risk of having a miscarriage in the first three months. Most
miscarriages occur as a 'one-off' (sporadic) event and there is a
good chance of having a successful pregnancy in the future.
What is the reason for a miscarriage?
Much is still unknown about why early miscarriages occur. The
most common cause is chromosomal problems. Chromosomes are tiny
thread-like structures found in all the cells of the body. In order
to grow and develop normally a baby needs a precise number of
chromosomes. If there are too few or too many chromosomes, the
pregnancy may end in a miscarriage.
What is the risk of having a miscarriage?
The risk of miscarriage is increased by a woman's age - the risk
of early miscarriage increases with age. At the age of 30, the risk
of miscarriage is one in five (20%). At the age of 42, the risk of
miscarriage is one in two (50%).
There is a link with health problems - as an example, poorly
controlled diabetes can increase the risk of an early miscarriage.
Lifestyle factors such as smoking and heavy drinking are linked
There is no scientific evidence to show that stress
causes a miscarriage.
Bleeding and pain in early pregnancy
Vaginal bleeding in early pregnancy is common and does not
always mean there is a problem. However it can be a warning
See your doctor or midwife if you:
- experience bleeding
- feel pain
- stop feeling pregnant
How can I get help?
You can get medical help from:
- your general practice, midwife or obstetrician
- the A&E department at your local hospital
- NHS 24 on 08454 24 24 24 (if you are in Scotland)
- NHS Direct Online www.nhsdirect.nhs.uk
- Early Pregnancy Assessment Unit. Details of the unit
nearest to you can be found at www.earlypregnancy.org.uk/FindUs1/asp
What happens if it is a miscarriage?
- If the miscarriage has completed, you will not need any
- If the miscarriage has not completed, there is a range
of options available.
Your nurse or doctor will refer you to the nearest Early
Pregnancy Assessment Unit. You can phone for yourself and ask for
advice, too. There are over 200 Early Pregnancy Assessment Units
(EPAUs) across the UK. Details of the unit nearest to you can be
found at: www.earlypregnancy.org.uk/FindUs1.asp
What do I need to expect after a
- To reduce the chance of infection, sanitary towels are advised
rather than tampons until the bleeding has stopped.
- You may also be advised to wait until you have stopped bleeding
before you have sex.
- Your next period will be in four to six weeks time. Ovulation
occurs before this, so you are fertile in the first month after a
miscarriage. If you do not want to become pregnant, you should use
Making sense of what has happened can take time. You and your
partner should be offered a follow-up appointment with a member of
the healthcare team. Many couples find talking helps and you may be
given information about other sources of support.
Losing a pregnancy is a deeply personal experience that affects
everyone differently. It can affect the woman, her partner and
others in the family. Many women grieve, but come to terms
with their loss. Other women feel overwhelmed and find it difficult
to cope. Physical symptoms such as fatigue, loss of appetite,
difficulty concentrating and trouble sleeping can be signs of
emotional distress. Some women feel fine initially and only later
do they experience difficulties.
You should be given all the time you need to grieve. Talking
about how you feel with your healthcare professional can help. If
you feel you need further assistance in coming to terms with your
miscarriage, ask for a referral for support or counselling.
When can we try for another baby?
The best time to try again is when you and your partner feel
physically and emotionally ready. If you are planning a pregnancy,
you should have 400 micrograms daily of folic acid when you first
start trying until 12 weeks of pregnancy. This reduces the risk of
your baby being born with a neural tube defect (spina bifida).
You should get as healthy as you can before as well as during
your next pregnancy. You should eat a healthy balanced diet, and
not smoke. It is advisable to stay within the maximum recommended
units of alcohol.