The loss of a baby through miscarriage can be very upsetting. A miscarriage generally occurs for reasons outside your control and nothing can be done to prevent or stop it from happening. Most women who have had a miscarriage will go on to have a healthy pregnancy in the future.
A miscarriage is the loss of your baby before 20 weeks of pregnancy. The loss of a baby after 20 weeks is called a stillbirth.
Up to 1 in 5 confirmed pregnancies end in miscarriage before 20 weeks, but many other women miscarry without having realised they are pregnant.
Common signs of miscarriage include:
- cramping tummy pain, similar to period pain
- vaginal bleeding
If you think you are having a miscarriage, see your doctor or go to your local emergency department.
Many women experience vaginal spotting in the first trimester that does not result in pregnancy loss.
Read more on the signs of miscarriage.
Types of miscarriage
There are several types of miscarriage – threatened, inevitable, complete, incomplete or missed. Then there are also other types of pregnancy loss such as ectopic, molar pregnancy and a blighted ovum.
Read more on types of miscarriage.
Causes of miscarriage
Many women wonder if their miscarriage was their fault. In most cases, a miscarriage has nothing to do with anything you have or have not done. There is no evidence that exercising, stress, working or having sex causes a miscarriage.
Most parents do not ever find out the exact cause. However, it is known that miscarriages often happen because the baby fails to develop properly, usually due to a chromosomal abnormality that was spontaneous, not inherited.
Occasionally, miscarriage is caused by:
- hormonal abnormalities
- immune system and blood clotting problems
- medical conditions such as thyroid problems or diabetes
- severe infections causing high fevers (not common colds)
- physical problems with your womb or cervix
Risk factors for miscarriage
Women are more likely to have miscarriages if they:
- are older
- drink alcohol in the first trimester
- drink too much caffeine in coffee, tea or energy drinks
- have had several previous miscarriages
Prevention of miscarriage
Living healthily — no cigarettes, no alcohol and little to no caffeine – can decrease your risk of miscarriage. It’s a good idea to avoid contact with people who have a serious infectious illness when you’re pregnant.
Unfortunately, nothing can be done to prevent or stop a miscarriage once it has begun.
Most women who have had a miscarriage will go on to have a successful pregnancy. If you have had one miscarriage, the chance of you miscarrying again stays at 1 in 5 pregnancies.
If you have had recurrent miscarriages (3 or more in a row), your doctor may suggest testing to try and find a specific cause.
Read more about miscarriage:
- Types of miscarriage
- What are the signs of miscarriage?
- How miscarriage is treated
- What really happens during a miscarriage
- Your health after a miscarriage
- What happens after a miscarriage
- Emotional support after miscarriage
- Fathers and miscarriage
Call Pregnancy, Birth and Baby on 1800 882 436, 7am to midnight (AET) to speak to a maternal child health nurse for advice and emotional support.
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Last reviewed: August 2019