This factsheet is for women who have had a miscarriage, or who would like information about it.
A miscarriage is a pregnancy that ends before 24 weeks, which is before most developing babies are able to survive outside the womb (uterus).
Click on the tabs below for more information about miscarriage.
Published by Bupa’s Health Information Team, January 2011.
Miscarriage is very common and occurs in about one in five pregnancies. Most happen in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy.
Recurrent miscarriages are when you lose three or more pregnancies in a row. This is uncommon and affects only one in every 100 couples.
If you have a miscarriage, even recurrent miscarriages, it's unlikely that you have an underlying medical problem, and most women go on to have a successful pregnancy in the future.
Types of miscarriage
There are different types of miscarriage as described below.
- Threatened miscarriage. This is when you have bleeding early in your pregnancy and your cervix (the opening to your womb) is tightly closed. Your pregnancy is likely to continue if an ultrasound scan shows the heartbeat of your developing baby.
- Inevitable miscarriage. This is when you have bleeding early in your pregnancy and your cervix is open, which means your pregnancy will be lost.
- Incomplete miscarriage. This is when a miscarriage has started but there is still some tissue left in your womb. Your cervix is usually open.
- Complete miscarriage. This means that your pregnancy has been lost. Your womb is empty and your cervix has closed.
- Delayed or missed miscarriage. This means that although your developing baby has died, you haven’t had any bleeding and didn’t lose any tissue straight away.
Causes of miscarriage
About half of all early miscarriages happen because of a problem in the way your genetic material (chromosomes) combined when your egg and your partner's sperm joined during fertilisation. You may never find out why this has happened, but it's more likely to be due to chance than to any underlying problem with either you or your partner.
Other factors that can make a miscarriage more likely include:
- problems with your immune system
- having an infection, such as listeria or malaria
- your age – half of all pregnancies in women over the age of 42 end in miscarriage
- a physical problem with your reproductive system
- health problems, such as poorly controlled diabetes, a kidney disease or polycystic ovarian syndrome
- drinking alcohol while you're pregnant
- smoking while you’re pregnant
Moderate exercise or having sex while you're pregnant doesn't increase your risk of miscarriage.
Often you won't know what has caused your miscarriage. If you have already started to miscarry there is nothing that can be done to prevent it.