What is a miscarriage?

Miscarriage is the loss of a baby before the 24th completed week of pregnancy. The medical term for this is spontaneous abortion. It is estimated that approximately 15% of pregnancies end in miscarriage with the majority of these occurring between the 8th and 12th week of pregnancy.

What causes a miscarriage?
The majority of early miscarriages are caused by a chromosomal or other abnormality in the fetus. Around the 10th to 12th week of pregnancy, miscarriage may occur if the placenta has not developed properly.

Later in pregnancy, the most common causes are cervical incompetence (a weak cervix) or a uterine abnormality. However, in many cases no obvious cause can be found.

What are the symptoms of miscarriage?
· Bleeding. This can vary in amount from brown spotting to a heavy bright red loss.
· Abdominal pain that can vary in intensity from period-like to the pain of full blown labour.

You should contact your doctor if you have these symptoms. However, if you are in severe pain and/or bleeding heavily, you should call an ambulance. Often everything will settle down and your pregnancy will carry on normally, but, if a miscarriage is going to happen, there is nothing you or anyone can do to stop it.

What happens after I’ve had a miscarriage?
You may need to have an operation to empty the uterus. This will be done under anaesthetic, and you should be able to leave hospital the next day.

The vast majority of women go on to have a successful pregnancy after a miscarriage. Your body does need time to adjust, so, however much you want a baby, it is wise to wait a few months before trying again.

Obviously, you and your partner will be very upset at the loss of your baby. Allow yourself time to grieve and don’t be afraid to talk about your feelings. You may find that there is a local support group who will be able to help.

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