The loss of a baby through miscarriage can be devastating. A miscarriage generally occurs for reasons outside your control and nothing can be done to prevent or stop it from happening. Most women who have had a miscarriage will go on to have a healthy pregnancy in the future.
Up to 1 in 4 confirmed pregnancies end in miscarriage before 20 weeks, but many other women miscarry without having realised they are pregnant.
What is Miscarriage
A miscarriage refers to the loss of your baby before 20 weeks of pregnancy.
A miscarriage is legally different from a stillbirth. A stillbirth refers to the birth of a baby who has died prior to delivery when the pregnancy has progressed for 20 weeks or more.
If the length of the pregnancy is unknown, a baby born with no signs of life and weighing less than 400 grams is considered a miscarriage.
The physical experience of miscarriage can vary greatly between an early miscarriage and late miscarriage. An early miscarriage is the loss of a pregnancy before the 12th week of pregnancy (the first trimester). A late miscarriage is one that has occurred between 12 to 20 weeks of pregnancy (the second trimester).
Common signs of miscarriage include:
- cramping tummy pain, similar to period pain
- vaginal bleeding.
If you think you are having a miscarriage, see your doctor or go to your local emergency department.
Types of Miscarriage
There are several types of miscarriage:
An ectopic pregnancy occurs when the embryo implants outside the uterus. A fetus does not usually survive an ectopic pregnancy. If you have an ectopic pregnancy, you may not know it as first, until it bleeds. Then you may get severe pain in your lower abdomen, vaginal bleeding, vomiting or pain in the tip of one shoulder. If you have these symptoms, it’s important to seek urgent medical attention.
A molar pregnancy is a type of pregnancy that fails to develop properly from conception. It can be either complete or partial and usually needs to be surgically removed.
With a blighted ovum the sac develops but there is no baby inside. It is also known as an ‘anembryonic pregnancy’. This condition is usually discovered during a scan. In most cases, an embryo was conceived but did not develop and was reabsorbed into the uterus at a very early stage. You should see your doctor to discuss treatment options.
Causes of Miscarriage
Many women wonder if their miscarriage was their fault. In most cases, a miscarriage has nothing to do with anything you have or have not done. There is no evidence that exercising, stress, working or having sex causes a miscarriage.
Most parents do not ever find out the exact cause. However, it is known that miscarriages often happen because the baby fails to develop properly, usually due to a chromosomal abnormality that was spontaneous, not inherited.
Occasionally, miscarriages are caused by:
- hormonal abnormalities
- immune system and blood clotting problems
- medical conditions such as thyroid problems or diabetes
- severe infections causing high fevers (not common colds)
- physical problems with your womb or cervix.
Most women who have had a miscarriage will go on to have a successful pregnancy. If you have had one miscarriage, the chance of you miscarrying again stays at 1 in 5 pregnancies. If you have had recurrent miscarriages (3 or more in a row), your doctor may suggest testing to try and find a specific cause.
Our Early Pregnancy Loss brochure provides more detailed information on miscarriage and other early pregnancy losses.
Our Volunteer Parent Supporters are available 24/7. Sands volunteers offer a real sense of understanding and hope; they too have been through the devastating loss of a baby.
Our helpline is available by dialling 1300 0 72637