What is early miscarriage?
An early miscarriage is the loss of a pregnancy in the first 12 weeks.
Early miscarriages are common: Unhappily, early miscarriages are very common. It’s completely possible to miscarry before you even realise you’re pregnant. Perhaps as many as three-quarters of all fertilised eggs are lost in the very earliest days of pregnancy.
After a positive pregnancy test, there’s about a one in five chance of having an early miscarriage. This is when most miscarriages happen. Miscarriage at any stage of pregnancy can be a awful blow. Even if it happens very early on in pregnancy, it’s only natural that it comes as a shock. Don’t feel you’re not allowed to grieve over your loss.
Early miscarriage causes: Early miscarriages usually happen because the embryo is not developing as it should. Chromosome problems are thought to be the most common cause. These problems usually happen for no reason and are unlikely to happen again.
To develop properly, a baby needs the right number of normal chromosomes. He’ll need 23 from his mother and 23 from his father. Chromosomal abnormalities can prevent a baby from developing. These abnormalities may happen because there are the wrong number of chromosomes, or because there are changes to a chromosome’s structure. In that case, the pregnancy will come to an end at the embryo stage.
Signs of early miscarriage: The most common signs of miscarriage are heavy bleeding, perhaps with blood clots, and strong period-type pains. Sometimes, these settle down and the pregnancy carries on. This is called a threatened miscarriage. However, if a miscarriage is really under way, unfortunately, it will take its course. You’ll find more advice and support in our article about what to do if you think you’re having a miscarriage.
After the miscarriage: You won’t necessarily need to go into hospital. In half of cases, a woman’s body will complete the miscarriage naturally. If this happens to you, you won’t need further treatment. The bleeding is likely to tail off in a week to 10 days and will usually have stopped after two weeks. You’ll be able to rest at home with painkillers and a hot water bottle, and, most important of all, someone to comfort and take care of you.
You may be referred to an early pregnancy assessment unit (EPAU) if there’s one near you. Here, you can have an ultrasound scan and other tests just to check for sure that your body is recovering as it should be. You can find out if there is a hospital near you with an EPAU through the Early Pregnancy Information Centre.