A miscarriage usually occurs within the first 23 weeks of a pregnancy

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A miscarriage at any stage of a pregnancy can be a distressing experience. A miscarriage is an involuntary physical process, and once a miscarriage begins it is impossible to stop it.

In the UK, one in four pregnancies ends in miscarriage, yet most people are unaware of how common miscarriages are. The silence that surrounds miscarriage often means it can be difficult for women and partners to express their feelings. Many people suppress feelings of shame, anger, confusion, grief, loneliness and failure.  

Physical symptoms of miscarriage can vary. Some women who have miscarried experience no symptoms at all. If you (or your partner) are experiencing any of the signs of miscarriage listed below, please contact your midwife, GP or nearest A&E hospital:

Miscarriage symptoms

  • Vaginal bleeding or spotting: During pregnancy this is the most common sign of miscarriage. However, some women experience light vaginal bleed during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy and do not miscarry.
  • Cramping, a dull ache (like period pain) and/or sharp/severe pain in your abdomen
  • Vaginal discharge of fluid or tissue
  • No longer feeling the symptoms of pregnancy: e.g. no longer feeling sick, having breast tenderness or baby movement.

What causes a miscarriage?

Causes of a miscarriage are complicated and in most cases unknown, but may include:

  • Genetic: Two-thirds of miscarriages are a result of chromosome abnormalities. Chromosomes determine how we grow and what we look like.
  • Placenta problems: Nutrients and oxygen are passed from the mother to the baby via the placenta.

Less common reasons for miscarriage 

  • Ectopic pregnancy: Where a pregnancy develops outside the womb.
  • Molar pregnancy: A mass of placenta cells develop in the womb in place of a baby.

Top tips

  • Practice self-care: Be kind to yourself. A miscarriage can be a traumatic experience for everyone involved. Try to confide in those closest to you.
  • Mark your loss: You may wish to arrange a memorial or burial. Speak to your family, midwife, hospital/clinic staff or local crematorium. It may also be possible to have a burial at home with local authority consent.
  • Talking therapy: If you or your partner are finding it difficult to cope, consider meeting with someone trained to help – this might include your midwife, health visitor, GP and/or having talking therapy.       

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