What is a miscarriage?
A miscarriage is a pregnancy that ends naturally before the embryo is sufficiently developed to survive, and around 15% of known pregnancies will result in miscarriage. But don’t panic – the risk of miscarriage decreases dramatically after week 8 of pregnancy and by week 13 only 1% of women miscarry.
Who is at risk of miscarriage?
Miscarriage is more common in older women, especially those over 35. And if you’ve had a miscarriage before, your risk of having another is increased. Recent research also suggests that being very underweight before you get pregnant makes you more likely to miscarry.
What are the signs I’m miscarrying?
Although bleeding is worrying, it doesn’t always mean you are miscarrying. Between 20% and 40% of pregnant women experience bleeding, and all early bleeding is called ‘threatened miscarriage’, but 75% of these pregnancies will continue to term.
If bleeding is a miscarriage, it is usually accompanied by abdominal cramps (like period pains) and may be heavy, with clots. You should see your GP or midwife if you experience any bleeding – there are often other causes that need checking out, such as an infection or problems with the placenta.
Why does it occur?
Many women worry that they have somehow caused the miscarriage, but this is rare. It is often nature’s way of stopping an unhealthy pregnancy – if the foetus has a genetic disorder, for example.
Miscarriage is common and most women go on to have normal subsequent pregnancies, so a cause isn’t usually looked for until a woman has had three miscarriages. However, there is often no cause, and it doesn’t mean that you won’t be able to have children in the future.
Where can I go for support?
If you do suffer a miscarriage, you may feel angry or resentful, or guilty that you were somehow to blame – which you almost certainly weren’t. Talk about your feelings with your partner (and listen to his feelings), and with friends and family. Talk to your doctor or midwife, too, who may refer you for counselling. The Miscarriage Association has a helpline on 01924 200799, or visit for more advice.