|This fact sheet is available for download as a printable PDF: English|
This information is about what happens when it is certain that you have had, or you are going to have, a miscarriage.
|If you are experiencing pain and bleeding in early pregnancy, but a miscarriage has not been diagnosed, please see the fact sheet Pain and bleeding in early Pregnancy|
|Miscarriage happens when a pregnancy stops growing. Eventually, the pregnancy tissue will pass out of the body. Some women will feel crampy, period-like pain and in most cases there will be vaginal bleeding.|
Miscarriage is very common in the first few weeks of pregnancy. Studies show that up to one in five women, who know they are pregnant, will have a miscarriage before 20 weeks. Most of these happen in the first 12 weeks. The actual rate of miscarriage is even higher because some women have very early miscarriages without ever realising that they were pregnant.
If a woman miscarries it is unlikely that she will miscarry again, and very unusual for her to miscarry a third time. When women do miscarry three or more times, tests can be done to look for a cause. Testing is not offered to women who miscarry once or twice because it is very unlikely that anything would be found.
What causes a miscarriage?
|Usually no treatable cause is found for a miscarriage. Research tells us that about half of all miscarriages happen because the chromosomes in the embryo are abnormal and the pregnancy doesn’t develop properly from the start. In this case, miscarriage is nature’s way of dealing with an abnormal embryo. Nothing can be done to prevent miscarriage from occurring if a pregnancy is developing abnormally.|
- Miscarriages are more common in older women than younger women, largely because chromosomal abnormalities are more common with increasing age.
- Miscarriages are also more common in women who smoke and in women who drink more than three alcoholic drinks per week in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. Research suggests that miscarriage is also more common in women who drink more than 500mg of caffeine per day; this is about three to five cups of coffee.
- Some medical conditions in the mother, such as uncontrolled diabetes, fibroids or thyroid problems, can lead to miscarriage. Rare medical conditions which affect blood clotting can also cause miscarriage. Women who have three or more miscarriages in a row should be checked for these conditions.
- Early tests in pregnancy, such as chorionic villus sampling (CVS) and amniocentesis, carry a small risk of miscarriage. These are tests that use a needle inserted into the uterus.
- High fever may lead to miscarriage, but minor infections (such as colds) are not harmful.
What can you do to prevent miscarriage?
|Look after your general health; don’t smoke, modify caffeine intake, avoid alcohol and where possible avoid contact with others who have a serious infectious illness. Usually the next pregnancy will be normal, but if you have three miscarriages in a row further tests are recommended.|
How miscarriage is diagnosed
|Women seek medical care at different stages of a miscarriage; sometimes the miscarriage has already happened and sometimes it has only just begun. A combination of symptoms (such as pain and bleeding), examination findings, ultrasound and blood tests will confirm whether you have had, or you are having, a miscarriage (see the fact sheet Pain and bleeding in early pregnancy).|
|A miscarriage is usually diagnosed as complete, incomplete or missed:|
- a miscarriage is complete when all the pregnancy tissue has passed
- a miscarriage is incomplete when some of the pregnancy tissue has passed, but some is still inside the uterus
- a missed miscarriage is when the pregnancy has stopped growing but the tissue has not passed and there is still a ‘sac’ in the uterus.
Who should I contact for help?
General contact options
- Your GP
- Community health service
- Nearest emergency department
- Nearest early pregnancy assessment service
- Nurse on Call - 1300 60 60 24
Royal Women's Hospital options
|For assessment, tests and treatment of possible miscarriage:|
Early Pregnancy Assessment Service (EPAS)
- Telephone (03) 8345 3643 from Monday to Friday from 8.00am to 3.00pm. You may have to leave details on the answering machine but someone will call you back.
- Attend between 9.00am and 11.00am Monday to Friday.
- Bring any information and test results for this pregnancy when you attend.
Women’s Emergency Centre (24 hours)
- Attend any time if in need of urgent care
- If you need an ultrasound, it will usually need to be booked in the next available EPAS clinic.
The Women’s Health Information Centre
- Telephone (03) 8345 3045 or toll-free 1800 442 007 (regional areas). 9.00am to 5.00pm Monday to Friday
- Experienced midwives can talk with you about any concerns you may have and help you to find quality information.
|For emotional support or someone to talk to about how you are feeling:|
Women’s Social Support Services
- Telephone (03) 8345 3050 (office hours)
Pastoral Care and Spirituality Services
- Telephone (03) 8345 3016 (office hours)
After hours call the hospital switchboard
- Telephone (03) 8345 2000 and ask to speak to someone from Social Support Services or Pastoral Care.
|Other fact sheets about miscarriage:|
|RCOG (2006) Greentop Guideline number 25: The Management of Early Pregnancy Loss, http://www.rcog.org.uk/index.asp?PageID=515|
AEPU (2004) Organisational, Clinical and Supportive Guidelines, http://www.earlypregnancy.org.uk/guidelines.asp
|The Royal Women’s Hospital does not accept any liability to any person for the information or advice (or use of such information or advice) which is provided in this fact sheet or incorporated into it by reference. |
We provide this information on the understanding that all persons accessing it take responsibility for assessing its relevance and accuracy.
Women are encouraged to discuss their health needs with a health practitioner.
|Published: May 2010, Updated February 2011|